Gutless. A word I usually reserve for describing the most lackluster, uninspired, poorly executed and infuriating efforts of my beloved Philadelphia Eagles.
But gutlessness has taken a place in politics too. And although this space is not intended as a political blog, sometimes certain things need to be said. So…
Who am I calling gutless? Congress. Specifically Republicans in Congress. Now, don’t get all mad, stop reading my blog or write me letters. I’m not usually one to get involved in partisan bickering or name-calling. Just hear me out.
Any grade school civics curriculum reveals that our federal government is based on three co-equal branches. Each has their own powers, limitations and responsibilities. This sets each branch up for the potentially unending headache of having to coexist effectively with the other branches. That’s how it’s supposed to work. It’s not supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to produce good results.
So what happens when one branch of the system doesn’t get what it wants, no matter how bad they want it? Well, you’re supposed to accept the balance of powers and move on. But that’s not how it’s going with President Trump’s border wall. He declared a national emergency in an effort to circumvent the Congress and do what he wants. That’s just not how it’s supposed to work.
Should we blame the president for this? Yes. He needs to play by the rules. We should note that Trump is not the only president to have tried escaping restrictions on executive power. Other presidents who have tried are to blame for their attempts as well. Both Democrat and Republican. Some have had their attempts denied by the courts.
But the real blame and all of the gutlessness falls to Congress, whose job it is to check presidential power and to control the national purse strings. Last week, Congress passed a bill that terminated Trump’s emergency declaration. But don’t get too excited, that’s not the whole story.
The vote was called bipartisan along party lines with about a dozen Republicans breaking rank to pass the bill. By the time you read this, the President will likely have vetoed the bill, which as grade school civics tells us, sends it back to Congress where the House and the Senate will each need a two-thirds majority to override the President and end the whole thing.
Re-enter gutlessness. Specifically by congressional Republicans. Based on the expected, mostly partisan, original vote, a veto override has nowhere near enough votes to succeed. No chance. If and when that veto override fails, Congress will have ceded its constitutional power to one person, the president. They will have decided that they, as branch of government, are less valuable than he, as an executive. This is not the way it’s supposed to work.
The veto override should be a bipartisan slam dunk. And it would be if it weren’t for the gutless. What happens when the next president, Republican or Democrat, gets fixated on an issue they believe in? What happens when they don’t want to deal with the headache of passing legislation through Congress? Might they too declare a national emergency and go it alone? They certainly might. And a precedent would exist to show that they could.
They would be wrong to do it and I hope they would be stopped. Even if it’s an issue I support them on. That’s the way the system is supposed to work. Trump is wrong to do it now, and the entire Congress of both parties has a responsibility to disallow his attempt. Not doing so shows a lack of regard for the offices they hold and for the structure of our federal government. It’s just plain unacceptable. And gutless.
It doesn’t matter if you’re for or against the wall, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. None of that matters even a little bit here. The issue is about whether or not our leaders have the guts to defend the system they were elected to uphold. To do the right thing, not the political thing.
We can all probably think of a time growing up where somebody was pressuring us to do something we knew was out of line or unethical. Something that went against the way things are supposed to work. Hopefully we had the courage to stand up for what was right, even if it cost us. If we didn’t, chances are that we regretted it and were better prepared to face that situation in the future.
We didn’t elect a bunch of kids to Congress. We elected full grown men and women. We should expect them to do the right thing even if it costs them politically. Even if it takes courage. Even if they are Republicans.