Presidential Power to the People
(Page 4 of 4)
When it comes to presidential power, is there a difference between Obama and McCain?
Well, I think either one of them could back up a little bit, because the public is demanding that right now. I think they’re both going to make some apparent concessions, but I also suspect they’ll work to maintain the general direction. We’ll see—but the question cuts to how powerful the presidency is becoming. We don’t have checking and balancing anymore. We have to depend on the next president to give power back.
Are you arguing that democracy would be better off without the office of president?
I’m willing to admit that maybe federal government needs an executive office. But I don’t think the office was the greatest idea. And we definitely don’t need a president for a democracy. That’s for the citizenry.
Are we up to it?
Absolutely. I think that’s where Gene Healy and I differ [see “Supreme Warlord,” p. 50]. His book is great, but he’s more cynical about citizens’ ability to deserve a different kind of presidency. I see citizens having a great deal of agency about this. I pay a lot of attention in Bad for Democracy to how institutions and symbolism have combined to train public demand for the president. I think that means we can train ourselves differently.
The first thing we have to do is articulate our sense that democracy should be something more than whatever the current president says it’s going to be for us, and that democracy doesn’t have to be about strong national unity but can be about a productive, highly functioning disunity.
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