President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency over immigration, seeking to build the wall that his campaign centered on. The declaration has come with much opposition from the Democrats and from many Republicans as well. Constitutionalists of all stripes see such actions as harbingers of tyranny.
On the one hand, I think we ought to remember that checks and balances do exist. The courts could very well push back against the president, but whether they will do so is up for debate.
The problem with these kinds of declarations is the power that they give to the executive. The American presidency already boasts powers that would make an Assyrian king blush, and there exist over one hundred extra powers granted by this declaration.
My primary reason for worrying isn’t that the country will be turned into a military dictatorship overnight. Democratic collapses rarely happen like that. What does worry me is the potential for this to become a common tool in American politics.
If every president who cannot get his or her way through traditional political channels decides that emergency declarations constitute an effective means by which to achieve their goals, we’ll end up with an even more severe centralization of power than we already have, and the potential for even more toxic and socially destructive elections as a result.
Please, let’s not do that. American politics is already drowning in opprobrium and discontent. The last thing we need is to elevate the presidency to such an extent that we turn every election into a hellish game of King of the Hill.