If Speaker of the House Paul Ryan did not openly oppose the Donald Trump candidacy during the GOP primary, he at least fairly clearly voiced disapproval of the tone and manner in which the now presumptive nominee conducted himself. Even after Ted Cruz and John Kasich ended their campaigns, it took a much publicized Capitol Hill sitdown between Ryan and Trump to set the groundwork for GOP unification. The fact that Ryan had to declare he would vote for Trump is a remarkable testament to the divisive nature of Mr. Trump. What other major party nominee would have to win over the support from his own Speaker of the House?
But will Paul Ryan’s declared support win over the support of other conservatives? Jeremy Rozansky, in a column in the National Review Online, says that although Trump will clearly be more of an an ally to conservative legislation (as advanced by Ryan) than Clinton, the presidency’s most important role is not in guiding the legislative process but in responding to emergencies (war, etc) that require executive authority.
“The Framers understood that there were broadly two ways in which a people are ruled: by laws and by will. As much as possible, they sought to have Americans ruled by laws, which were to be drafted, revised, passed, and implemented in a plodding process that prizes deliberation, compromise, modesty, and broad popular support. Most general matters can be addressed through the legislative process, but there are certain emergencies that require something other than lawmaking—they require executive discretion.
In Federalist 70, Hamilton argues that an energetic executive is “essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks . . . to the steady administration of the laws, to the protection of property . . . to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction and of anarchy.”
Rozansky therefore argues that the most important role of the president is not in being a rubber stamp for the legislative agenda of his/her party but in the responsible wielding of executive power as required to respond to emergencies:
“Electing a president is foremost not about the legislative agenda each candidate favors, a realm in which the president is profoundly constrained by Congress, but rather about the quality most essential to the arenas in which the president has the most discretion: temperament…Emergencies at home and abroad arise in every presidency, and a president who grossly underreacts or grossly overreacts would be uniquely catastrophic.”
Unfortunately, no honest observer can argue that Donald Trump’s responses to personal and political challenges have not been plagued by overreaction and hyperbole. On one hand, advancing conservative principles by prioritizing a conservative legislative agenda is non-negotiable, meaning that Hillary Clinton must be stopped and by extension, Donald Trump elected. On the other hand, electing a president should first and foremost be about the suitability of that individual’s temperament to make difficult decisions under pressure and unforeseen circumstances, burdened with incredible individual power. Can Donald Trump be trusted with that responsibility? Conservatives may have no other choice but to find out.
Another counterpoint to Rozansky’s argument is that although the Framers may have intended for most of the nation’s daily business to be conducted by Congress, in today’s government the executive branch has usurped legislative authority. Therefore, in our current form of government, electing a president is electing legislative priorities just as much as it is an responsibly and effective executive. The fact that conservatives find themselves forced to vote for an individual who many of them do not trust in temperament is a reflection of the move away from the divided form of governance devised by the constitution’s Framers.
Read the whole column here.