News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
Balance of Power
Balance of Power
Alex Wong/Getty Images

"From 1952 through 2016, Republicans and Democrats have taken eight-year turns in the White House with just two exceptions: A four-year interregnum for Democrat Jimmy Carter followed by a dozen straight GOP years under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush," notes LaRue.

It's time to make presidents face the country's six-year itch

LaRue is former deputy director of the Eisenhower Institute, a nonpartisan think tank at Gettysburg College, and of the American Society of International Law. He adapted this piece from an article he wrote in 2018 for the Election law Journal.

Getting reelected is becoming too easy for our presidents. Nine of the last 12 incumbents who sought a second term, including four of the last five, succeeded. A re-elected President Trump would make it four in a row.

The structure of maximum presidential service — eight years in two equal terms — strengthens this probability. Every incumbent has an advantage in pursuing reelection. And reelection itself is not a bad thing. But its timing at four years has become so unfair that I call it the "four-year crutch."

Keep reading... Show less
Balance of Power
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Allowing President Trump's stonewalling to continue "without the potential of a judicial backstop would gut Congress' ability to effectively check executive overreach and lawbreaking," writes former Rep. Tom Coleman.

A court must decide: Does the law still apply to everyone, the president included?

Coleman was a Republican members of the House from Missouri from 1976 to 1993. He is a retired lobbyist and an advisor to the Protect Democracy Project, an anti-authoritarian watchdog group.

It is a bedrock American principle that no one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law. The president, like all Americans, must pay taxes, must give evidence when sought by a court or Congress, and must follow the law. If this principle is to survive, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals must reverse a ruling that Congress cannot sue to enforce subpoenas of executive branch officials.

In the wake of the report from special counsel Robert Mueller, last April the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn to provide testimony about President Trump's efforts to obstruct the investigation of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. The White House informed the committee that the president ordered McGahn not to appear, asserting that certain presidential aides are "absolutely immune" from being forced to testify — a privilege no other president has ever claimed. As a result, the committee sued to enforce its subpoena.

In February, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit punted on the central question, ruling 2-1 their court does not have the power to settle this dispute between the congressional and executive branches. If that is allowed to stand, Congress' ability to conduct legitimate oversight will be severely limited and Trump will be further emboldened to ignore our constitutional system of checks and balances.

Keep reading... Show less
Balance of Power
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers could still enact the reform package through the standard legislative process.

Public financing, suppression of 3rd parties in N.Y. on hold after ruling

New York's new public campaign finance system and rules limiting the power of small political parties were struck down Thursday, a state judge ruling their creation by an independent commission last year violated the state Constitution.

A package with both provisions took the force of law in January under an unusual procedure in which the Legislature's choices were to either reject it or let it happen. That was "an improper and unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority," Niagara County Supreme Court Justice Ralph Boniello ruled.

Third parties hailed the ruling, which preserves their candidates' relatively easy access to spots on the ballot in the nation's fourth most-populous state. Advocates of reducing big money's sway over campaigns, meanwhile, said there was plenty of time to recover. The new taxpayer matching funds were not going to start flowing for six years — allowing plenty of time for the system to get enacted the usual way.

Keep reading... Show less
Big Picture
Sara Swann/Getty Images

6 of the most important democracy books of the past 6 months

"Groaning bookshelves about our divisive times" are one of the main features of the publishing world these days, Kirkus Reviews notes. So we identified six books, all published since last summer, that are particularly worthy of note in a campaign season when the faulty functionality of American democracy is getting discussed more than in any previous modern election.

The authors come from the political left, right and center — but they all have a broadly similar panoramic view of the dysfunction plaguing our democracy. And their prescriptions for reversing the decline have more in common than not. What they all agree on: The principles of our Constitution are under assault and the citizenry's only chance at a successful counter attack is by embracing a broad array of plans for strengthening democratic institutions.

Keep reading... Show less