“He’ll use his superpowers to win in Iraq, then kung-fu chop the Taliban! Our image in the world he’ll mend, he’ll make the Jews and Arabs friends, he’s Barack Obama, he’s come to save the day!” -JibJab
Although clearly a work of satire, the song lyrics above are a reflection of what our society wants and expects of the President of the United States. Since Theodore Roosevelt took office in 1901, most of our Presidents have cheated Congress, defied the Courts, overused his veto power, and made a mountain of unrealistic promises to garner public faith in their ability to make America truly great. Lyndon B. Johnson promised healthcare for all in his Great Society program, FDR believed that tightening the government’s hold over the economy would get us out of the Great Depression (which is a well-publicized myth), and Obama promised to lower healthcare prices by eliminating competition and raising taxes. In short, every President pledges to defecate rainbows and turn the USA into heaven on Earth.
However, the problem with promises made by Presidents is not that they are unrealistic and often ludicrous, nor is it that the people believe that the President can single-handedly solve great moral or economic crises. The issue is that most people want the President to be able to do these kinds of things, and will cheer him on as he tears up the checks and balances of our republican system to attain that power. And as historical hindsight will tell you, any government big enough to give you anything you want is capable of taking away everything you have. Hitler and Stalin are the most obvious examples of governmental destruction of its own people, but an American flag pin is no safeguard from corruption. Just look at how humanely some of our most beloved Presidents have used their power: FDR interned 110,000 immigrants and loyal Japanese-descended citizens, Abraham Lincoln arrested tens of thousands of dissenters and “suspected” criminals. The 4th Amendment’s requirement of probable cause should have stopped both Lincoln and FDR right in their tracks (the courts did declare Lincoln’s arrests to be unconstitutional, but after he died), but they didn’t, because people trusted the President to make the best decisions for the nation and never suspected that the gun might be turned on them. Constitutional checks and balances are the only safeguard from tyranny; don’t assume you’re safe just because the government tends to kill Islamists and people from nations being invaded.
With that established, it becomes clear that more is less in terms of Presidential power. Most adults are capable of handling their own lives without a nanny state changing their diapers; it is the people who create vigorous economies and have the rightful authority to decide what substances go into their own bodies. The government’s only rightful authority is to prevent the people from materially and physically infringing upon others’ lives, liberties, and property, and the President, as an employee of the people, is bound to the duty of enforcing the law. I do not want some elected savior who is pre-ordained by some deity to save the nation, I want Presidents like Calvin Coolidge, William Howard Taft, and George Washington, who abided by the law and sought to achieve only what the Constitution allowed them to. This nation was built by people, not Chief Executives, and the people, not the government, are the key to its future success.