The 2016 presidential race is shaping up to be the year of the outsider. The only thing the Left and the Right seem to agree upon these days is that somebody who is not a Washington insider should be the next president of the United States. Yet there is a serious question that not only has gone unanswered but has barely been asked: What if an outsider won?
Supporters of the outsider candidates (Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump) all seem to be of the opinion that should their candidate seize the White House, they will then be able to impose their agenda on the country. They forget that in our governmental system, the legislative branch, i.e. Congress, is charged with the responsibility of enacting laws. It will certainly be tempting for the next president to continue President Obama’s pattern of using executive action to bypass Congress— even when it fulfills its constitutional obligation to approve/disapprove proposed laws. However, the next president doing so would be exceeding the scope of their power.
Of the three credible outsiders, Donald Trump is the most likely to use executive action right off the bat. The complexity and significance of the deals he has negotiated are nothing in comparison to the kinds of deals made in the House and Senate. The Donald Trump legislative agenda won’t be able to get over the metaphorical wall that will separate Trump from Congress and, sadly, Americans will pay (suffer) for it.
Another challenge for a President Trump is candidate Trump. He has delivered zero specifics on his policy proposals other than adjectives like “terrific” and “great.” In order to even get to the point of “doing a deal” with Congress, Trump would have to spend a great deal of time fleshing out actual policy; and that assumes he can even comprehend it. Going out and telling crowds about how terrific and rich you are is not a legislative agenda, it’s a sign of severe insecurity.
Without a doubt, Ted Cruz is an incredibly smart person. Love him or hate him, it is important to recognize his intellect. However, Cruz has a downside. He’s rubbed many the wrong way. His entire campaign boasts about how he has not gotten along with the people he works with at every level he has served. Only four months into his being a senator, his colleagues considered Cruz to be the most hated senator. One GOP senator reportedly stated that they would vote for Bernie Sanders over Ted Cruz.
As president, Cruz would also find working with Congress to be incredibly difficult. During his time in the Senate, Cruz has made a lot of enemies on both sides of the aisle. These enemies would absolutely find ways to frustrate and kill Cruz’s legislation. Like Trump, Ted Cruz would face a Congress problem.
And then there’s Bernie Sanders—a.k.a everybody’s crazy uncle from Brooklyn. The Sanders agenda, like Senator Sanders himself, has a reality problem. He wants to make college free for everyone (including illegal immigrants). Of course, he says we would pay for this by raising taxes on Americans. In fact, all of the Sanders proposals involve raising taxes on Americans. Those tax increases would not begin to pay for the Sanders agenda or the other financial obligations the United States has. Even the most ardent Sanders supporters in Congress would be hard-pressed to explain how they could realistically pay for these massive government expansion schemes.
Even if Sanders could find a legitimate way to pay for his fiscal insanity, Congress would never go for it. Republicans and the few fiscally sane Democrats that exist—apparently, there are one or two—would oppose it as even Hillary Clinton is doing now. Sanders doesn’t address this inconvenient truth on the campaign trail.
Voters clearly want to see an outsider come and shake things up. They’re frustrated with how they see government working (and not) and think that by electing their outsider candidate, the message they’re sending would achieve results. Yet they ignore the fact that members of Congress were also elected by the people of their respective districts.
Congress decides what is and what is not law. Not the executive branch.To believe that voting for the outsider candidate means that their agenda will automatically be implemented is nothing but a fantasy.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
Evan Siegfried, a Republican strategist and columnist, is president of Somm Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter at @evansiegfried