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December 11, 2017

Do we expect too much from the president?

Courtesy of Enchanted Learning

As Americans, we look up to our President. He has been a powerful man (so far) whom we look to for guidance, for reassurance, for action and for leadership. We may be divided by whether we agree or oppose the policies they support. Regardless, at one point or another, we have all felt strongly towards a president. He stands as a symbol of our state.

In order to gain the vote, the candidate must introduce their view on political issues, which may include economic plans, controversial questions of morality, civil rights and the network of social security. While most consider one or more of the above criterion, once elected, the president’s job relies most heavily on the performance of the economy. The president’s approval rating typically rises soon after election, and then follows the pattern of the economy.  With good economic performance, the president’s approval rating remains high. Correspondingly,  any problems with the economy is reflected in a poor approval rating. Barack Obama has come under this exact scrutiny. He currently has a relatively low approval rating, due in part to the poor economy and high unemployment rates. Dissatisfaction amongst the population falls squarely on the shoulders of the president.

What we have come to expect from our president isn’t exactly what our founders intended. George Washington and John Adams’ performances were not evaluated based on the economy. As the nation has progressed, so much more has become expected of the president. Yet, the Constitution hasn’t changed to include these new expectations. It was not until Woodrow Wilson sought to challenge the founding fathers’ perspective of leading the country that these high expectations came about. He felt the president should be viewed as the premiere executive that leads the other two branches of government. The founders alternatively viewed the presidency as a piece of a whole. In an effort to gain recognition and encourage political participation, Wilson incorporated the element of moral leadership into the presidency, which was previously unheard of. This may have lead to a disconnect from what we expect and the actual powers of the presidency.

The United States was built on the premise of three equal branches of government with delegated duties to the nation: the judiciary, executive and legislature. The second article of the Constitution explains the powers of the presidency , which includes commander and chief of the armed forces, power to make treaties with the consent of the Senate, nominate the Supreme Court justices as well as cabinet positions and to administer the State of the Union address. The powers of the presidency do not include any notion of moral leader or any mention of power over the economy. Congress on the other hand, is delegated most of the economic powers, including power to tax. It’s no secret most people aren’t in love with Congress as reflected in their approval ratings, but they aren’t as targeted as the President is.

Our President serves as the premiere symbol of our state, but to place complete blame on the downfalls of the country is, at times, unfair. The Constitution has not changed to delegate economic powers to the presidency. He is our leader, and blame is certainly sometimes warranted. It is important to think about the origins of the presidency and the true responsibilities of the office, before casting a vote and passing judgments in preparation for the upcoming presidential elections.

Brittany McLellan can be reached for comment at bmclella@student.umass.edu.

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