There has been a lot of excitement, particularly in conservative circles, as President Donald Trump tears through his first week in office. He’s been on a roll with several executive actions that have erased actions from the previous administration and generally promoted portions of the Republican agenda that can be liked by many, including Federalists.
The challenge that this trend poses is whether or not they will become addicted to the efficiency of absolute power. At the end of the day, making changes and “fixing” the nation is very easy through executive orders, but doing so runs the risk of a government that is out of control, drunk with its own power. That’s why the Constitution was written in a way that slowed down the system, particularly as it pertains to national government.
Though it has never been officially stated as such, the premise for appropriate action from a Federalist perspective is that actions should go from slow to swift in direct correlation to size. The smaller the government, such as local or city governments, the faster they can and should move. The federal government should be more cautious and laborious in their decisions. That’s not to say that they should not have the ability to act quickly, but their actions should be weighed and measured appropriately based upon the need.
In a very good article on Patriot Post, author Brian Mark Weber details the risks we’re seeing as the Trump administration lays out major changes in a short period of time. While not condemning these actions directly, Weber points out that if this trend continues, we will face obstacles to promoting Federalism and defending the Constitution. It could be the conservative “saviors” in the White House and Capitol Hill that end up consolidating even more power in DC and away from the states.
The fact that the center of power is now in the hands of presidents, members of Congress, and federal bureaucrats has resulted in a system unlike that envisioned by our Founders. They wanted our constitutional system to ensure long-term stability rather than become one in which the passions of various groups of people shifted public policy back and forth depending on which party was in power.
In Federalist 49, James Madison dismissed Thomas Jefferson’s idea of allowing a constitutional convention to be called whenever two branches of government deem it necessary, citing the need for “public tranquility.” Madison’s greatest concern was that constant changes in public policy at the federal level would threaten the long-term stability of the system.
Throughout The Federalist Papers, Madison reiterates his desire to protect the government from these frequent alterations. That Madison was so concerned about “public passion” at a time when Congress had very little power leaves us wondering what he’d think about our system today. Rather than addressing issues where power can be controlled (and limited) more easily, many Americans now await each new executive order, Supreme Court decision, or congressional vote to determine the course of our nation.
If Trump and the GOP can reverse what Obama did quickly, then systematically work towards reducing their own power by giving much of it back to the states, this will be a successful 1st term. If they hold onto power as DC politicians are wont to do, we could be looking at a Constitutional disaster coming while the “small government” GOP is in power.