Opponents of former President Barack Obama widely criticized his use of executive actions. Issuing a total of 277 orders in his tenure, Obama was accused by Congress of bypassing checks established in the constitution to advance his own political agenda. At that time, the GOP compared him to a king.
With President Donald Trump in office, this executive branch behavior has continued and even broadened in scope. In his first week in office, President Trump has issued seven executive orders and 11 presidential memorandums. The difference between an executive order and a memorandum boil down to disparate audiences: The former directs the executive branch to take action in a particular way (unless it violates existing law); the latter, however, simply states a policy directive coming from the president’s office. Both are — under the GOP’s own assertion during Obama’s presidency — efforts to bypass the legislative process.
Interestingly, Trump administration’s need to forward such a great volume of executive actions is quite perplexing, considering that the GOP has control of both the House and the Senate.
President Donald Trump’s authoritarian actions directly undermine democracy in our country. The use of executive actions, despite having control over the legislature, is indicative of a president trying to demonstrate control over the legislative branch.
This — viewed in the lens of his actions surrounding the press and statements regarding dissent — describes a narrative of a man attempting to consolidate power while undermining the rest of the government.
After demanding a blackout of all government agencies — including the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services — last week, Trump made it clear he had no compunction silencing any internal opposition he might face while in office.
The recent response from Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, indicated that Trump’s administration will not tolerate dissent: Spicer’s words, which amount to forcing diplomats out of their job if they don’t get with the program is absurd and highly counterproductive, and furthermore constructs a bubble within the government, preventing necessary debate over the policy decisions.
Another demonstration of the authoritarian actions of the President manifested Tuesday, when the previous Attorney General Sally Yates refused to enforce Trump’s immigration ban. Immediately following this announcement, President Trump fired her from her position, citing a betrayal of the Department of Justice.
With expanded executive action, including orders and presidential memorandums, his appointments to office, and the silence he has forced upon members of his opposition in the government, President Trump is sending a clear message to the people of this country — he doesn’t care about democratic values. This not only undermines our democratic institutions, but could jeopardize the trust that American people have in them in the years to come.