There is a collection of newspaper articles that were written between September 1787 and August 1788 in order to promote ratification of American’s new Constitution. These articles were subsequently published in one volume known as The Federalist Papers. The individual articles were originally published with pseudonyms; however, the identities of the authors were later revealed as James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. Madison would eventually become the fourth President of the United States. Alexander Hamilton served as the first Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington. Most people today think of Hamilton in the context of a Broadway play which bears his name. John Jay became the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Within the Federalist Papers, each essay is numbered. There are 85 essays altogether. In Federalist #47 James Madison set forth what he called the very definition of tyranny. According to Madison, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
President Richard Nixon is quoted as having said, “When the President does it, it is not illegal.” For the past week, we have been in the throes of legal, moral, and cultural battles concerning President Donald Trump’s Executive Order restricting travel to the United States from seven Muslim countries. The order also prohibited Syrian refugees from entering this country indefinitely. Popular opposition to the President refers to the order as a Muslim ban. The administration, at its Orwellian best or worst, refuses to call the order a ban even after calling it a travel ban. The moral battle over the ban centers on the Statue of Liberty and the fact that America is a country of immigrants. Although America is not without fault, a perfect union aspect of America’s fiber seeks to advance the cause of human rights and the creation of a safe haven for the tired, poor, individuals yearning to breathe free. The cultural battle is also linked to the First Amendment to the Constitution. A ban on Muslims flies in the face of the First Amendment which provides for religious liberty and prohibits a governmentally established religion. In accord with the moral and cultural battle, we have seen three straight weekends of mass protests against the Trump Administration and its policies. The essence of the legal battle rests on presidential authority. The Trump Administration argues that the President has the authority to seal off entry into the United States to protect Americans. No one disputes that argument on its face; however, this particular order does not demonstrate a particular threat to which the President is compelled to respond.
Federalist #47 stated that to avoid a tyrannical concentration of power, the legislative, executive, and judicial powers must be separated. As such, we also have checks and balances. What we experienced this weekend was a separation of powers working in accord with checks and balances. Trump has entered office with a flurry of executive orders. As of yet, there is no legislation in sight. When a District Court in the state of Washington issued a stay on the President’s Muslim ban, we experienced a partial application of something known as “judicial review.” Judicial Review is an integral component of separation of powers. It is the power of the Judicial Branch to declare laws of Congress, the states, and actions of the President unconstitutional. As of this writing, the Appeals Court has refused to lift the lower Court’s stay. President Trump does not understand this chain of events. When running for office, Trump stated that he would accept the election results if he won. The current President only accepts the legitimacy of government if he can have his way. That is why Trump referred to the District Judge in Washington as a “so-called judge.” Candidate Trump also alluded the Nixon era a great deal in his rhetoric. Now it appears that he wants to mimic the worst aspect of Nixon’s governing style. It took President Nixon six years to push the country to its constitutional limits. President Trump has managed to achieve this goal in just over two weeks. The Supreme Court sealed Nixon fate in a case known as United States v. Nixon. In the case, the Court stated that in America no one is “above the law” not even the President of the United States. Trump’s Nixonian propensity is to operate above the law, yet beneath the dignity of the Office of President. Richard Nixon became the only President to leave the office by resignation when he formally resigned from the Office President on August 9, 1974. The only way America can extricate itself from the authoritarian paranoia of President Trump, short of an election, will be for Donald Trump to become the second President to resign.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Dr. Neal is an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, he has had his work published in the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Issues in Higher Education. In 2014 Dr. Neal received the university’s Faculty Appreciation Award, was named Instructor of the Year by the university’s United Student Government, and Professor of the Year by the Student Political Society in the Department of Political Science. In 2015, he published The American Political Narrative which is a succinct yet poignant narrative about the development of the American political system and what is needed to maintain it. In 2016, he will publish a book of poetry entitled “Love Agnostic | from 9/11 to Charleston”