In Room to Grow, Ramesh Ponnuru writes,
Confronted by presidential lawlessness, some conservatives are tempted to throw up their hands. They conclude there does not seem to be much conservatives can do about it besides such extreme, and for that reason impractical, measures as impeachment. But…we can make the case that the president must be bound by the laws and that executive dereliction of duty is a threat to national well-being…we could try to reestablish a political norm by raising the cost of violations of it and increasing the odds that future presidents will feel bound by it.
Good luck with that. I just finished reading The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America, by F.H. Buckley. The main take-away is that once you have a chief executive chosen by popular election, you are in trouble. The “extreme” measure of the legislature removing the head of state happens much more readily in parliamentary systems, Buckley argues. He says we are just about the only country without a parliamentary system that isn’t pretty far along on the autocracy spectrum.
Buckley says that our founders did not want a popularly elected President. They wanted a President chosen by the House of Representatives. But they were afraid to take that idea to the people, so they instead proposed that the selection would go the House in the case of an electoral college deadlock–which they thought would be the norm once George Washington left office. Oops!
Buckley says that the problem with popular election of Prime Ministers, and especially of Presidents, is that they become much more powerful than legislatures. They have national legitimacy, they can present a unified front, and they can dominate the news media. Separation of powers is a pipedream.
Where we’re headed, ultimately, is for the Presidency to become more and more powerful, until we have the equivalent of Hugo Chavez or Vladimir Putin. That’s Buckley’s version of “Have a nice day.”