To Preserve, Protect, and Defend

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Thoughts on the office of the President.

 

This Presidents’ Day, I’ve thought a lot about the institution of the presidency itself. The attitudes that people have adopted toward our current POTUS have ranged from vitriolic to idolatrous, for a variety of reasons. However, the presidency transcends the individual who holds the post at any given time. It has persisted even when individual presidents have been assassinated; it has persisted through resignations.

The office has persisted, and the Constitution has persisted.

Our country holds the record for the longest running peaceful transition of power in modern history, and our presidential system is what has kept that alive. Thus, the office is perhaps more important than the individual who holds it. The White House will exist long after Donald Trump is gone from the face of this earth. As such, I believe that as Americans, we owe respect to the office of the President of the United States, regardless of who holds it.

Too many of my fellow students—and far too many celebrities—have taken to the streets, chanting and holding signs bearing slogans like “Not My President.” This statement is inappropriate and untrue.

President Donald Trump may not espouse the values that you hold dear. He may not claim to protect your identity. He may have said vitriolic, offensive, and hurtful things that have affected you deeply. I have certainly been angered and profoundly troubled by many of his words and actions.

Candidate Donald Trump did not win the popular vote, despite what he may claim. He did not receive as many votes as Hillary Clinton. But on December 19, the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December, based on the rules by which they were commissioned, the Electors of each state and of the District of Columbia met, formed the Electoral College, and elected Donald J. Trump to be the President of the United States.

As a result, regardless of all of these things, and whether you like it or not, if you are an American citizen, Donald Trump is your president.

As such, the American citizenry should harbor a basic respect for the office that he holds, the office that Barack Obama held before him and that Hillary Clinton would have held if the election had gone differently. The presidency is the same office that it was before, the same office that it will be after Donald Trump, barring any constitutional amendments during his time in office.

This office is limited. It is limited by the Constitution’s allocation and separation of powers. It is limited by the Congress and by the judiciary, and it is limited by the American people.

Donald Trump must respect these limits. He must walk within the bounds our nation has created for him. He, too, must respect the office he holds. If he doesn’t, he faces a number of consequences.

President Trump’s demonstrated preoccupation with winning suggests that his legacy will be very important to him. If he wants to preserve a legacy of being an effective holder of his office, he must operate within its constraints. His counterparts in government—Republicans and Democrats, the legislature and the judiciary—must hold him accountable to these constraints.

Principled leaders in the Republican Party must respect his office and fulfill their responsibility to maintain the Constitution’s separation of powers. They must challenge executive orders that overreach the executive branch’s powers. They must pass laws to overrule executive orders that go against prudent, reasoned judgment.

The judiciary must respect the office of the presidency and hold President Trump’s actions to the standards set forth in our Constitution. Partisanship should not supersede the Supreme Court’s (and lower courts’) obligation to uphold the law of the land.

Because Donald Trump is the President of the United States, his administration’s success is our success. We can certainly hope that he fails in certain policy objectives with which we do not agree. We may aim to defeat him in the next election. We should not, however, long for our president to fail, for his impeachment, or for his death. Even congressional Democrats have recently called for grassroots liberals and some of their counterparts in Congress to stop calling for the president’s impeachment without sufficient cause. I have overheard too many individuals joking (or not joking) about the assassination or “accidental” death of the President of the United States. Enough is enough.

If we want our country to move forward after his presidency, we must respect the office that Donald Trump now holds. We must hope that he upholds the oath of office that he took on January 20, to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States” and to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution” of our great nation.

Emily Hall ([email protected]) wishes there were more limits on the office of a certain university president.