America’s Presidential Savior Complex

I read with interest Professor Larry Lesig’s recent Huffington Post piece announcing his exploratory “Presidency as referendum” initiative…

I read with interest Professor Larry Lesig’s recent Huffington Post piece announcing his exploratory “Presidency as referendum” initiative. There’s no question that many American’s are frustrated with their current choices for chief executive in 2016 and the state of our existing political parties. But as a Pew report showed in January 2015, Lessig’s core issue — universal public campaign financing — wasn’t even on the public’s Top 10 list of concerns. In that poll, fears about terrorism edged out worry over the economy — by just a point, but still a telling finding. This week’s AP-NORC poll shows that terrorism and cybersecurity remain key public concerns, by a wide margin and on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis.

Where Lessig is on the same page with his fellow citizens is in perpetuating the dangerous delusion that all we need is the “right kind” of president to save us — whether its from the effects (alleged, imaginary or actual) of “big money” in political campaigns or the next ISIS wanna-be. In reality, it’s been American’s deference to executive power that has created our neo-imperial presidency and the terrifying tools it is using to stifle dissent, persecute whistleblowers and keep our nation hyper-militarized and at war across most of the Arab/Muslim world — a war our current president says may go on for “decades”.

It is the effects of the executive branch’s mass surveillance programs that are most clearly and corrosively chilling freedom of speech and association. As I have noted before, it is these sweeping surveillance programs — and not our campaign finance system — that represent the true cancer on the Constitution.

We were warned this could happen, and of the consequences of letting it happen.

Monday, August 17 will mark the 40th anniversary of the appearance of then-Senator Frank Church on NBC’s “Meet The Press” to discuss the findings of the Senate investigation he was leading into federal surveillance abuses that had come to light. As you listen to Church describe in vivid detail the threat the executive branch posed then, ask yourself this question: In light of all we know now about the rise and power of the neo-imperial presidency, should our focus should be on reforming the presidency…or on ending it?

Senator Frank Church (NBC News)