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Will Trump Heed Madison's Advice?

Will Trump Heed Madison's Advice?

President-elect Donald Trump waves to the crowd as he leaves the New York Times building following a meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Wednesday, 23 November 2016 11:00 AM Current | Bio | Archive

I am one of the lifelong members of the Conservative movement who did not vote for Donald Trump. Yet I must confess, while not a Trump fan, I was delighted Hillary Clinton lost.

With that out of the way, let's focus on governing.

There has been much blather from Washington pundits in recent years about "gridlock government." The implication being that by its very nature, such a prospect is "evil."

I disagree — and so did the "Father of the Constitution," James Madison, whose reasoning expressed in Federalist Papers No. 51 and 63, is must reading.

The Madisonian constitutional system of "checks and balances" was designed to avoid policy decisions that were "impetuous," "overheated," "hasty," "impulsive," "rash," or "premature." Madison wanted government to be "focused on 'permanent single' needs rather than immediate desires."

Pietro S. Nivola of the Brookings Institute explained the purpose of our Madisonian bicameral legislature this way: "To keep the House's hypersensitivity to public opinion in check, the Constitution had summoned a uniquely intricate form of bicameralism. The Senate — a smaller deliberative assembly composed of members mostly representing larger, hence more internally diverse, polities and chosen to serve longer, staggered terms — was deliberately designed to be less receptive to impulsive popular moods. Senators, as Madison had hoped, could be more statesmanlike under pressure." The Senate, Madison wrote in Federalist No. 63, would be "a defense to the people against their temporary errors and delusions."

To avoid mobocracy, Madison approved of factions and reasoned that to "divide the trust between different bodies of men who might watch and check each other... [would prevent] fickleness and passion and [the temptation] to commit injustice on the majority."

Political partisanship, conflicting political philosophies and a purposely designed inefficient system prevents fleeting majorities from becoming tyrannical. "America's public dysfunction exists," George Will has pointed out, "not because democracy isn't working but because it is."

Madison's separation of power prevents a president from becoming a dictator and the Legislature from becoming a tyrannical mob.

This system forces people of goodwill and strong principles to "reason together" and to design consensus policies, programs, and laws that appeal to both sides of the political spectrum.

By adhering to this approach, President Ronald Reagan confounded Washington insiders and got his supply-side tax policies enacted. Reagan would boast time and again, that he generally got about 80 percent of the loaf because he was willing to negotiate in good faith with his Democratic opponents.

For a president and Legislature to ignore this approach to governing can be disastrous. A recent example is Obamacare.

When the Democrats controlled the White House and both branches of Congress (2009-2011), President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, rammed through the Affordable Care Act without one Republican vote. There was no consensus. The legislation was a one-sided, hastily drafted hodgepodge that no one actually understood.

Reacting, angry Americans came out in the 2010 midterm elections and gave control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans. These cognitive Madisonians approved of divided government in 2010, 2012, 2014 to slow down the imposition of rash legislation.

The American electorate preferred health-care, budget, environmental, welfare, and tax policy congestion until they decided what direction their government should go.

On November 8, 2016, the people spoke and awarded the Republican Party unified control of the national government.

The Republicans have an incredible opportunity to implement "Reaganesque" policies built on consensus that can improve the lot of the American people. And President Donald Trump can use his skills to make that happen.

When I was Executive Director of the Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., I dealt with numerous real estate developers. I quickly learned that they are master negotiators.

Despite Trump's many shortcomings, he is a proven real estate negotiator. If he applies that skill to dealing with the Congress and peels off enough Democrats to avoid filibusters and other stalling tactics by giving them a piece of the loaf, he and his GOP confreres could change the political trajectory.

However, if Trump fails to heed James Madison's advice on government, the American people will come roaring back in 2018 to punish him and to cripple his administration by imposing divided government.

George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact." He also is a columnist for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read more reports from George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.

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The Madisonian constitutional system of "checks and balances" was designed to avoid policy decisions that were "impetuous," "overheated," "hasty," "impulsive," "rash," or "premature." Madison wanted government to be "focused on 'permanent single' needs rather than immediate desires."
president elect trump, james madison, federalist papers
Wednesday, 23 November 2016 11:00 AM
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