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IPFS News Link • Constitution

Our Potemkin Presidency

• by James Bovard

Since World War One, presidents have amassed far more arbitrary power to rule by decree. Every recent American commander-in-chief has expanded and exploited the dictatorial potential of the presidency. Yet, because elections continue to be regularly held, most Americans do not think of the nation's chief executive as a despot.

For generations, American politicians spoke reverently of the Constitution as America's highest law. In the 1800s, presidential candidates would compete by attesting their fidelity to the nation's founding document. But in recent years, the Constitution has fallen into disrespect. The rule of law now means little more than the enforcement of the secret memos of the commander-in-chief.

Power has been concentrated in the White House in part because the friends of Leviathan favor policies that cannot survive the light of day or open debate in the halls of Congress. Pundits pretend the system remains on automatic pilot to serve the citizenry just like in the early days of the American republic. Advocates for centralized power have talked as if they were deluded by some political perversion of the mystic advice in the movie Field of Dreams: "Gather all the power, and the noble leader will come."