The 2016 Presidential Election has been a whirlwind, combined with a tornado and to top it all off, a maelstrom thrown in for added flavor. To say that this is the most publicized and divisive campaign in recent memory is an understatement. The battle between Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Donald J. Trump has divided and splintered our country like never before. Both candidates are far from pleasing to the eye but they are what is left standing. The primaries were more or less sideshow attractions, Hillary's battle with Bernie Sanders did have a little more substance and was actually somewhat enjoyable to watch. The Republicans on the other hand aimlessly waddled around Donald Trump as every debate become like one of his many reality television shows. Yet what has this election taught us? For some it may be that deep down this country is still racially divided on many issues; we have a broken system in government and if just looking at the surface, there is still a lot of mistrust with our population. But these are too easy to pinpoint and say that they are the answers; what this election has taught us is the importance of being civically involved in our government and having a concrete understanding of the way our democracy works.
This election is not about how many emails were deleted or how many women were sexually assaulted over a period of time. While they do play a part in their own significant way, they should not be the sole basis for the reasoning of why one votes. A candidates ability to make difficult, timely decisions, be able to work with their own party and the opposite party and be the face of our country. Can either candidate represent any of those qualities? That remains to be seen honestly. But this article is not about the qualifications of Hillary or Donald, it is about what we as the American people can take from this election. If this election has shown us anything, it is the ignorance of how our government really works and the indifference that some people have at changing it. To start with, lets look at the powers of the president. I'm sorry to burst some bubbles but the president is not this omnipresent being who has a magic wand and can make or do anything he/she wants. The powers of the presidency are very limited actually. That was the foundation of how and why our system of government was created in the first place. Our founding fathers were distrustful of a centralized concentration of power within one person (i.e. a king). The balance of power within our government is spread across three branches; the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial. They believed that the addition of a checks and balances system would prohibit any unlawful exercise of one branch's power.
By far the greatest misconception is that of the presidency. Compared to the other two branches of government, our president has very little power over anything. Article II Sections 1-4 outline what the president can do and in manners of abusing such powers, how they can be impeached (Section 4). Section 1 outlines how a president is voted into office, qualifications for the presidency and what happens if the president were to resign, pass away or be removed from office. Section 2 is the "meat" of the president's powers. Aside from being the Commander-In-Chief of the Army and Navy, much of what the president is able to do is very limited. They can sign Treaties, nominate officers, justices of the Supreme Court, ambassadors, and consuls; all with the advice and consent of the Senate. Herein lies the restrictions on the presidency, the practically cannot do anything without the consent of the Senate. The president needs a two-thirds majority vote to have any of those powers validated. The best example is the appointment of newer justices to the Supreme Court. Always a hot-button issue for every president, as the biggest fear is that they'll appoint someone who follows closely with their own political ideologies (i.e. conservative or liberal). Never usually the case as the Senate has shown time and again to make the appointment process as lengthy as possible with elongated hearings or just voting against said candidate.
Quite limited in what one man or woman can do as the President of the United States. The president was to be the one branch that was checked the most, again out of the colonists fear of a power hungry monarch. The only other actual written power the president has is Section 3, the State of the Union address. Our president is quite frankly nothing more than the figurehead of our nation. Yet it is an important position to have and it deserves a candidate who will best represent our nation and it's citizens on the global stage. The president is the great equalizer of our country, able to rally its citizens to important causes and to bring the country together in times of crisis. What the president is not is an all-powerful being who can unleash nuclear hellfire, bypass any law or recommendation of Congress and pass any bill they see fit. The president has clear and defined powers, just like that of Congress and the Supreme Court.
So what is it that we can learn from this election? The simple and bottom line answer is an increased knowledge and awareness of our system of government. Too many times during this election hatred and distrust has been spewed because of an ignorant demographic in this nation. Take time to actually read the Constitution, it lists YOUR basic rights as a citizen and it lists the powers of our government. Watch and read more than just one news source that doesn't align with your political ideology. Broaden your horizons and become socially aware of what is happening on Capitol Hill. Reading or watching just one news source makes for a very limited and narrow view of the world, diversify yourself. For the love of everything that is holy and sacred in this nation WATCH C-SPAN! Yes it may be boring but C-SPAN is the best way to see what is going on with Congress. Their meetings are taped live and offer you a glimpse of what they are discussing. Keep tabs on your elected officials. C-SPAN and other governmental websites can show you how your Representative/Senator voted on recent or past bills. You voted them into office, now keep track to see if they are making good on the promises they gave you during their campaigning. Remember Congress is here to serve YOU the citizen, not their own political needs. If they are not living up to what the promised you, it is your duty to vote them out of office. Lastly, go and vote. Voting is the single, coolest ability that our Founding Fathers bestowed upon us as citizens of the United States, exercise that right. By the time that this article comes out we will have a new president and elected officials, but I sincerely hope that you read this and use it for the future. E Pluribus Unum.