Introducing the Presidents of the United States, Donald Trump AND Hillary Clinton

by Tyler J. Haston, 2L Note Candidate

Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? While some voters were robust supporters of one of these candidates, the common response from several people in this country during the last election was, “Neither!” While roughly half of the country supported Donald Trump j16_4119and felt that Hillary Clinton would trample on their rights, the other half supported Clinton and believed Trump would ignore their needs entirely. Both sides feared that the other would fail to represent them at all. I firmly believe that both are correct. Political polarization has become so concrete in our country that the president essentially does only represent “their side” and their supporters, leaving roughly half the nation with nothing to do but attack the president, their political party, and nearly every single decision they make during their term. This creates a never-ending cycle of political warfare and American divide. To fix this problem, we should not have been asking the question of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton during the last presidential election. Rather, we should have welcomed the concept of introducing the “Presidents of the United States, Donald Trump AND Hillary Clinton.”

A bipartisan executive branch would make tremendous strides in reducing most of the political polarization that has entrenched itself in our nation. See generally Political Polarization in the American Public, Pew Research Center (June 12, 2014), http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/12/political-polarization-in-the-american-public/ [https://perma.cc/H8HS-Z6E2]. A two-party presidency would allow for nearly all Americans to have their voices heard and have their interests represented in a fair manner. When the founding fathers decided on a one person executive—a single president—it was the correct decision. At that time in history, the nation was more united, population was minuscule compared to today, and party polarization was not as extreme. The president could represent the entire nation—or at least a vast majority. However, several developments have occurred in the past two centuries. While leaders in this area identify several issues, two major developments have been identified as driving the need for change. See generally David Orentlicher, Two Presidents are Better Than One: The Case for a Bipartisan Executive Branch (2013).

First, the president no longer views the entire country as its constituency. Rather, the president is forced to focus on those who already support him or her and take actions to keep that half of constituents satisfied. Those who oppose the president are likely to oppose him or her no matter what, so why bother aiming to please that half of constituents? In a bipartisan executive system, all constituents could focus solely on the quality of the candidate for their party. If individuals know that they will be represented regardless, they could spend more time focusing on what the candidates actually believe and represent and less time on simply condemning the opposing party. Ideally, this would lead to the selection of the best two individuals to represent nearly all constituents in the country, not just the half that prevail. Imagine if the consideration was, “Who is the absolute best person in this nation to represent my interests and beliefs?” rather than, “Who can raise enough money to beat the other party in the election?”

The second major issue that calls for a bipartisan executive branch is that the president has assumed far greater policy making power than the founding fathers ever envisioned. To further the issue expressed above, this power influx allows the president to make decisions that nearly half the country will always disagree with without having any say in the matter. A two-party presidency could alleviate much of that dissatisfaction. If the two presidents must agree on a decision before it is made, such as an executive order or even a declaration of war, constituents could feel that their opinions were represented in making that decision, regardless of the outcome.

On November 8, 2016, the most powerful nation in the world decided it would be exclusively be run by Donald Trump. This is what political polarization has led us to. Perhaps it is time to explore the concept of a bipartisan executive branch. To read more about this issue, check out David Orentlicher’s article in this issue of the Indiana Law Review. David Orentlicher, Political Dysfunction and the Election of Donald Trump: Problems of the U.S. Constitution’s Presidency, 50 Ind. L. Rev. 247 (2016) (available at https://mckinneylaw.iu.edu/ilr/pdf/vol50p247.pdf).

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