CW 150: Memorial Day

Civil War, History

This is one of several articles in my brief history series about the US Civil War and its 150 anniversary.

In 1970, Memorial Day became a federal holiday on the last Monday in May and now most people are not even sure what the holiday is about because it is the unofficial first day of summer. First, don’t tell a soldier, “Happy Memorial Day,” that would be in poor taste. Second, it is about the soldiers who “gave their last full measure” for their country. Third, it started as a random remembrance day following the Civil War. Before this, there was only the 4th of July as a “national” holiday.

DACA and Charlottesville are Two sides of the Same Coin

Civil War, History, Personal, Politics

JONATHAN TURLEY over at The Hill has an OpEd on why the DACA issue should actually be a decision by the Congress instead of the Executive. Immigration enforcement is the only aspect of international law that POTUS should have final say on because of the Constitutional structure of the government. President Trump is simply pushing the balance of powers back towards their original intent.  DACA was pushed through by President Obama without congressional approval and lacking any real Congressional Oversight. Therefore it continued the trend of increasing Executive powers in a way that truncates the influence and ability of Congress to govern. By continuously expanding the scope of the Executive, members of Congress find themselves on a small and small political playing field. Many of the issues that they should be deciding have been relegated occasional show votes for party allegiance.

DACA is also a similar case in the way that Charlottesville and local governance are playing out. The President has no right to intercede in local affairs and, if he did so, it would continue to set a precedent of expanded powers beyond the scope of the office. The Executive should not be involved in the removal of local or state monuments. Let the process take its course. He can issue statements of discontent by the beauty of federal government is the ability for all of us to have an identity that is mutually nationalistic and local at the same time. The other side of this is the idea that people may actually know their community in better and more intimate way because of the fruitfulness of persevering the process. Do your neighbors seek independence or autocrats?

I am admittedly a Madisonian scholar and a constitutional formalist. I believe strongly in the role of Congress in legislation and clear lines of separation between the branches. The separation of powers protects us from the concentration of authority in the hands of a single president or a few jurists. James Madison saw Congress as a way to force majoritarian compromise out of our factional divisions. Sometimes when the country is deeply divided, less gets done until we can reach a consensus. It sometimes takes time, which is a finite and dwindling commodity for presidents. The process is not pretty or easy, but it has one thing to recommend it: we are still here. It is the balance of the three branches that has brought us stability through economic to social to political upheavals.

Trump’s decision will return this question to where it should have remained: Congress. Presidents do not have the option to go it alone in our system. Obama failed to pass DACA in Congress, and he was left with only two choices. He had to either compromise or change Congress. Sometimes when the country is politically divided, less gets done until we can reach a consensus. However, that consensus is found in the legislative process, not through presidential or judicial proclamations.