Donald Trump’s political rise was still new when members of Congress broke for their August recess. They have made the rounds in their districts and states as pollsters have found Trump and other anti-establishment candidates capturing a rough majority of GOP primary voters.
I saw several members during their recess, and I asked if they think this development — as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders’ success with Democrats — would spark any changes on Capitol Hill in the weeks and months to come.
“I’m hopeful that that message is getting in there,” said first-year Sen. David Perdue. “That was the message I heard (as) I was running: People are upset. And we see it now in the presidential election, it’s resonating. … If you listen to people, they’ll tell you very straight: They’re hurting, there are fewer people working, as a percentage, since the late ’70s, and they’re looking for solutions.
“I hope we get together and do some things in a nonpartisan way,” he continued. “Not bipartisan, but nonpartisan. I think the Iran deal should be evaluated in a nonpartisan way. I think the trade issue should be a nonpartisan issue. I’m hopeful that we will get past this partisanship up there. But I’m also a realist …. we’ve seen how that hasn’t happened in the past.”
Rep. Tom Price said the system isn’t working the way it’s supposed to work, and not only because of partisanship.
“I think one of the things that has resulted in the kind of angst and anger out there is the fact that, in almost everybody’s lifetime, this is the weakest the (legislative) branch of our federal government has ever been,” Price said.
Congress was designed to be the strongest of the three branches of government. But Price said it has lost power to the other two, rather than merely being checked by them.
“For a variety of reasons, but through both Republican and Democratic administrations, we’ve seen an increase in executive-branch authority and usurpation of authority — never more so than in the past 6.5 years, from our perspective,” he said, referring of course to Barack Obama’s presidency. “This president has acted in an extralegal way many times, and clearly with a regulatory oppression that has become stock and trade for his administration, they are assuming much of the policymaking role for the country.
“In addition to that, you have a court system and a judiciary that have expanded their aggressiveness in the area of policy, so it’s no longer courts saying this is legal or not legal, or this is constitutional or not constitutional, it’s ‘This is not constitutional, and this is what you must do.’ So the legislative branch is as impotent as it’s been, and the frustration of the people is appropriate and real because the folks that are closest to them in our system of government are now as weak as they’ve ever been.”
All of which raises a thought to keep in mind if you’re drawn to the anti-establishment types:
Are you getting behind someone who aims to put the system back in balance, especially in how it works but also in terms of partisanship? Or are you going for someone who’ll throw it further out of whack, only in a direction you like better?