Separation of Powers--Does it Still Work?

By Robert A. Goldwin; Art Kaufman | Go to book overview

it be a monarch or an elected or appointed president. It is normally a ceremonial office except in circumstances of extreme crisis.

A Parliamentary System? Would this rearrangement give the United States a parliamentary system? No, it would not. The essence of a parliamentary system is that the legislature chooses the chief executive and cabinet or, rather, the nation chooses party members to serve in an assembly and the prevailing party or coalition chooses the executive. In the American system, as framed in 1787 and as it would remain under these rearrangements, the legislature and the executive are both separately and popularly elected.

Parties may, of course, attempt to bridge the separation. That happened between 1808 and 1824 under the Constitution, when congressional caucuses nominated the presidential candidates. The Democrats made another feeble attempt during the 1950s when Paul Butler, the national chairman, tried to organize a council to draw legislative leaders into association with elements of the party that were preparing to draft a platform and nominate candidates for the presidency and vice presidency. Ever since the Jacksonians invented the national convention, however, such attempts at "party government" have been frustrated. The rearrangements proposed here would be more hospitable to party government than the design of 1787, but the persistence of the separation of powers in modified form would still constitute an obstacle. Everything would depend on the skill of political leaders in putting together a slate of candidates for executive and legislative office that could win a national majority.


Conclusion

My attempt here has been to build a revised system of government with American materials. These proposals contain no social engineering, no attempt to import a foreign system and graft it onto this nation. They begin with American political ideals and principles and with American forms of government. Having concluded that the design of 1787 no longer serves those ideals and principles, having determined that the Constitution as framed in 1787 is no longer "adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union" (quoting the resolve of Congress that called the convention of 1787 into being), I have proposed a rearrangement of some of its elements. It would retain essential features of the original design: a Bill of Rights; an independent judiciary with powers of judicial review; a separation of executive and legislative branches, rooted in separate constituencies; and a federal system. It would, however,

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