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Do We Really Have Two Branches Of Government?

Written by | December 8th, 2010

As most Americans are aware of, in The United States’ Federal Government, we have three branches of Government: The Executive Branch, which includes The President, Vice-President, and their cabinet; The Legislative Branch (Congress), which is made up of The Senate and The House of Representatives; and The Judicial Branch, which is The Supreme Court. But, do we really have three branches of government? …

After it was decided by the framers of our Constitution to incorporate the theory of seperation of powers, as conceived by Charles-Louis de Secondat (Baron de Montesquieu), the question, of course, then became: how do the occupants of these three branches get elected or appointed?

While the framers debated as to how The President of The United States shall be appointed, the opinion seemed to be most in favor of allowing Congress to appoint The President. There were also some who thought the state governors should appoint The President. And, finally, some who thought The President should be elected by a popular vote by the citizens. After much debate, it was decided, that allowing Congress to appoint The President was a slippery-slope to legislative tyranny, as it could have made The President beholden to those who appointed him, if he were to retain his position of power. The framers, not thinking it was prudent to allow an often uninformed, and disengaged, citizenry, to directly elect The President, decided on creating the electoral process (Article 2, Section 1, Clause 2), which directed state legislatures to select electors from their respective state, and these electors would select two people who they would elect as President – with the most votes being President, and the runner up, Vice-President. The number of electors was to be equal to the amount of Representatives and Senators that each respective state had in Congress.

And, here is where it began to get dicey:

When the framers wrote The Constitution, the idea of political parties, and competing factions, had not been considered – And, sadly, during President Washington’s presidency, the divisions in our country began to manifest themselves, resulting in the subsequent creation of The Federalist Party, by Alexander Hamilton, and followed by The Democrat-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Our first President, George Washington, to date, was the only United States’ President to not be affiliated with a political party. 

When John Adams (Federalist) was selected by the electors to be our second President, the runner up was Thomas Jefferson (anti-Federalist), who, by default, would become John Adams’ Vice-President. As history has shown: This was not a very good pairing between a President and Vice-President, as they both had very different philosophies on the size and scope of our Federal Government.

John Adams, in 1800, was not selected for a second term; however, Aaron Burr (also an anti-Federalist) and Thomas Jefferson, ended in a tie, for the presidency – which had to be broken by The House of Representatives, in Congress, and would make Thomas Jefferson the third President of The United States, with Aaron Burr as his Vice-President. Finally, after The Jefferson/Adams Administration, and The Jefferson/Burr tie, it was apparent that the electoral process, as conceived by the framers, was no longer sufficient; this was remedied, in 1804, by The 12th Amendment. The 12th Amendment now directed all electors, from the respective states, to select both a candidate for President, and a candidate for Vice-President; and the people of The United States, by popular vote, basically, select which  party is to be elected to The Executive Branch. 

In the last paragraph, I noted that The Twelfth Amendment was suppose to remedy this problem – But, did it? It certainly did remedy the problem of two people of the same party being tied for the presidency, however, it did not remedy the fundamental problem of political parties, and factions…

Readers and friends, who are familiar with my political views, know that I often write and talk about my dislike of political parties. On several occasions, I have noted that, political parties, in my opinion, are inconsistent with our Constitution – as we were suppose to have one Constitution, and one political body. However, since factions seem to be consistent with human-nature, and not enough people seem willing to try to remedy this fundamental problem, it now appears that one of the framers biggest fears have come to fruition: And that is, whichever party is elected to The Executive Branch, is now beholden to, and allied with, one of the two major factions in Congress. And, clearly, as the framers warned, we have now seen several instances of legislative tyranny as a result. Therefore, in my humble opinion, because of partisan politics, we do not have 3 branches of Government, but rather, two branches, and an extension of Congress, which occupies The White House, and signs bills into law.

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