Checks and balances is the most fundamental principle of our government. And it’s pretty common sense, right? Each branch of government, the Executive, Judicial and Legislative, has its own independent authority to undertake its own unique actions, but on its own can’t perform all functions of government.
This is junior high school civics. A separation of powers prevents any branch — or any person — from becoming too powerful. It’s one of the least controversial facets of our government.
It was James Madison, our fourth president and the author of the Bill of Rights in our Constitution, who explained the importance of this model of governance in the Federalist Papers in the late 18th century.
“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
If you alone have all the powers that were bestowed upon our branches of government, then you are a tyrant.
This was written 220 years ago.
But it could not be more relevant today. Right now.
As you all have heard, this evening the 9th District Appeals Court upheld the restraining order on Trump’s travel ban. The decision was a unanimous one by the three-judge panel, one of which was appointed by George H.W. Bush.
Remember, this was only a decision on whether to keep the restraining order in place while the courts continue to determine the lawfulness of the order. It doesn’t mean it’s dead, but it’s a very promising and symbolic victory, and an equally humbling defeat for the Trump administration.
The administration is asserting that they — and they alone — know what’s best for this country. That any decision they make regarding national security should be unreviewable.
The courts said: nuh-uh.
By the time the Trump administration is over, we will have learned something important about our governing institution. We will have either learned that one impulsive, radical man could singlehandedly destabilize it, or that the separation of powers that were put in place by the Constitution have been vindicated.
Tonight’s decision was a victory for the latter.
On a side note, we should all be grateful to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson for his successful challenging of this ban in the courts. He will forever be remembered in history as the first person who successfully stood up to this turbulent administration.
Twitter, naturally, has been active since the decision. Trump chimed in, telling the court that he’ll … “SEE YOU IN COURT.”
That’s like Matt Ryan tweeting after his Super Bowl loss “I’LL SEE YOU AT THE SUPER BOWL.”
As always, when something silly happens, the Internet responds with some fantastic memes. Check them out.
Oh, and one other person chimed in.
Remember that woman who won the popular vote but still lost the presidency?
I’ll let that burn resonate for a bit.