Constitutional principles should trump party affiliation

Photo by Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Last week, Donald Trump capped off a historic and unlikely bid for the White House by capturing over 300 electoral votes on election night.

The successful businessman and real estate mogul ran his campaign the way he has run his businesses — on his own terms. He is used to getting things done the way he wants and when he wants them.

The same qualities that made him such a success in the boardroom were also what gave me, and many others, pause about his run for office. Our constitutional system of checks and balances was put in place to ensure that one person cannot unilaterally do what he/she wants.

These past eight years, we have witnessed what can happen when our president eschews such constitutional limitations. Having famously said he has "a pen and a phone," outgoing President Barack Obama has time and again bypassed the normal order of things to implement his agenda. Whether it was immigration issues, tightening environmental restrictions through the EPA or not having the Senate ratify treaties, the Obama Administration continued to act outside of its authority — though thanks in part to the good work of Attorney General Ken Paxton and his team, the administration was called to task for some of these unconstitutional overreaches.

So the question becomes, what if President-elect Trump begins to unilaterally act as his predecessor has done? Who will hold him accountable? Who will speak up? There are two options, but only one viable one.

The Democrats will surely raise up and speak out against these actions. However, because of their endorsement and support of President Obama's executive actions the past eight years, they have lost the moral and intellectual authority to oppose such measures. You should never cheer or allow the expansion of executive power that you wouldn't want your political opponent to wield. No longer can the Democrats oppose unilateral executive action on a principled basis. Rather, their opposition can only be found in partisanship and a disagreement on the action being taken — not the principle that it should never have been taken in the first place.

So, if the Democrats are not a viable voice, who does that leave? It leaves us, the conservatives and the Republicans who have opposed the current president time and again over his actions. If we allow a president that happens to have a (R) by his name to pursue the same unilateral course of action as the prior occupant of the White House, then we lose our ability speak out on a principled basis.

Sure, we might agree with this president more in regard to the policy of the executive action, but that does not negate the principled danger of doing so. Our constitutional system was not set up to be governed by "a pen and a phone." It was unilateral tyranny that our Founding Fathers were seeking to insulate this country from in the Constitution.

Some of my Republican friends have intimated that "what is good for the goose is good for the gander." At times, this tactic could be warranted. For example, do Republicans continue the Harry Reid-led movement to confirm judges with a bare majority in the Senate? That's a debatable position. But the argument does not apply to holding a Republican president accountable for ultra vires actions. It is always right to venerate our constitutional principles. The right ends do not justify the wrong means.

I want President-elect Trump to be incredibly successful in office; as President Obama said, if Trump succeeds, so does America. I will be glad to give him credit where it's due and cheer him on as he champions efforts that will help dismantle many of the failed policies of the past eight years.

But, it is incumbent on Republicans and conservatives, now more than ever, that we uphold our principles and speak out against actions that violate our most cherished constitutional precepts. The past eight years of criticism must be seen not as partisan sniping but as principled opposition — and that opposition remains, regardless of the occupant of the White House.

Matt Krause

State representative, R-Fort Worth

@RepMattKrause

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