Kakistocracy is a real word, meaning government by the worst people. Its etymology is from kakistos, which is Greek for “worst.” Associate it with a child’s expression when you say “caca,” and you’ll remember it vividly.
One is likely to think of kakistocracy in context of immoral or corrupt behavior, implying violation of cultural, religious taboos or the criminal code. However, another way to consider government by the worst is in context of elected officials dishonoring their oaths of office by subordinating or ceding their offices’ power and responsibilities to another. By such action or inaction, they diminish themselves as well as the office and their successors.
At the time of this writing, the House of Representatives was preparing to pass a resolution condemning Trump’s emergency declaration on the grounds that the situation of the U.S.-Mexico border is not critical. The POTUS confirmed that when he said he didn’t need to make the declaration, that it was a step of convenience. Further, in his and supporters’ opinions, the declaration gives him authority to reallocate funds dedicated from military projects.
The problem is that while his declaration might assuage his base’s passions, it doesn’t fulfill the niceties of his capacity as chief executive. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution assigns appropriating funds to Congress. The president’s job is administrative: Disbursing pre-dedicated funds.
The POTUS’s action has raised alarms along with the dander among those who care about such things: Americans who revere the Constitution. Voting to sanction the POTUS’s action, however, has created angst among Republican leaders who know he’s acting tyrannically.
Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen, heretofore an unwavering conservative Trump apologist, says every Republican in Congress should vote for such a resolution. He says Trump shouldn’t “be forcing Republicans to choose between fidelity to their president and fidelity to the Constitution.” Thiessen refuses to entertain the notion that for Trump it’s not a binary choice.
In their 2016 Republican Better Way platform, Republicans held, “The Founders insisted on a separation of powers to protect our constitutional liberties. But over time, especially in recent decades, the executive branch has collected more power for itself, enabled by a judiciary that defers to the bureaucracy and a Congress that has yielded some of its most fundamental duties.
“James Madison warned that the Constitution is ‘a mere parchment barrier’ unless each branch asserts its powers to keep the others in check. This concentration of power ultimately comes at the expense of the people, who rightly feel detached from – distrustful of – their government.”
Conservative commentator George Will isn’t sanguine about the potential for congressional Republicans to check “Trump’s evisceration of the Constitution’s architecture of checks and balances.”
“By opposing a binding resolution disapproving the president’s declaration of an emergency,” Will writes, “they would approve Congress’s acquiescence in the loss of its core power, that of controlling spending.”
Will asks two questions: “Why is there a Congress? And why are such Republicans receiving salaries?”
This is not a time to go wobbly. Rather, it’s a time of reckoning, a critical juncture for the American constitutional system. Republicans, including Senator Cory Gardner, must put principle above political expediency.
Republicans, writes Will, “who support the president in this trashing of the Constitution…violates [their] sworn oath to defend it and to ‘bear true faith and allegiance’ to it. Voters should expel all of them from public life.”
Trump’s declaration is his punch in the face to the separation-of-powers principle. If he succeeds, we shall have not a constitutional republic replete with checks and balances but, instead, a kakistocracy: Government of, by, and for the worst.