Trump Shouldn't Have to 'Worry So Much' about the Other Branches of Government, Republicans Say

The country would be a better place if the president didn't have to "worry so much about Congress or the courts" getting in the way of his policy, Republicans say.

Political analysts and historians are examining the factors behind this change, reported in a Pew poll out Wednesday. It's the most drastic within either party since Pew began asking the question in August of 2016, about three months before President Donald Trump was elected.

"It's a pretty significant change," said Carroll Doherty, director of political research for Pew. But, he added, "it's hard to say I'm surprised by this. Conservatives Republicans are driving the shift and Democrats won control of the House last year."

The shift coincides with a change in Congressional favorability by Democrats. "The left has the most favorable views of Congress since 2010, but Republican views are declining, which is just another indication of the changing political dynamics in Washington."

Nearly half of Democrats view Congress favorably while just 27 percent of Republicans do.

Trump Executive Order
Watched by Vice President Mike Pence, US President Donald Trump shows an executive order on immigration which he just signed in the Oval Office of the White House on June 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty

President Trump, while issuing a number of executive orders, relied on a Republican Congress to accomplish his largest public-facing policy goals during his first two years in office: his failed attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, and his successful $1.2 trillion tax cut. But with a divided legislative body, he must shrink his agenda ambitions and deal with a new level of oversight (the majority of Democrats in the House now support an impeachment inquiry).

As a consequence, the president has had to come up with new ways to exert power, including declaring a state of emergency at the U.S. southern border. The declaration, in theory, allows the president to bypass Congress to allocate funds to protect the border and potentially build a wall there.

While former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush weren't afraid to use executive orders, "the use of the national emergency is unprecedented," said Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University and the author of The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society. "Trump took money that Congress said can't be spent and said 'I'm going to spend it anyway, and how I want to spend it.'"

This power grab, said Zelizer, was encouraged by Republicans who in turn inspired the president to take on even more. "The more he uses presidential power, the more his support solidifies, [and] the more he's willing to do more of the same," he explained. "He is someone who looks for backlash from his own party and a poll like this means he doesn't see it and will keep on going."

Indeed, the new Pew poll found a 20-point decline in Republicans who believe that "it would be too risky to give U.S. presidents more power to deal directly with many of the country's problems."

Trump is merely taking advantage of what he inherited: executive power has grown over both Republican and Democratic presidencies. "Everyone is complicit," said Zelizer.

The problem is that making exceptions to forego the typical dynamics of the three branches of government and cede power to the executive office for "emergencies" tends to become a precedent, said Kevin Kruse, also a historian at Princeton University with a focus on the making of modern conservatism.

"The idea of the imperial presidency is something that has built up over time, and it has a snowball effect that stays with the office. There have been some efforts to roll it back, but it's subtly built up again and again."

Still, Kruse believes we're on the possible brink of a Congressional power grab. "In a situation where Trump is reelected in 2020 and Democrats take the Senate, we'll see a huge reassertion," he said.