“President Trump: How scared should we be?” – Luke Goodstadt

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By Luke Goodstadt

It may not have sunk in yet, but yes, on November 8th, Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States of America. Indeed, the man who has called Mexicans “rapists and murderers”, who wanted to ban all Muslims from entering the country and once boasted of being so famous that he could molest any woman that he wanted and it would be “okay”, is now one of the most powerful men in the world.

Or is he?

In fact, the President of the USA isn’t actually as powerful as everybody likes to think. Although the President is Head of State, Commander-in-Chief and Leader of the Executive, all of his (or, eventually, her) powers are checked and balanced by the two other branches of the US Federal Government: Congress and the Supreme Court. Let us review some of the President’s powers and how they are checked and balanced by the other branches of the Federal Government:


The President acts as the Commander-in-Chief of all US armed forces. Thus, they are often seen as the ones who either lose or win a war. However, although the President does have this power, war cannot be declared without the approval of both houses of Congress. Congress also controls the federal finances, meaning that a president cannot possibly order any expensive military action without Congress first approving it.

Executive Orders

The President has the power to subvert legislation away from Congress if they know that they are not going to approve, thus they create their own legislation and enact it themselves as an Executive Order or Presidential Memorandum. However, an Executive Order cannot be passed before the approval of the Supreme Court. They first have to assess whether or not an Executive Order is constitutional. If not, then it is discarded.

Power to Appoint

The President has the power to appoint all members of the executive branch, including the cabinet and administrators, as well as all federal judges whenever a position opens up. However, these appointments are assessed by a committee within the Senate (upper house in Congress) and any controversial or inappropriate appointments are struck off.

Budget Creation

The President enjoys the power to create the annual federal budget, outlining where money can be spent and allocating certain projects for funding. This is the president’s biggest political power and a place that a president can enact a lot of their campaign promises. Yet the budget must be ratified by the House of Representatives, and if they do not think that the budget is good for those they represent, they will send it back to the President to be redrafted.

Every single power that the President holds is challenged and checked by one of the federal branches if not the codified constitution of the USA itself. But, how are these checks and balances going to effect Donald Trump and the somewhat controversial promises he made on the campaign trail?

Donald Trump promised that he would ban all Muslims from America until the threat of ISIS had been dealt with. However, since the 1st Amendment to the Constitution states that all citizens have a right to freedom of religion, this blatant targeting of a single religion will be deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. He also promised that he would send Hillary Clinton to jail if he became President. Yet, since there is no physical evidence of her criminality (as of November 2016), her incarceration is unlikely, and Trump himself even admitted that the country owed Hillary Clinton a huge debt of gratitude.

Many people are worried about the individuals that Trump has already nominated to be part of his administration, with claims of those people being openly racist and completely ignorant. However, the appointment process will be checked by the Senate and if any inappropriate appointments such as the appointment of open racists have been made, then they will never receive any time in office.

Quite prominently, and controversially, Donald Trump promised to “build a wall” on the American Southern Border, and to make “Mexico pay for it.” This is not possible for a number of reasons. There would not be enough man power to build a solid wall all the way across the 1989 mile long border with Mexico. This wall will be incredibly expensive, and, since it is virtually impossible to force another state to pay for something they don’t want to (without a full scale invasion), the ball will fall to Congress to foot the bill for this project. Since the wall is only necessarily longed for by the Southern Border states, the representatives of the states further north are likely to vote against their people’s tax dollars being spent to build a gigantic wall (fence).

So, calm down. Put down your pitchforks, step away from placards and breathe into a paper bag. Trump is only in power for four years, and in politics, that is not a very long time at all. Hopefully this will have put your mind at ease about the new Trump administration, and will have helped you understand the intricate system of the US Federal Government.

I will leave you with just one final thought.

Although it is unfortunate that someone with the ignorant ideals of Donald Trump could replace an inclusive and loving president such as Obama, Trump’s election certainly does give a new dimension to the Netflix show Orange is the New Black.

Luke J Goodstadt is currently studying History and Politics. When he is not attending lectures he enjoys cycling, reading and writing.

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