Presidential Power: Just How Important Is the President, Anyway?

With the American presidential election looming in the near future (November 8!), there has been a lot of talk about which candidate is going to do what for the country. Certain promises stand out, like Donald Trump’s infamous claim to “build a wall” and Bernie Sanders’ plan to make college education free. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have risen to the forefront, and as such their various promises have floated up with them. But what exactly can we expect from the presidential winner? Would Trump really be allowed to build his wall, or is this all particularly imaginative propaganda? Just how important is the president, anyway? Let’s take a look at presidential powers and what they mean for America- and then, perhaps, you can decide whether you’re more nervous about the upcoming election or not.


The President of the United States

Being the President is nothing to sniff at. The “POTUS” is the elected head of government and head of state, and leads the executive branch of the federal government. The President also acts as the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, which includes control of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. The President must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, at least 35-years old, and a resident of the United States for at least 14 years. The President is elected into office indirectly by the populace through use of the Electoral College, and he or she serves a term of four years. The current President of the United States is Mr. Barack Obama.


Presidential Responsibilities (In Brief)

The President of the United States is held accountable for innumerable duties and administrations. The Constitution confers onto the President the following powers:

  1. The Veto – Any bill passed by Congress must be presented to the President before it becomes law. The President can either sign the bill into law, veto the bill, or ignore the bill. If the bill is vetoed, Congress can override it with a 2/3 vote. If the bill is ignored, after 10 days if Congress is still convened it becomes law- if not, it disappears into oblivion.
  2. War and Foreign Affairs – The President negotiates treaties with other countries, determines the direction of the military, and decides whether or not recognize new nations and governments.
  3. Head of Executive Branch – The President is obligated to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” and appoints thousands of federal officers with the consent of the Senate. The executive branch of the federal government has over four million employees, for which the President is responsible.
  4. Court Nominations – Federal judges may be nominated by the President with Senate confirmation, including on the Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court. The President may also grant pardons and reprieves.
  5. Drafting Legislation – The President may draft legislation and then request senators or representatives to introduce these to Congress. The POTUS also provides periodic reports to Congress that outlines proposals for the coming year.
  6. Executive Privilege – When it comes to the President, things are allowed to be hush-hush. Executive Privilege means that the President may withhold information from the public, Congress, and the courts when it comes to matters of national security.


The Upcoming Presidential Election

Could Trump build his wall? Could we have had free education with Bernie? Could Hillary truly be successful in not raising middle-class taxes? The answer seems to be… well, maybe. It seems to depend a whole darn lot on the mood and leanings of Congress. While the President may be able to veto a bill, Congress holds most of the cards when it comes to actually voting it into action. Regardless, the POTUS has an enormous amount of sway both constitutionally-appointed and generally understood. It’s not impossible for the President to get anything done, but with the Separation of Powers instituted by the founding fathers, it is certainly more difficult than it may first seem to be. Don’t be too disappointed with your favored candidate if he or she doesn’t make good on what they originally promised. And, don’t worry. There’s always impeachment to fall back on if they royally screw anything up.