Is It Time To Reassess The Presidency?

Bryant Holt    LinkedIn  |  Twitter

Bryant Holt 

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If it wasn't for George Washington there likely would be no presidency. The colonists who sat at the Constitutional Convention that would ultimately decide the basis for the government we still follow today did so under the guidance of George Washington. Following his success as the leader of the American Revolution, Washington watched the Articles of Confederation fail and felt that it was his obligation to attend the Constitutional Convention to determine a better government for the United States. Records show that he offered very little guidance, believing that the president of the conference was meant to delegate not deliberate. However, it was his presence, not input that helped shape the final decisions regarding the Constitution. You see, the major issue with the Articles of Confederation was its lack of federal power. At that time in US history, most colonists were proponents of states' rights and not the power of the national government. The lack of central power made it too difficult for the national government under the Articles of Confederation to collect taxes, raise an army, or really get anything done. The state governments made all of the decisions for themselves. 

After the clear failure of the Articles of Confederation, state leaders knew they needed to come up with a better alternative to ensure the longevity of the United States. So, the Constitutional Convention was called. This calling, however, did not change the fact that most of the states in the US were proponents of states' rights, not the power of a central government. So in short, it was not as if the failure of the Articles of Confederation shifted the ideology of the colonists. They still overwhelmingly wanted to give as little power to the national government as possible. However, it was a shift in "who" that power was given to that tipped the scale. Washington was the standing president of the Constitutional Convention so most of the delegates assumed that he would also become the first president under the Constitution. It should come as no surprise that Washington was known as one of the most honest, moral, and powerful men in the world during his lifetime. No one questioned what his intentions would be if he were to take over as the president of the United States. In fact, Washington was so renowned that he probably could have taken over as lifelong king of the US, but everyone knew that would never be a reality, so they trusted him to be the president and therefore entrusted the presidency with much more power. In fact, one delegate stated, "The Powers to be given to a president [were shaped] by opinions of Washington's virtue." In other words, American citizens would never have agreed to the presidency we know today had it not been for the fact that Washington would become the first president. 

Washington didn't want to become the president. In fact, he agreed to be president only because he knew it was the only way to get the Constitution ratified. He likened the thoughts of being president to, "those of a culprit who is going to his place of execution." He knew the weight that was required of a president and he did not yearn to have it placed upon his shoulders, but being the man he was, he owned the responsibility for the sake of our nation.

So, all of that being said, is it time to reassess the Executive Branch? 

Is the weight of the presidency too much to place on one person? Perhaps it only takes one look at the pictures of Obama before taking office and as he prepares to leave to prove the above?

Do today's voters, news, and social media hold presidents to an unattainable caliber? Can any human being actually be good enough in their constituents' eyes? 

Based on the amount of personal attacks during Monday night's debate, is there too much emphasis on the personal character traits of a president? If these personal traits are so important, shouldn't we be questioning all of the people who influence the president, like their staff? 

I have to admit that politics isn't my strong suit, and I'm a much better student of the past than I am of the future, so I'm not sure how much I can help in answering these questions. Regardless of your political beliefs, I'd love to know your thoughts on the future of the presidency.