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Abraham Lincoln once commented, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will have to sit on their blisters.”
With two of the most unpopular candidates in recent memory, Lincoln’s observation is fitting.
If you were to pick solely on personality or likeability, you might not vote for either candidate in this election. In town hall meetings, my constituents have expressed the notion that politics is all about shades of gray because there is never any difference. While that may sometimes hold true, I can say with confidence that this time around, there is indeed a difference.
President Obama is entering his final 100 days in office. In his first two years we got Obamacare, a law that raised the costs of healthcare and delivered so much less. We also saw the passage of Dodd-Frank, a regulatory framework that has torn the financial services industry to shreds. And towards the end of the president’s second term, we saw the beginnings of cap and trade, as federal agencies work with foreign entities to increase control over the production and consumption of our energy.
But this election is not just a referendum on these policies. The next president should also be judged by the individuals they entrust with power.
Today there are roughly 4,000 political appointees selected by the president to carry out the administration’s agenda. These individuals represent agencies ranging from the Department of Agriculture to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They are the apparatus that executes many of the president’s unilateral actions, such as EPA’s unpopular Waters of the U.S. rule that has impacted the agriculture, energy and construction industries here in Oklahoma.
Presidential appointees are not accountable to the American voters, and in many cases, not even your elected representatives. Apart from the Senate nomination process, Congress has relatively limited oversight or legislative control over these agencies and the individuals who run them.
Often the only way to challenge their decisions is through the courts. This method is tenuous and subject to a lengthy appeals process that sometimes reaches the Supreme Court.
As it stands, the Supreme Court sits at eight justices after the recent death of Antonin Scalia. The next president will nominate the ninth justice – and potentially three or four more. Will they pick a constitutional conservative in the mold of the late Scalia, or will they select a liberal judicial activist like Obama nominee Elena Kagan? Issues such as the Second Amendment or immigration hinge on the court’s composition.
At the end of the day, presidents are managers. They cannot possibly address every issue, so they delegate their work by hiring people. This election is about the individuals they will select to carry out their vision for America.
In 100 days, thousands of political appointees are potentially out of work. Voters will have the choice to either fire them all or continue with the status quo of the last administration.
After all is said and done, the mudslinging of this election will be a distant memory but the policy decisions we must live under will not be. However tempting, there is simply too much at stake to turn our backs. If voters want real change, we can have it.