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Written by Ian Tartt
The Office of President of the United States was not intended to have the amount of power it now does. For over a century, the position has gained far more power than the Constitution specifies. That being said, here are some things President Donald Trump can legitimately do by himself to advance liberty.
1. Give everyone convicted of a non-violent drug offense a full pardon
The War on Drugs has been an utter disaster. It’s lead to an increase in violent crime, swollen prison populations, militarized police forces, wasted billions of dollars, and allowed the police to seize property from people and invade their homes based on speculation that they possess illegal drugs. One thing Trump could do to lessen the severity of all this is to give a pardon to all non-violent drug offenders in prison. This would be an incredible step toward ending the War on Drugs and assist efforts to end drug prohibition at the state and local levels.
2. Veto unconstitutional bills
A bill that passes in the Senate moves onto the president. If the president signs it or ignores it for ten days while Congress is in session, the bill becomes law. However, if the president doesn’t want the bill to become law, he has two options: send it back to Congress or ignore it for ten days while Congress is out of session (at which point the bill dies). This power the president possesses is called the veto power. The first type of veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote in each House of Congress, while the second type (called a pocket veto because the president can just put the bill in his pocket and forget about it) can only be “overridden” by Congress reintroducing the bill as new legislation. Either type of veto can be effective in stopping or slowing unconstitutional bills from becoming law. Trump would benefit by taking a page from such presidents as Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge; both were fans of the pocket veto and recognized that killing bad bills is often more important than passing good ones.
3. Withdraw military forces from foreign nations
The US government has hundreds of military bases and countless troops in dozens of countries around the world, including some in Japan and Germany that have been there since World War II. This contributes to the enormous military budget and often makes us less safe due to terroristic blowback caused by military strikes against civilian populations (whether intentional or unintentional). As commander of the military, Trump could withdraw as many deployed troops and close down as many superfluous military bases as possible, and in doing so, save a lot of lives and a lot of money.
4. Sign bills that shrink government
This one’s easy enough. Every once in a while, Congress will get its act together and actually pass a bill that will shrink the government if implemented. Any time they do that during Trump’s presidency, all he’d have to do is sign it and wait for it to go into effect. While the veto power will likely be a more effective tool to reduce government power, signing good bills is still something that can be done every once in a while.
5. Suggest legislation to Congress
Under the Constitution, the president doesn’t have the power to create legislation. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t suggest legislation to Congress. This has been done by past presidents, with varying degrees of effectiveness as far as creating their desired legislation goes. But even if Trump doesn’t get everything he wants from Congress by doing this, it would still show that he’s willing to respect his Constitutional limitations and not try to usurp even more power for himself. Additionally, it would be a great break from most of his predecessors as well as an excellent precedent to set for his successors.