Each political party shows alarming hypocrisy on the subject of expanding presidential powers when a member of their own party is in the White House.
A recent poll from the Pew Research Center found that Republicans “now are more open to the idea of expanding presidential power,” though a majority of neither party actually supports such an expansion. This is, however, a swift change from 2016, when Democrats favored an expansion of presidential power more so than Republicans.
The Pew poll found that 43% of those who are Republican or lean Republican agreed that many “problems could be dealt with more effectively if U.S. presidents didn’t have to worry so much about Congress or the courts.” Just 16% of Democrats said the same.
A larger percentage agreed with the counter statement that “it would be too risky to give U.S. presidents more power to deal directly with many of the country’s problems.” Fifty-one percent of Republicans and 82% of Democrats agreed with the latter statement.
In 2016, however, the beliefs were reversed, with 29% of Democrats agreeing that expanding presidential powers would be beneficial to the country while just 14% of Republicans said the same.
The Pew poll only goes back to 2016, which was an election year. Sure, in the summer of 2016 Hillary Clinton was all but assured the presidency, but there was still a chance she could lose. Knowing how Democrats felt about the expansion of presidential powers between 2009 and 2015 (when Barack Obama was president) would be helpful to know whether Republicans are vastly out of line this year or if Democrats were just as power hungry when Obama was president. Such polls were conveniently not conducted in those years, although The Daily Wire did find a 2015 paper on the subject from the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. In it, two assistant professors at Washington University in St. Louis found that Democrats were more supportive of certain presidential powers than Republicans, even though, again, neither party outright favored those powers.
Both parties opposed the ability of president to make unilateral decisions about policies, but 38.6% of Democrats and just 10.7% of Republicans favored it at the time.
The Pew poll found that Republicans weren’t so on board with expanding presidential powers until this year. In 2017, after Donald Trump became president, 26% of Republicans supported expanding his power. The percentage ticked up in 2018 to 27% before leaping to 43% this year. Pew did not offer any suggestions for why the Right suddenly approves of expanding presidential powers at such high levels. It could have something to do with the upcoming election and the fact that Democrats took back control of the House in the 2018 election. Should Trump lose re-election or Republicans regain control of the House in 2020, these numbers may shift along party lines once again.