Originally posted by CX
I have a very sketchy knowledge of the US political system, so forgive the naive question...
You come honestly and with a disclaimer that your knowledge of the US political system isn't strong. Of course, what I am about to write is how it
to be; but with all things politics, many paths lead to the same slaughterhouse so to speak.
Since our (the United States) Federal Government is only one component of the overall Union, the Executive Branch (where the presidency resides) is
but one of three coequal branches; with the Judiciary and the Legislative being the other two branches. There is also the notion that the United
States is a Republic based on Federalism--where States within the Union are to retain sovereignty to a certain point.
When the Constitution was being pitched to the States, there were generally two groups: The Federalist (who proposed a strong central government but
states would also play a large role in the governance (via the Senate) in Federal matters. Then there were the Anti-Federalist who proposed a lesser
central government and strong States.
In the end, compromises were made (such as adding a Bill of Rights; the 3/5th Compromise [now stricken], etc) and the result was to be a balance
between a central government with the ability to conduct and govern the nations most basic needs (national defense, foreign trade, tariffs, etc) and
States having the ability to provide a bit more "democracy" at the lower levels.
That of course is the severely abridged version of an overview. When it comes to the Executive, the slow pendulum of power has been swinging steadily
in its direction. But even if the pendulum swings completely in the favor of an extremely strong Executive (as I believe it is now and for the past
100 years), the president still must deal with the other two branches; the Legislative (they hold the purse strings, albeit very loosely) and the
Judiciary (who have grown to interrupt the Constitution rather than apply it in many cases) to get legislation and actions completed.
Many though could contend that the Executive has been hard at work in creating a Bureaucratic form of quasi-government by empowering the Departments
within the Executive (such as Labor, Transportation, etc) and allowing unelected officials to administer government functions without ever touching
the Legislative or their consent and advice.
This isn't to say that the Legislative has no teeth or moxy if I may, in reigning in the presidency. Such could be seen in the current fiasco that
is American politics; and quite frankly, I have no problem with.
Ok that was just a tounge in cheek remark, but how much power does the POTUS actually have?
Keep that tongue squarely planted in thy cheek! Here is a scenario in which I believe will be the most likely outcome in the elections this year.
President Obama will most likely be reelected, but the American public will swing the House further towards the Republicans and the Senate will eek by
with a small majority in Republican favor. If this happens, you will see just how anemic the Executive branch actually is. It is one of the great
make ups of our political system.
All in all, the President can have a lot of leeway and power and in an instant can be a lame-duck for 6 years, only making small changes. If the
above happens and President Obama gives his ear to former President Bill Clinton, he will move towards the center and push for moderate changes.
Okay, TLDR; but hey, at least you have a brief overview now.