What presidents can do: the Supreme Court

Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton

A President Warren or a President Clinton would have power, but not as much as you think.

In his piece You Can’t Make The Congress Do Anything, which reviewed the book “The Fierce Urgency of Now”, Scott Lemieux writes:

We don’t have to speculate how effective LBJ’s leadership would be without a rare functioning liberal majority in Congress. After suffering major losses in the 1966 midterms, Johnson’s legendary leadership capabilities were of little value. In his final two years in office, he was forced to accept huge cuts to domestic spending, and could only pass a watered-down version of the Fair Housing Act [. . .]

Lemieux’s argument points to trying to win at the Congressional level as the key to enacting policies you want to see. Too often we all forget this through our obsession with the Presidency. And not just activists, even the rich suffer from this:

In the words of one veteran GOP fundraiser, traditional bundlers have been sent down to the “minor leagues,” while mega-donors are “the major league players.” [. . .]  [B]undlers, on the left and the right, are turning their attention to congressional races, where they can get more personal attention.

They get more than “personal attention.” They get real influence over those lawmakers. And that matters a ton, as Lemieux describes. The reality is there can be no progressive project without a progressive Congress, no matter who is president.

But there are certain powers a president has that transcend Congressional leanings: (1) the power to make war and formulate foreign policy, and (2) the power to nominate Supreme Court justices. More on this on the flip.

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