President's Day Sale: Half Off the Constitution

By Nancy Parrish

This piece was originally published in Inkstick.

For many of us, President’s Day means little more than enjoying a three-day weekend getaway or taking advantage of deep discounts on appliances and mattresses. Originally enacted in 1885 as a celebration of George Washington’s birthday, the holiday has evolved into a day to celebrate and remember the accomplishments of all US Presidents. This year, though, I’d suggest that it is a good opportunity to take a minute to think about the presidency itself.

The framers of the Constitution were deliberate in crafting what powers belong with the office of the presidency. They felt it was critical to guard against an all-powerful leader with the ability to make unilateral decisions – particularly in matters of war. While the Constitution designates the President as the Commander-in-Chief, the ability to declare war was very purposely left to Congress. However, over time this balance of power has eroded. The President’s authority to take our nation to war is not at all what the founders envisioned, and this expansion of presidential power is certainly nothing to celebrate.