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Dirty games in White House Race 2016

By Special Correspondent
06th-Nov-2016       
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There are now only a few days left before America votes on its 45th President, with Hillary Clinton's polling lead over Donald Trump having narrowed significantly in recent days. Last weekend the FBI announced it was once again investigating Clinton's use of a private email server, piling pressure on the Democrat nominee and giving Trump renewed hope in key swing states.

The news that the FBI has reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private server to send, receive and store government emails has handed Donald Trump an unexpected boost ahead of next Tuesday. The FBI has obtained a warrant to begin searching newly discovered emails belonging to Huma Abedin, a top aide of Hillary Clinton, with Clinton's use of emails also in the spotlight.

There is no sign that this new investigation will be completed by Election Day and it seems that Clinton will have to fight the final week of her campaign with unspecified allegations hanging over her. This is ideal for Trump who was shown to be as many as 14 points behind Clinton in some polls before this latest alleged scandal.

Clinton has been ahead almost continuously in most polls. She still retains a lead, but this could change in the coming days with some polls now showing a far closer race. The presidential campaign has seen Donald Trump, once a Republican outsider, close the gap on Clinton before falling back after a series of controversies. Trump has briefly pulled ahead a couple of times - first on 19 May. His polling threatened to consistently overtake Clinton in September, but has since fallen back after a series of allegations of sexual assault were made against him.

Trump is prone to making gaffes and alienating key demographic groups with his comments. His comments on sexually assaulting women, as well as poor performances in the presidential debates, had seen Clinton extend her lead. However, with the news that the FBI is once again investigating Clinton, a lot could change between now and 8th of November, the Election Day.

But why does the world worry so much? Is there any justification for the emergence of Trump as an actual US President? Does he really have so much power in a democracy like the US? Could a president actually prevent such an active attempt to suspend the basic functions of government? As it turns out, it would be fairly trivial for any president to neatly bypass such an obstruction.

Historically, Presidential systems of government have been anything but stable. The Presidency of the United States and of Costa Rica have remained the sole exceptions to this rule to date. Costa Rica has managed to avoid it by the investment of power into a non-government oversight group, found in the Comptroller General, Procurator General, and Ombudsman.

The United States did due to their founding with a Congress-first model, with the President having very restricted power. Over time this evolved into the political party duopoly which brought stability to the nation after the civil war. With the erosion of the two party system, and the embrace of winning at all cost over compromise, this oversight which maintained the stability of the US while so many of their fellow presidential nations had their governments collapse, was eliminated.

Using Executive Orders the President has, over time, greatly expanded the power they have held. From Franklin Roosevelt's engagement against the German navy in 1940 to George W. Bush's domestic surveillance program, Presidential power has only grown over the years. While some token attempts to constrain this have been passed, in reality much of this power has never been properly challenged.

The problem is that the president can act, and only be stopped in hindsight. Nixon was engaged in attacks on political opponents, even rigging the 1972 election without recourse. Only when his involvement with a break in at the Watergate Hotel was revealed did Congress make any movement to restrict the President. By that point, Nixon had engaged in several years of arbitrary actions, involved in everything from toppling governments to domestic espionage.

A president who genuinely wished to reduce even this limited oversight can engage in tactics working within the framework of the Constitution but which stretch that interpretation to the limit. These kinds of tactics used to be unheard of, but in recent years partisans on both sides of the aisle have engaged in these kinds of hardball politics. Once a tactic has been used, it becomes ever easier to see its use. Witness the increasing use of signing statements to bypass newly passed laws, or the stark increase of the filibuster. Applying this tactic, we can create a scenario through which the President could manage to bypass Congress, and eliminate the limited oversight they do have.

But these are extreme scenarios. In reality will Donald Trump do the drastic things he wants to do - like shut out Muslims or build a wall with Mexico? This is a difficult question to answer as he may find it very difficult to do so, even armed with executive orders. Congress may repeal the acts if led by a Democratic majority, or the acts may simply be unpopular enough for him to remove it himself. A Trump led government may not be the nightmarish scenario, which many people would want to believe.

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