When our country's idealistic founders set about to create a democratic government with the power to govern residing in the governed, they were denying the very foundation of monarchies: the Divine Right to Rule. They were imagining something that had not existed in over two thousand years. The last democracies on earth were early Greek and Roman institutions. After those democracies fell, all governments in all lands were some form of totalitarian power: tribal, religious, monarchy, etc. Our democracy was a brilliant spark of hope for mankind after thousands of years of oppression. But the monarchs of Europe considered the American Democracy such an improbable experiment that they were not alarmed by its creation. They simply didn't think it would work.
Our founders were not blind to the realities of power. They understood a principle that was later written by Lord Acton: "Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely." They knew that creating a government that would not be taken over by the strong would necessitate a special mechanism that did not yet exist. The question was: How do you harness power for the national good without allowing any individual or any group to seize absolute power? The mechanism they decided upon was a balance of power on many levels.
At the federal level they established three independent branches of government, Executive, Legislative and Judicial, each with its own set of powers and responsibilities, each intended to balance the other two branches and if necessary, block moves toward excessive power. They also balanced state government power against federal government power. They even put in the Electoral College, a mechanism intended to guard against excesses of the people. They wisely trusted no one with unregulated power. Their system is brilliant.
During the Bush administration many actions were taken which have greatly undermined the balance of power and taken our country frighteningly close to unchecked Presidential power. No one did anything about this, not the Congress, not the Courts, not the press, not the people. Dangerous precedents have been set and have not been disputed. If we don't declare many of the Bush actions illegal, through either legislative or judicial action, any future President of the United States could simply pick up where Bush left off and our democracy could be lost.
We don't need to go too far back in history to see how easily this could happen. In 1932 Germany was governed by one of the many democracies established on principals similar to ours. It had balance of power, elected legislators, free and just judicial branch, legal police services, and a constitution that guarantied civil rights with due process of law for all citizens. How did Hitler wipe this all out in just three months? That was the question that started Diana Hunter down her investigative journey in Silent Coup. That is one of the most compelling questions of the 20th Century and one to be examined in this blog.