The Only Responsible Choice Is a Democratic Congress

(The Bloomberg View) -- Since Donald Trump was sworn in as president in January 2017, he has put America’s democratic system under constant assault. The country has learned that, by itself, the Constitution is not enough to sustain effective and responsible government. This requires, in addition, norms of restraint and good conduct. The president hasn’t just neglected to abide by those norms: He has mocked and repudiated them.

Trump’s extraordinary approach to presidential power made it all the more vital for Congress to discharge its duty to shape public policy and hold the executive branch to account. In this, the Republican-controlled House and Senate have failed — abjectly, and by choice. Tomorrow, voters should cast the party out of power and elect Democrats who are willing and able to do what the Constitution demands.

Trump has delighted in overrunning the guardrails of democracy. In office, he has continued to attend to his personal enrichment, and has refused to disclose his financial entanglements. He has made dishonesty a signature theme of his presidency. His thuggish language and demonizing of political opponents recall the corrupt and authoritarian leaders that Americans have long viewed with contempt.

In restraining this president’s most dangerous instincts, the courts have largely done their job — for instance, by forcing the administration to rethink its unconstitutional effort to ban Muslim visitors and its cruel and incompetent separation of children from migrant parents. But Congress has failed utterly.

On questions that urgently need clear, comprehensive answers from Congress — immigration, health-care reform, and fiscal responsibility, to name but three — the Republicans meekly helped the president to compound the problems. They acquiesced to his demagoguery on immigration, assisted in the gutting of the Affordable Care Act, and passed a debt-financed tax cut for the wealthy that was the last thing the country needed. Perhaps their most remarkable failure has been to let this reckless leader have his way on trade policy — ending the country’s longstanding commitment to free trade, usurping a function that the Constitution vests with Congress, and taking steps that most Republicans on Capitol Hill believe will hurt the U.S. economy.

In all, it would be hard to imagine a more comprehensive abdication of responsibility. Two more years of the same is unacceptable. It threatens to cause more damage than the nation can reasonably bear.

America needs a legislative branch that is willing to do its job. A return to accountability, constitutional balance and respect for democratic norms begins with a vote for a Democratic Congress.

Editorials are written by the Bloomberg View editorial board.

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