Executive Orders Causing Chaos?
By Tziah McNair
From Obama to Trump to sitting President, Joe Biden, signing and implementing executive orders seems to have become a norm in American politics. In our own state, Governor Tony Evers has taken full advantage of this power over this past year when concerning health regulations related to COVID-19. This trend, occurring on federal and state levels, leaves many wondering if executive orders do more harm than good.
Some feel that this unilateral decision making is anti-democratic, as it bypasses the deliberation, compromise and consensus-building that are inherent to American legislating. To many, it undermines our philosophy of representative government and, to an extent, constitutional order.
When asked about this state legislature, Representative Dianne Hesselbein disagreed. “I think with Gov. Evers, it's extremely important that he’s able to [administer executive orders] because it’s so important for the state that we take COVID seriously, especially because we’re on the right track - we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she stated. “I’m glad he’s not playing politics with people’s health but that he’s doing the right thing for the people in the state of Wisconsin.” The representative for the 79th Assembly District went on to attest that in “all of his orders [declaring a public health emergency, asking that the flag be flown at half mast, requiring masks, etc] there’s really nothing controversial. I don’t think most people would disagree with that.”
Though the public may generally have no objections, successors certainly have. Executive orders are ephemeral - they can be cancelled just as easily as they were created. The next person to hold the presidential title or governorship can undo all that had been done by the previous administration via executive order, which we saw clearly with President Trump’s arrival to office in 2016, as well as President Biden’s 32 orders earlier this year.
It’s been said that this constant shifting in policies can hinder unity within our country and damage our reputation outside of it, as it fashions a look of instability.
According to Rep. Hesselbein however, “that’s the way elections work” anyways. “When you win an election, you want to represent the people and the will of the people and I believe that’s what they do, regardless of whether I agree [or not].”
This highlights an important aspect of these powerful acts, which is that they allow the immediate desires/needs of citizens to be met, whereas bills take weeks to circulate before they even reach Congress.
“When there’s [a catastrophic event] like a flood, like there was in Dane County a few years ago, it’s important that the governor has a declaration of emergency so we can start getting federal funding and deploying troops to help out. A few years ago there was a tornado in Verona and Governor Walker had an executive order saying it was a national problem and we had federal money coming in to help those people” the 9-year-office holder reminded us. “It’s also a signal to everybody about what’s important to the administration.”
More importantly, we as citizens must know what matters to us and act on it. Know your legislators and vote so that when executive orders are enacted, you’re being represented as best as you can be.