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A check against the Trump card

In yesterday’s editorial, we denounced President Donald Trump’s discriminatory and inhumane refugee ban. The ban, though, is just one of Trump’s many recent executive orders that have flooded the news over the past week to the point that many of us are confused and overwhelmed. As such, today we turn to examining our supposed checks and balances system, whether/how it has failed and how the common person can check the Trump administration.

Over the past week, Trump’s changes have spanned the national and international. Within the United States, healthcare has been affected through the beginning of the deracination of the Affordable Care Act and initiative to defund Planned Parenthood. The environment will change as theKeystone XL project and Dakota access pipeline are sped along. Further political changes will indubitably occur as Trump weighs possible Supreme Court nominations that could swing the balance of the court to the right. Internationally, besides issuing a refugee ban targeting Muslims, the United States has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and plugged USAID funding for abortion-related groups abroad. Our relations with Mexico will likely soon change as Trump pushes forward the economically improbably border wall initiative,increases border agent hirings and threatens to end sanctuary cities’ funding. And while most of these actions are still in progress, rather than completed, it is clear that they will have far-ranging effects considering the speed at which they have taken place.

Checks and balances, at the basic level, refer to a system by which the three branches of governments limit each other’s powers and keep each other accountable. The current make-up of these branches creates an imbalance of power amongst political ideologies in our government: A hot-tempered Republican sits in the White House, the legislative branch is led by a Republican majority in both houses and these two branches combined approve the nomination of any new Supreme Court justices. This imbalance weakens the checks and balances system, making the federal government less practically accountable to the interests of a large part of our country.

Despite outcry against Trump’s recent actions, finding ways to check his power as an average American citizen remain difficult. Many citizens may mean to take action but, given the massive amount of recent change, are too overwhelmed to know where to prioritize or start. Others have lost faithin the government, and believe that the oft praised avenues of calling representatives and lobbying legislators are near useless.

While disillusionment is understandable, attempting to penetrate the bubble of federal politics right away is not the only, or even best, option for Duke students. Instead, we push students to return to local politics. By raising awareness of their interests through local advocacy, the average citizen can keep local politicians accountable. Certainly, with the wide range of groups doing work against Trump’s recent actions, it can be tough to know which to put energy into. As Duke students, we are given the privilege of ample resources, including professors of Political Science and Public Policy knowledgeable on these issues and online resources from former congressional staffers.

Be it in person or through donations, we push students to be involved politically in a sustainable, substantive manner. Not only are the effects of Trump’s recent orders often disgraceful in principle, but also they affect our Duke friends and community. Many of these orders remain controversial, but even for students who consider Trump’s actions positive or unclear, the long-term effects they will have are undeniable. If only for that reason alone, acting now is critical, before the changes the Trump administration make grow increasingly dramatic.


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