We need a chart. Because, as my muse reminds me, “there’s a play being played out and people need to know what people’s jobs are so that they can know when they’re not doing them.”
Knowing the names of things — including job titles and duties — is a way of keeping track, holding accountable, paying attention, and, if necessary, pushing back. So we need a chart. Or a bunch of charts.
The first chart we need is the basic civics chart: three branches of government.
Great, so the Legislative Branch makes laws; the Executive Branch carries out laws (huh, that’s interesting — what about Executive Orders?); and the Judicial Branch evaluates laws. Let’s take a look more closely at the Judicial Branch:
So the Supreme Court is at the top of this system of “lower” courts of various jurisdictions, and is the ultimate arbiter of constitutional questions, and conflicts among those lower courts. That helps, certainly, but it is not enough.
We also need a chart of the Executive Branch cabinet and agencies. Get our your readers and magnifying glass — the small print is the important stuff. And there’s a lot of it.(https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GOVMAN-2014-10-06/pdf/GOVMAN-2014-10-06-Government-of-the-United-States-4.pdf)
There, that clears things up. Not really, right? It’s definitely a start, to give us some grounding. But we need specifics. Is this chart even accurate for the current Executive Branch? It is, after all, from the simpler and more innocent days of . . . 2014. So who are the people filling all these roles? Where, for example, would Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway appear?
We need to know these things so we know who to hold accountable for actions and omissions that affect our daily lives, not to mention our future and the future of our country and the world. These charts are fairly generic, based on almost three centuries of practice, tradition and reflection. Are they still relevant? Do they represent what is actually happening in Washington?
Who is actually doing what, under whose direction, with what accountability? That’s the set of charts we need — and they don’t exist yet. So we need to start creating our own diagrams of every “crisis” that emerges from this White House. And we need to follow these diagrams down to the name of the person actually writing the memo or making the phone call; and up to the name of the person directing the whole thing. Only then will we be able to see how this Executive Branch actually works; and whether any real checks and balances exist. (We have that sinking feeling that they don’t.)
So let’s get our pencils and graph paper out and start diagramming. I can’t decide if I should tackle the firing of General Flynn or the withdrawal of Andrew Puzder first. Fun weekend ahead!