Within governments, executives administer the laws that are passed/created by the legislatures. The executive branch of government consists of a head of state, that serves as symbolic representation (monarch) and a head of a government that is responsible for forming governments and implementing laws/policies (prime ministers/presidents). There are two ways to structure the executive branch: presidential and parliamentary. These types of executives have formal powers outlined in their constitution. Formal powers are important to the head of government and their cabinet because it gives them the ability to perform the executive order, state of emergency, or other decrees that can be passed without legislation. Executive leaders also have the power to form coalitions when the winning party does not win the majority.
Earlier this fall, President Trump stated that he plans to end the 14th Amendment that provides birthright citizenship by using an executive order. Trump believes that it is “ridiculous” that a non-US citizen can come to America, have a baby and that baby can automatically be a citizen until death. The 14th Amendment, however, has protected immigrant children like in the 1898 case US v Wong Kim Ark and 1982 case Plyler v Doe. Nonetheless, executive orders cannot amend the constitution. They must work within the framework of the constitution. In other words, the Constitution cannot be legally erased by executive order.
Should heads of states be given enough power to actually amend a constitution especially if their amendment isn’t in the best interest of the population?
In terms of America’s constitution, President Trump could amend the constitution by calling for a Constitutional Convention and get at least a ⅔ vote from the House and ¾ of the 50 states. So, even though a head of state may be given enough power to amend a constitution they have to surpass many obstacles, which will most likely end with their order becoming illegal. However, in countries with less democratic ideals the head of states “obscure” orders may be enacted due to the loss of liberalism and equality in their country.
- Tyler J. Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
- Chris Riotta. “Trump Wants to Use an Executive Order to Override the 14th Amendment. Here’s Why That Won’t Work.” The Independent. October 30, 2018. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/birthright-citizenship-14th-amendment-trump-executive-order-immigrants-constitution-a8608836.html.