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Unchecked Trump?

The US political system's checks and balances on government power had been weakened before the 2016 election. The outcome of the election, which has given the Republicans control of the presidency, the Senate, and the House of Representatives, is likely to gut them entirely.

NEW YORK – How has the 2016 election in the United States – which gave the Republican Party control of the presidency, the Senate, and the House of Representatives – affected the much-touted system of checks and balances as set out in the country’s constitution? In my view, it has virtually eliminated them.

The checks and balances generated by the judicial branch are certainly in danger. Anything less than constant Democratic filibusters will allow Republicans to fill the vacancy in the Supreme Court that they have blocked Democratic President Barack Obama from filling. And the aging Supreme Court may soon have more slots open – slots currently held by liberal and centrist justices. Republicans therefore have a good chance of creating a conservative majority on the nine-member Supreme Court that may last for decades, especially if they win the presidency again in 2020.

That majority may erode democratic checks, such as the campaign-finance limits that were dealt a devastating blow by the 2010 Citizens United decision. In a 5-4 majority, the Court ruled that corporations are “associations of individuals,” and thus that any limits on the amount of money corporations could spend on political campaigns violated their First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

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