Co-presidents would resolve partisan gridlock, professor tells UHLC faculty

David Orentlicher explains his proposal for a two-president executive branch to UHLC faculty.

David Orentlicher explains his proposal for a two-president executive branch to UHLC faculty.

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April 9, 2014 – An Indiana law professor believes he has the answer to governmental dysfunction and political partisanship – two presidents, one from each party.

David Orentlicher, professor at Indiana University School of Law, medical doctor, author, and one-time state legislator, told faculty members Monday that co-presidents with equal powers would amount to an executive branch coalition, end partisan bickering, and represent the views of all citizens instead of just half after each election.

Governmental gridlock would not shift from Congress to the White House, he explained, because each president would be concerned with getting issues resolved and policy implemented to burnish his own personal legacy. Also, since the top vote getters in each party would serve as president, the system would eliminate a losing candidate working to undermine the winner with an eye to the next election.
“I don’t think they would cooperate for the good of the country,” he added. “I think they would do it for the sake of their legacies.”

The professor spells out his two-president, two-party proposal, which would require a constitutional amendment, in his book, “Two Presidents Are Better Than One: The Case for a Bipartisan Executive Branch.”

Orentlicher said the founding fathers never imagined the executive branch wielding as much power as it has, largely beginning with Teddy Roosevelt, expanding under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and accelerating into unprecedented areas since the ’70s. In fact, he said, despite revolting against a hereditary monarch, the colonists opted for a single executive to bring order to the government and check the power of the legislative body. The founders did not anticipate the growth of executive power to the extent that presidents are unilaterally amending laws, enacting sweeping programs, ordering military action, and altering foreign policy.

“We have a politically dominant executive branch,” he said, that continues to grow in power because in a fast-moving world, reaction to events can’t wait for a slow-moving, deliberative, and oftentimes contentious Congress. “But, it’s too much power in one person … We need something to counteract partisan politics.

“The Constitution did not envision the White House as the primary policy maker, but that is what has happened.”

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