For most of my adult life, our political parties have been at such odds with each other that even simple legislation has become a challenge to pass. Political score keeping has become more important than the well being of the American people. This type of political paralysis often means that instead of our elected officials legislating policy, our President is put in the position of executing policy through signing or rescinding executive orders.
Executive orders are not party specific. Here are number of executive orders signed by the last six Presidents :
- Ronald Regan—381 (47.6 executive orders per year)
- George H. W. Bush—166 (41.5 executive orders per year)
- Bill Clinton 364—(45.5 executive orders per year)
- George W. Bush 291—(36.4 executive orders per year)
- Barak Obama 276—(34.6 executive orders per year)
- Donald Trump 45—(On pace for 72.7 executive orders this year)
While executive orders achieve a short term win for the political party of the person in office, they can easily be rescinded with a stroke of a pen by the next President.
Today’s announcement by Attorney General Sessions that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would be rescinded in six months is an incredible example of how unstable an executive order can be. DACA was signed in 2012 by President Obama and gives close to 800,000 minors who were brought into the US illegally the ability to receive two-year renewable work permits and protection from deportation. Often called “Dreamers,” these individuals have gone through a background check and have been registering with the federal government since 2012.
Executive orders are a powerful way for a President to influence the legislative agenda of congress and help a dialogue occur, nationally. The problem is that if the electorate isn’t engaged, it becomes easy for congress to act upon party lines instead of establishing a legislative agenda that reflects the wishes of their constituents.
Congress is filled with career politicians, lawyers, doctors and business people who are not artists themselves but turn to the arts for a respite from their day to day lives. Our job is to help our legislators think more like artists. Artists derive inspiration from their ability to create and relate to others with empathy. In the pursuit of political score keeping, empathy is largely missing from our politician’s political agenda.
With this in mind, what is one thing artists can do to influence policy? The answer is simple:
As artists, encouraging empathic legislation from our politicians is best done through the beautiful stories we tell. These are the same stories our politicians and electorate turn to every day to make sense of the world. In addition to writing your congress members, I encourage you to create and share an artistically inspired story or work of art rooted in empathy as a way to influence policy.
According to Attorney General Sessions, immigration reform should be in the “interest of the people of the United States.” The artist voting block represents a large and powerful group of the American people. We have six months to let our voices be heard through the stories we tell so let’s get to work!