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Eliminate the Presidency

The Black Panther Party Position Paper on the Elimination of the Offices of
President and Vice-President was first published in February, 1974, during the
time the Senate Watergate Investigation Committee was conducting hearings on the Watergate scandal. Although the Committee has discontinued its investigation, our proposal to eliminate the offices of the Executive Branch is no less timely; in fact its importance is now more apparent than ever. With the forced resignation of one chief executive, Richard M. Nixon, as a result of the exposure of some of his many crimes against the people, and his subsequent pardon for these crimes by his hand-chosen successor, Gerald Ford {whose action was described by one national leader as "the grossest miscarriage of
justice in history'") the necessity increases for justice-m,inded Americans to take swift action toward abolishment of the corrupt executive offices, as the following proposal demands.

INTRODUCTION

A conspiratorial coup d'etat intended to secure for Richard M. Nixon the divine right of Kings has been revealed through the hearings of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities. This conspiracy undermines our country's republican form of government, jeopardizes our country's potential for good in the world and constitutes a serious threat to peace and progress for all humankind.

The most dangerous aspect of this conspiracy is the wide-scale application of the principle of Executive Privege as a means toward consolidation of power in the hands of the Presidency. For the American people the result has been blatant violations of fundamental democratic rights, constant increases in the cost of living side by side with massive increases in profits for the corporations, nationwide reversals of limited gains for oppressed ethnic and minority Americans, a wholesale breakdown in services and a dehumanized and spiritless society.

The expansion and consolidation of U.S. economic, political and military force and power abroad has made the President of the United States more powerful than any l

SECRET   WARS

Using the flower of our youth as cannon fodder, the U.S. empire builders have waged undeclared and secret wars of military aggression against peoples of the world struggling for self-determination; they have waged cartel and monopoly wars of economic aggression against the demands of the peoples of the world for economic independence; they have waged diplomatic wars against the United Nations' attempts as peace maker and world forum.

Watergate and its revelations have provided a dire warning to the American people: Act now to halt this conspiracy and create safeguards against further such conspiracies, or face the imminent imposition of a police state at home and the wrath and condemnation of the freedom-loving peoples of the world!

THE  PROPOSAL

WE, THEREFORE, CALL FOR THE TOTAL ELIMINATION OF THE OFFICES OF THE PRESIDENT AND VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND THE RETURN OF ALL THE POWERS USURPED BY THESE OFFICES TO THE DULY ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES OF ALL THE PEOPLE, THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

Radical restructuring in the Executive Branch of Government, which reasserts and makes manifest the power of the people consistent with the intent of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights is the only path to the realization of the American Dream.

Reforms of the existing practices will not safeguard the American people and ideals for which we strive from the coup-makers and Watergaters of a later age. They will only induce complacency and delay the inevitable confrontation.

THE HISTORICAL ARGUMENT

Thomas Jefferson lived in a boarding house and walked over to his inauguration; Richard Nixon has dressed a palace guard in 19th century uniforms of royalty and has "Hail to the Chief" played each night at dinner. How did this regal mutation of "elected despots," as Jefferson called them, come about?

In 1776, the Founding Fathers drew on some two thousand years of recorded Western history to explain their "right of revolution" to the world. Their sources: the Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian, Anglo-Saxon traditions.

The ideas of individual dignity, governmental accountability   to   the   governed,   equal   justice under law— were time honored. What was new, unique and revolutionary was the concept— the "checks and balances" of power — of how to implement the rhetoric that all people have an equal right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. The framers of the American Revolution executed a a stroke of genius: the Executive, though not completely a Hgurehead, was to be checked, systematically without violence, from becoming a king.

When King George III of England and his minister Lord North claimed the tyrannical vetoes and controls that we today call Executive Privilege, the great conservative Edmund Burke-argued forcefully that it was not what some lawyer assured the King "he could do, but what humanity, reason and justice tell him he ought to do." So the Congress was empowered to represent  the ever-changing needs of the electorate and the courts to protect the individual from the ambitions of the Executive.

Within a decade of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the counterrevolution had begun. Ruling  forces  tried   to  use  the   Constitution  to disenfranchise the masses of American people. Radical and conservative forces fought back, after the army had put down a series of worker-farmer rebellions, and managed to attach the  "Bill of Rights"   as   a   series   of   amendments   to   the Constitution. But from that time on, the Executive Branch has swollen steadily usurping power from the courts. The king-like Executive has^ pre-empted the   decision-making   process   inherent   in   the original checks and balances plan. The Executive, by claiming to represent "all of the people," gets around representing any of the popular interests and instead becomes, inevitably, the captive of special interests. The last several decades have revealed the complete emergence of the Royal Executive.

THE MORAL ARGUMENT

We have called to these shores those forsaken in their native lands, saying to each and everyone alike, this is your home: "...send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me..." U mattered not from what nation they came, nor of what faith, nor of what sex or physical capability, America reached out her arms and said, "Come, ye disconsolate," no one here shall disdain you or rule your life. Yes, America held a dream.

Through the years, America insisted her experiment was workable, her dream was feasible. We, wretched of the earth collected on these shores, could iron out the rough points if we clung to the idea of democracy: government by the people, of the people, for the people—all the people'No one group could come here and dictate over another: neither Jew over Gentile, nor Irish over Italian, nor White over Black, nor man over woman. And, in our effort we not only established our laws but also created the method, the form of government by which our democratic ideals would be carried out to reflect our ethic:  "...one nation, under God...with liberty and justice for all."

The Dream became twisted and distorted: with our Blacks herded into ghettos; and Native Americans onto wretched reservations; and Mexicans and Puerto Ricans shuffled into barrios; and poor Whites forgotten among the "purple mountains' majesty"; and Jews forced to deny their heritage; and Irish and Italian apd Japanese and Chinese and all the others suffering their bitter spot upon the stage. Nevertheless, we still clung and tried to wrest the sweet from the bitter; and, while each one, in a separate cry proclaimed "nobody knows the trouble...," each one began to try and understand the other.

With all of it we moulded a tradition: the realization of our dream. For with all our differences we seemed and seem to agree about the character of America: from the barrios and the ghettos, from the Southern mountains to the Northern plains, from the universities to the streets, from the industrial plants and factories, from all comers, the voice of America screamed and insisted, "1 have a right to live! That's what America means!"

SACRED   TASK

Ours, then, has become a sacred task. It is the collective task of the American people and future generations of Americans to shape and hone and refine this dream 'til it be real. It is not the charge of one part of us, but of the whole; not of one race, but of many; not of one party, but of all; not of one man, but of all; not of one man, but of all of us. We duly elect our representatives to the Congrss so the voices of America can be heard, and our will be done.

We did not/do not ask one man to preside over our affairs, to shape our dream, but select many among us to perform the task. Who, then, is this President who wields a greater power than us all? Who is this man who dares challenge the very fibre of our dream, to provide a government ruled by the governed? What privilege does this President carry that he dares to rule us, the people, as though by divine right? What monster have we created, who by turning the phrase "Divine Right" to "Executive Privilege" shall destroy a tradition which began in opposition toabsolute despotism?

We could not have said that the life of every human being is important, to have allowed one man to commit murder sanctioned by "Executive Privilege." We did not mean to say that the property of every person must be respected, to then allow one man to burglarize in the name of "Executive Privilege." We did not mean that we would take our personal income as a tax to be centralized in the general public interest, only to have it used for the personal pleasure of one man, because of his "Executive Privilege."

We, here and now, in this historic Spot, have the opportunity to make such a change, for these are times to which witness can be born as to the ultimate evils of the Presidency. Let us be unafraid to make change, change that neither defies tradition nor violates the law, but serves to benefit posterity in its wisdom. Let us be unafraid to meet the challenge laid before us by our founders, so long ago, to have such government that derives its "just powers from the consent of the governed."

THE LEGAL ARGUMENT

 
It is is not the intention here to interpret the Constitution of the United States of America, but to argue, in the Constitution's own words, that the intent of the Constitution regarding the President of the United States was to allow such limited power to that office as to make such a person, in effect, little more than a flgurehead. The intent of the Constitution is to guarantee a republican form of government, administered by the people, for the people, and through a representative Congress of the people. Further, the Constitution allows for the ' aboliton and creation of laws as the Congress deems necessary to provide flexibility in government to constantly serve the interests of the people in the historic course of human events and the growth and development of the country.

It cannot be argued that the U.S. Constitution does not provide for a President, for that is self-evident. However, the Constitution clearly does not allow the President powers that Congress does not deem necessary and proper. With this general theory in mind, the argument can be extended to our present historic place, which has revealed, most recently, in the Watergate affair, the evils and potentially greater evils of necessity of a Congressional act, supportive of Constitutional incumbent duties out of the hands of one man, without violating but rather enforcing the supreme law of the land:

1. The Constitution of the United States of America states, in Article I, Section 8, that Congress shall have power to; "...make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying Into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof."  

2.    The Constitution designates few powers to the President, and none without some form of Congressional consent. The first power of the President as outlined in the Constitution, under Article D, Section 2, provides that the President "...shall be commander-in -chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several States..." However, Article I, Section 8 grants the power to Congress only "To raise and support armies...To provide and maintain a navy," and "To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States..."

3.    The Constitution does not allow the President the power to administer any action carrying the weight of a policy decision under any such aegis as Executive Privilege. The very offices of the Executive department are created by Congress, the heads of which are only nominated by the President: Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution says that the President "...shall nominate, and by and with the advice of and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public administrators and consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law..."

4. Besides outlining the limited powers of the President the Constitution farther provides safeguards against abuse of presidential authority. For example, not only is the President subject to impeachment from office, but is also subject to punishment under the law while in office for violation of the law of the land and is not immune to such, as is applicable to any other citizen of the United States. Not only does Congress have the power to impeach a President, but, also, the power to diminish or increase its own powers or the powers of the Executive department or of any other department or branch of the government, which changes in law shall become the supreme law of the land: (Article VI) "This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties ihade, or which in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution on laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding."

IMPLEMENTATION   OF THE PROPOSAL

1.    Whereas the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities had been given the task of formulating legislation for the Congress that would have prevented or discouraged the repetition of those or similar acts as revealed to have been committed during the 1972 Presidential election campaign, it is therefore fitting and proper that a similar Senate Select Committee consider the above proposal.

Consequently, the campaign will be launched with the calling of a dramatic press conference on the steps of the Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., during the course of such hearings, by a small group of distinguished Americans led by Huey P. Newton, to submit our proposal to this Senate Select Committee.

2.    The widest possible distribution and promotion of the Position Paper to all segments and groupings of the American people and the encouragement of the widest possible discussion and debate of the proposal from community to national levels.

3.    The early creation of nonpartisan, community bodies and ad hoc committees of organizations, trade unions and associations as advocates of the proposal. The encouragement of co-sponsorship of the proposal by community organizations, trade unions, churches and political parties locally, regionally and nationally.

LONG RANGE GOALS:

1.    The creation of regional coordinating committees to provide guidance and help to local community activities around the proposal.

2.    The calling of a nonpartisan National Organizing Convention for the purpose of organizing national action on the proposal, with the aim of its adoption as a plank in the platforms of all political parties.

3. A massive national action in Washington, D. C, for implementation of the proposal and the creation of an Executive of administrative experts answerable to the people through its elected representatives in the Congress of the United States of America.

 


THE  PROPOSAL
WE, THEREFORE, CALL FOR THE TOTAL ELIMINATION OF THE OFFICES OF THE PRESIDENT AND VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND THE RETURN OF ALL THE POWERS USURPED BY THESE OFFICES TO THE DULY ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES OF ALL THE PEOPLE, THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Radical restructuring in the Executive Branch of Government, which reasserts and makes manifest the power of the people consistent with the intent of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights is the only path to the realization of the American Dream.
Reforms of the existing practices will not safeguard the American people and ideals for which we strive from the coup-makers and Watergaters of a later age. They will only induce complacency and delay the inevitable confrontation.
THE HISTORICAL ARGUMENT
Thomas Jefferson lived in a boarding house and walked over to his inauguration; Richard Nixon has dressed a palace guard in 19th century uniforms of