Without actual enforcement and consequences, then rules—even ones laid down in a document as revered as the Constitution—become meaningless.

There are two branches of government that can apply those consequences—Congress and the courts. But like a parent who fails to discipline an unruly child, Congress has allowed its own authority to lapse or crumble—on impeachment, on war powers, on oversight and on budgetary matters. And that squandered power has shifted to the executive branch. Indeed, one can argue that Congress, by failing to enforce its own prerogatives, is effectively rewriting the Constitution. These de facto constitutional amendments, largely occurring without the public’s awareness, are of staggering importance. And they may well turn out to be just as permanent as if they had been ratified by three-quarters of the states.

Many people blithely expect that things will simply go back to normal when, inevitably, a new president is elected. Democrats assume a return to discipline with a new president, and Republicans assume that a Democrat in the White House will cower in the face of renewed oversight. But that is not the way this works. Presidents, even well-meaning ones, generally don’t give back power that they have inherited; they expand on it. The prospect of what a president with evil intentions might do with unlimited power should concern us all, no matter our political allegiances.