A thought experiment that contains lessons about the power of the presidency to act, even without congressional support
In The Washington Examiner, Philip Klein reacts to the perennial yearning for third party presidential candidate by arguing that even if one were elected against all odds, "it would be nearly impossible for that person to get anything accomplished as president." The reason, Klein writes, is that "the most effective tool that a president has to get his agenda through Congress is to appeal to the loyalty of members of his own party, in part because their political fortunes are tied together. Maybe, in cases where an independent president is immensely popular, or the legislation he's pushing has overwhelming public support, he'd be able to get some minor things passed. But on the biggest and most controversial issues of the day, such as reforming entitlements, reining in spending, reforming the tax code, and addressing health care inflation, it's hard to see many lawmakers taking tough votes for a third-party president."
Although I agree that it's very unlikely for a third party candidate to get elected, at least in the upcoming cycle, I see no reason why he or she couldn't accomplish plenty upon arriving in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day. Let me put it this way. Imagine a president who proved particularly adept at cutting waste from the bureaucracy while improving the performance of its various departments; who vetoed the most imprudent bills that the Congress passed, and signed the most carefully crafted, necessary legislation; who proved a competent steward of foreign policy, a talented diplomat, and an adept negotiator of advantageous treaties with other nations; and whose appointees to the federal bench had above average intellect, wisdom, and integrity.