It has now been a week since President Trump took the oath of office. What a week it has been! Threats and actions against journalists, scientists, immigrants, citizens, … you name it. As I read the news this morning before work, thoughts are swirling around my mind. I have to get them out. Excuse the length of this. And yes, that’s what Trump said (rimshot).
- Finding Focus
- We Had Our Chance, and We Blew It
- Not a Question of “If?”, But “When?”
As I look at Trump’s actions all week, there are so many to get upset about. Attacks on a woman’s right to choose. Provoking a trade war with Mexico. Attacking immigrants. Attacking science. Where to begin? What should we fight?
I think is it useful to focus instead on the question of: From which actions will we eventually recover, and which actions will have long-term implications? For example, limiting immigration will not have long term impacts on our country. It will hurt the immigrants (which is a terrible thing), but our country will eventually recover and the pendulum will swing back. Similarly, although we’re up in arms about the attacks on a woman’s right to choose, it really won’t impact the number of abortions. Women will be hurt, unsafe abortions will be procured, but the pendulum will swing back. Attacks on LGBTQs are similar. Many many many friends will be hurt, but our country won’t be irreparably damaged. There are so many things this President has done — in just one week — that if we attempt to fight them all we will dissipate our energies to a meaningless level. (I’ll note this is similar to the fight against his Cabinet appointees: we have only so many silver bullets. We may need to let some bad candidates get through — Carson — to save our bullets for some even worse and more destructive ones — deVoss)
On the other hand, there are significant attacks that could be non-recoverable. For example, the attacks on science in general and the science of climate change in particular. What hasn’t gotten through Trump’s thick skull (and for a man with such thin skin, he has a remarkably thick skull) is that it doesn’t make a difference who caused climate change. What makes a difference is what we do about climate change, and our doing anything we can makes a difference in the long run. If we have it wrong on the cause, then we are no worse off and we’ve created new jobs in new energy fields. If we have it right, we potentially stave off significant natural disasters. But ignoring it could be deadly.
Similarly, attacks on the free press and the truth go to the fundamentals of this Nation. The ability to say what you want, the ability to petition to Government for redress of grievances, the ability for journalists to investigate and report the truth are fundamental. The belief of the public in fact-based journalism. The trust of the people in the government. These are fundamental. Trump has attacked these to the point where his followers no longer trust reporters, and no longer trust that government works in their interest. These are dangerous, long term, threats, potentially damaging to the heart of our Republic.
Then, of course, are our international relationships. These relationships go far beyond just trade, but the businessman sees only dollars and cents. There are issues of National sovereignty, of survival, or war and attacks. It is not a good thing to hurt long standing allies and partners, and to make them believe we do not stand by what we have said in the past. This could hurt us big time when things go south.
We Had Our Chance, and We Blew It
No, I’m not talking about the election itself. I’m talking about the Electoral College.
Our nation was built on checks and balances, but I don’t think the founders anticipated the level of primaries and voting we have today. They expected that reasoned (white) men would be choosing reasoned (white) candidates, not the huddled masses. They also expected the Electoral College to be that last voice of reason — if a rogue candidate arose, they were the change to exert reason and stop it. This is what our Electoral College should have done. I’m not saying they should have chosen Hillary — that ship has sailed. But opting to choose an interim Republican candidate, or even turning to Congress, would have been better than what we’ve got.
This election has shown some fundamental flaws in our election process, just as the early election showed fundamental flaws in how we selected President and Vice President. There needs to be the ability to recall a candidate upon the petition of a super-majority of the state legislatures, and there needs to be a provision for a special National election to replace the President. We should be pushing our representatives to introduce such a Constitutional amendment. Note that this must be independent of any effort to abolish the Electoral College or render it moot.
Not a Question of “If?”, But “When?”
Over this week, I’ve been reading the news (a dangerous thing these days). In particular, I’ve been reading about the actions of the Trump administration, and wondering how long it will be before Congress gets fed up with him and kicks him to the curb. Clearly, it won’t be immediate — the Republican leadership is too enamored of their party being back in power for them to give it up or admit their failure. It won’t be because of many of the Democratic concerns: climate change is really only an issue that drives significant votes in the cities (which are already Democratic), similarly, abortion and LGBTQ issues only drive vote along the current urban / rural divides and will be insufficient to shift the political climate.
Rather, I think the dissolution and pushback will come from one of the following places:
- The Deficit. Trump’s desire to build “the wall” and Mexico’s refusal to pay for it will result in a significant increase in the Federal Deficit. This will annoy the budget conservatives in the GOP, who will start to push back on any Trump proposal that isn’t actually paid for. If the elected budget hawks don’t do it, then those who elected them will.
- The Uninsured. Unless Trump carefully crafts the replacement for the ACA, those who lose coverage will take it out on him. The problem is that the people that supported him don’t want Obamacare, but it is more the “Obama” they don’t want vs. the “care”. They want lower insurance rates, ideally subsidized, with coverage in the face of pre-existing conditions, affordable deductables, affordable prescriptions, and the lot. If that was easily achievable, it would have been done — and Trump is going to find that out. These folks will fight back and vote in 2018.
- Narcissism. Let’s face it: we have elected a pathological narcissist — so much so that he is doing anything to justify his belief that he won with a majority. This will trip him up in the end, especially as he discovers that his theories are not borne out after investigation, and that his powers are much more limited than he thought.
Resistance has already started: there are already numerous unofficial / rogue Twitter feeds to broadcast facts to get around orders for agencies to maintain social media silence. We have other government refusing to play along with Trump’s beliefs and ideas. As time passes, the courts are going to start to weigh in and rule his orders unconstitutional (I already believe that directing deportation with only the accusation of a crime may be borderline unconstitutional, but I’ve got to check the words guaranteeing a right to a trial).
Resistance is effective, but resistance alone is insufficient. Nor is pointing out the Executive Orders are unconstitutional — President’s issue unconstitutional orders all the time without impeachment. The courts just rule them invalid.
There are two things that must happen in order for Trump to be removed from office:
- The Republicans in Congress must get sufficiently fed up to want to investigate him. A week in, he’s advancing their agenda forcefully, and so they are sticking with him. That’s a win in their books. What will change their mind? Not online petitions. Not calls from Democrats. Not calls to their office from non-constituants. What will change their mind is having the people who voted for them indicate that they won’t do so in the future, and seeing their fundraising dry up. To do this, the point needs to be driven home to the Republican voters and donors that the positions that Trump takes are contrary to Republican values of lowering the deficit, paying down the debt, being fiscally responsible, ensuring the safety of America, and negotiating from a position of respect. Republican candidates need to be found willing to challenge the Trump-Toadies, and these candidate need to be supported. Faced with siding with Trump or staying in office, investigations will be opened.
- Trump must be resisted, and resisted in a way that will provoke him to do something clearly illegal or treasonous. At the present time, Congress has indicated that it doesn’t care about things that would have been problematic for a Clinton or Obama: use of a private electronic device to conduct government business, significant conflicts of interest for personal gain from government actions. There will need proof of foreign powers influencing Trump in a way that he goes against Republican goals, or significant mischief in the White House (including movement of US funds for his personal use). Not being experiences with the rules for a US government official, he is very likely to run afoul of those regulations.
I think both of these things will eventually happen — it’s not a question of “if”, but “when”. We just need to keep nudging. In particular, we must present evidence to Republicans that their Congressional leadership no longer represents core Republican values, and that they restore the Republican party to those values, and reject and replace Trump, if they are to stay in office at the mid-Term and subsequent elections. Parallel to that, the Democratic Party must continue to resist peacefully but forcefully, speaking truth to power, in numbers too great to ignore. That will get under Trump’s skin the most, and will provoke the high crimes and misdemeanors necessary to convince Congress to impeach Trump and remove him from office. What might be such a crime? Consider directing the US military to attack the American people on American soil. That is a direct violation of law. If Trump gets fed up enough…. and believes he is powerful enough….
Additionally, getting under Trump’s skin could increase the evidence that he is mentally unbalanced and unstable, and there the constitution can work in our favor. The Constitution very clearly allows for the removal of a disabled president; Article II establishes this possibility, and the 25th Amendment further clarifies the process. Here is the wording of Sec. 4 of the 25th Amendment:
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
There, friends, is the ultimate way out.