If the unthinkable — the election of Donald Trump — were to happen, all would still not be lost.
While I still believe Donald Trump is unlikely to become president, in even raising the question I am thinking what was previously unthinkable, and trying to come up with a silver lining. I think I’ve found it.
The constitutional separation of powers has seriously deteriorated over the past decades, with the executive branch riding roughshod over the prerogatives of Congress, and Congress allowing it to happen. This phenomenon has reached its apotheosis under Barack Obama, with his “we can’t wait” executive orders, his continual unilateral rewriting of his own signature legislation, his arbitrary enforcement of immigration laws, his ignoring the law requiring him to notify Congress before the release of prisoners, his unlegislated war on the coal industry, and so on.
The Founders anticipated the possibility of a lawless president such as Barack Obama (or Bill Clinton) and put a clause into the founding document to deal with such an eventuality. What they didn’t anticipate (or, at least, hoped wouldn’t come about) was that partisanship (parties are not mentioned in the Constitution) would come to take precedence over legislators’ fealty to the law, the Constitution, and their own branch of government.
It’s not purely a matter of partisanship, of course; which party it is matters.
When Republicans were confronted with a criminal president of their own party, their leaders on the Hill made a trip to the White House to tell him that he had lost the support of the Senate. He avoided impeachment and removal by resigning.
But when Bill Clinton was shown to be in violation of his oath to see that the laws of the Republic were faithfully executed, and to have committed multiple federal felonies, his party rallied around him.
The notion that Barack Obama could be removed from office by the current Senate is ludicrous, not just out of fear of the race riots such an action might provoke, but also because Democrats are completely indifferent to criminality and the flouting of the Constitution, as long as it is by a member of their own party (as demonstrated by the current apparent willingness of many of them to elevate a felonious Hillary Clinton to be their presidential nominee).
#share#Enter The Donald, a populist and a man of indeterminate political party, apparently indifferent to the Constitution (there is zero evidence that he’s ever even read it), utterly devoid of political principles, and in whose positions everyone can find something to hate. He has appalled those who favor limited government by running on eminent domain, ethanol subsidies, and single-payer health care. For those who are pro-life, he has proposed nominating his pro-abortion sister to the Supreme Court. His calls to deport all illegal immigrants and to prevent Muslims from entering the country have both the Left’s and the GOP establishment’s hair on fire. When it comes to angering both Republicans and Democrats, Trump is a uniter, not a divider.
It is noteworthy that, while (for example) Trey Gowdy will be campaigning in Iowa for Marco Rubio, Trump has yet to pick up a single endorsement among current members of Congress (former Virginia congressman Virgil Good has endorsed him). Should he somehow scrape together enough electoral votes to become president running as a Republican, there’s a serious risk that he would be a disaster for Republicans running for House and Senate seats, which wouldn’t engender any good will for him from either body. In such circumstances, it is easy to imagine that Trump would be the first president to actually be vulnerable to impeachment and removal from office since Richard Nixon, and on a bipartisan basis. In fact, if he came in by a mere plurality of both electoral and popular votes, impeachment might be the first act of the new Congress in January 2017. That is unlikely, but one could imagine any number of early actions he might take that would set off one or the other side.
#related#Of course, the likelihood of that partly depends on who would replace him. Many joked that Barack Obama selected Joe Biden as his vice president as “impeachment insurance” (that is, someone who would be expected to be an even worse president than the incumbent). The question is: Whom could Trump pick as a running mate who could cause the Senate to hesitate to leap from the frying pan into the fire? Then again, given his apparent ignorance of the Constitution, it’s not clear to me that Trump would make this a consideration in his own selection. But if it happened, the good news is that, after decades of imperial presidents, we’d finally have one get the constitutional comeuppance he deserves. What a fine precedent that would be.