Donald Trump Is Still a Lunatic

Former president Donald Trump speaks at the CPAC conference in Orlando, Fla., February 26, 2022. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Whether Trump’s belief that he won in 2020 and will soon be reinstated as president is genuine or not, it makes him unfit for office.

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Whether Trump’s belief that he won in 2020 and will soon be reinstated as president is genuine or not, it makes him unfit for office.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE {O} n Truth Social this week, Donald Trump, in response to the news that the FBI had disgracefully put pressure on Facebook to suppress the true story of Hunter Biden’s laptop, insisted that he must be immediately reinstalled as president of the United States. “REMEDY: Declare the rightful winner,” Trump wrote. “Or, and this would be the minimal solution, declare the 2020 Election irreparably compromised and have a new Election, immediately!”

Well, then.

It is increasingly tempting to ignore these outbursts of constitutionally illiterate election-trutherism as a distraction. Certainly, if one wishes to, one can write them off as a mere sideshow — as the detached and irrelevant ravings of an unemployed septuagenarian has-been. At this point, one might say, Trump is just another Crazy Uncle with a social-media account. And, besides, instead of parsing what he says on the Internet, shouldn’t we be focused on the FBI’s continuing self-abasement, which occasioned the flare-up in the first instance?

But the thing is: None of that is really true, is it? Donald Trump has been talking like this for 18 months now. He is not some Crazy Uncle; he is the most likely person to be the next Republican nominee for president — and, for that matter, the next president. And while I strongly agree that the FBI needs wholesale reform — if not outright abolition — that does not change the fact that what Trump is saying in response on his failing social-media platform is nuts.

Last year, the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman got a great deal of grief for reporting that Trump earnestly believes that he can — and possibly will — be reinstated as president before the 2024 election has been held. But Haberman was correct: Trump does believe this. And that he believes it should disqualify him from holding office. It should disqualify him because it represents a willful rejection of the American system of government, which does not allow for arbitrarily reinstating former presidents or holding do-over elections. It should disqualify him because it represents yet another attempt to stage a coup against the rightful winner of the 2020 election. And it should disqualify him because it exhibits a raw contempt for the public, which does not deserve to be told such brazen lies. Americans may — no, Americans should — disagree about anything they wish to disagree about. But, at the very least, they ought to agree unanimously to reject (or remove) political candidates who promise ahead of time that they intend to violate the rules by which they are legally bound. Eighteen months have now passed since Joe Biden was inaugurated, and Donald Trump is still searching for illegitimate ways to undo his loss. That, in and of itself, is proof of his unfitness for office.

Why does Donald Trump say such things? There are two possibilities. The first is that Donald Trump earnestly believes that he won the 2020 presidential election, and that, at some point soon, he is going to be parachuted back into the White House. The second is that Donald Trump cares so little about the American system of government that he is willing to spend his days inventing ever-more-outlandish theories as to how he might crowbar himself into the Oval Office. Only Donald Trump can know which of these possibilities is true, but both are proof that he’s a lunatic, and that the Republican primary electorate should reject him in favor of someone who is able — or willing — to acquiesce to our most basic constitutional rules.

For his direct attack on Congress’s constitutional powers — and his repeated attempts to rewrite the Twelfth Amendment — Donald Trump should have been impeached and convicted. The riot of January 6 was certainly abhorrent, but it was not, in fact, the root problem with Donald Trump’s conduct during the post-election period; a thousand or so rioters, upsetting and dangerous as their behavior might have been, were never going to overthrow the federal government. No, the root problem with Donald Trump’s behavior during the post-election period was that Donald Trump attempted to stay in power despite having lost, in violation of America’s most fundamental law. Had nobody showed up in D.C. on January 6 — had there been no riot, had Trump given no public speeches on the topic — that attempt alone would have been sufficient to disqualify him from office forever. But that he’s still playing this game, almost two years later? That is insane.

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