Concerned GOP Outlier: Trump Must State He Is 'Not King'
What you are about to read will label me as an “anti-Trump Republican outlier.” But in my mind, love of country always trumps party — a party now totally controlled by President Trump and of which I have been a loyal member starting with College Republicans in 1975.
In Trump’s party, publicly expressing concerns about him is problematic. However, I take solace knowing that there are many Republicans who quietly share the same apprehensions.
My objective is for the following two-point message to resonate enough with the president’s campaign leaders that they will convince him to address these matters in a public forum, enabling someone like me to feel comfortable voting for him again.
The first issue of concern was tweeted by the president on June 16 and amplified by this Washington Post headline: “Trump says supporters might ‘demand’ that he serve more than two terms as president.” The Post reminded readers that Trump “has previously joked about serving more than two terms, including at an April event when he told a crowd that he might remain in the Oval Office “at least for 10 or 14 years.”
Continuously “joking” about serving beyond two terms — the limit set by the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution — is not a laughing matter, especially given Trump’s well-established tendency to test and stretch the limits of executive power.
Furthermore, three adversarial nations -- China, Russia, and North Korea -- with whom Trump regularly interacts have “supreme leaders” who are not quadrennially subjected to the electoral whims of the people. On March 3, 2018, President Xi’s permanent leadership was publicly applauded by Trump, as reflected by this Reuters headline: “Trump praises Chinese president extending tenure 'for life.'” He was quoted as saying:
“He’s now president for life, president for life. And he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.”
During Trump’s long 2020 reelection campaign, if he continues to kid about violating the 22nd Amendment to hammer home the narrative that since he has “made America great” the people “might demand” an illegal term extension, the “joke” could become a bona fide campaign issue. In fact, I believe this has already happened.
Midway through writing this piece, I saw a CNN op-ed by Chris Cillizza headlined: “Donald Trump just keeps 'joking' about serving more than two terms as president.”
Certainly, Republicans can expect to see future Democratic Party ads weaponizing Trump’s term-extension references as a direct constitutional threat, which will hurt his ability to attract independent voters.
But most Americans are smart enough to know that constitutional amendments do not get overturned by “demands” of the party faithful – rather, it is a long process requiring ratification by three-quarters of the states.
The 22nd Amendment has an especially interesting history, which I wrote about in 2015, in that its ratification was a political and historical fluke that forever changed the Office of the President and, subsequently, American history.
Therefore, I recommend that Team Trump’s high command (that means you, Brad) insist that the president not only stop “joking” about undoing the 22nd Amendment but to unequivocally state that if reelected, he will abide by the Constitution and relinquish power on January 20, 2025. He could even “joke” that he is not “king.”
My second issue, likely to create enough consternation to bar me from any more events a Mar-a-Lago, stems from a New York Times interview with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on May 4, 2019.
During the interview, “she discussed her concern that Mr. Trump would not give up power voluntarily if he lost re-election by a slim margin next year.” And Pelosi was not reading from an American political thriller.
The NYT reports that since Pelosi “does not believe President Trump can be removed through impeachment — the only way to do it, she said this week, is to defeat him in 2020 by a margin so ‘big’ he cannot challenge the legitimacy of a Democratic victory.”
Is Pelosi’s concern realistic or political fluff?
Let’s imagine the results of the election if the Democratic nominee wins the popular vote and the Electoral College too, albeit by small margins in a swing state or two. (Advice to young voters: Google the 2000 presidential election — and the Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore decision, with Vice President Al Gore ultimately conceding. Or 2004, when President George W. Bush won Ohio’s 20 Electoral College votes by a slim margin of 118,601 out of 5.6 million votes cast. Bush’s close victory in the Buckeye State held Sen. John Kerry to only 251 electoral votes out of the 270 needed to win the White House.)
Recent history shows that Trump could lose by a small Electoral College margin, giving credence to Pelosi’s concern that he will challenge the legitimacy of a Democratic victory (citing voter fraud would be my guess).
And the speaker’s concern is not off-base, especially when back in October 2016 there was an issue of Trump accepting the next month’s election results, generating this Politico headline: “Trump pledges to accept election results — ‘if I win.’”
And in the New York Times: “Donald Trump Won’t Say if He’ll Accept Result of Election.”
Ultimately, the issue failed to resonate due to the general expectation that Hillary Clinton would soundly defeat her unlikely opponent. But what if in 2016 Trump had won the popular vote and not the Electoral College? Would he have conceded as Clinton did or challenged the results in court? (That would make an interesting book.)
However, if Trump loses in 2020 and claims “voter fraud,” that assertion will ignite a political crisis the likes of which we have not seen since 2000 (and probably worse since Trump does not have the temperament of Al Gore).
So, will the president make a statement closer to the general election that he will accept the results if not to his liking? Similar to 2016, I expect that he’ll be asked that question, and we can count on his answer creating a political firestorm.
To summarize my concerns as a Republican “outlier”: If the president loses in 2020, will he accept the results? And, if he wins, will he step down in 2025?
I pose these questions because, as previously stated, I am an American first and a Republican second.