No one wants a constitutional crisis
The United States faces a major crisis with the continuing spread of Covid-19 and the confused and irregular behaviour of President Trump. The president has provided no effective leadership, rejecting the guidance of the scientists and lying repeatedly to the nation as to the threats and challenges of the pandemic. He has encouraged citizens to go out to restaurants, meetings, rallies, religious events, sports activities, etc.
The result is a spike in cases and a growing number of deaths. The chasm between the recommendations of the doctors and scientists and the claims and posturing of the president grows day by day. The president is unwilling or unable to face reality. His stubborn rejection of the wearing of a face mask and his presentation of this as a test of strength encourages behaviour that enhances the transmission of Covid-19.
The underlying racist beliefs of the president are more and more evident. His staff tries to cover for him but he does not care. He has disgraced the office of the president with his failure to handle the national agony over racism. The inequalities and unfairness have been exposed by violent police actions, the unequal impact of the economic recession, and the incidence of Covid-19 infections. Trump has ignored all of this.
Trump has driven an insane effort to reduce access to medical insurance and medical care in the midst of the pandemic. How is it possible that the president has declared war on his own people? Trump has driven an unstable policy towards China, the most critical foreign policy problem of the US, without consistent objectives and remarkably seeking a deal that would help him win the November election.
Evidence is emerging of bizarre telephone calls with international leaders ranging from abuse of women (Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister May) and grovelling to Putin and Xi. Much of this is contained in Bolton’s book The Room Where It Happened, but additional material is now emerging. Opinion polls show Trump falling further and further behind Biden. Most election models show a landslide for Biden.
While many things can happen in the next few months, there is no sign of Trump having the energy and will to change the situation. Trump’s own polls are reporting disaster. His reaction is to deny and ignore. Just as Trump refuses to act on the rising pandemic and scientific guidance, he refuses to believe the polls. The polls report that Trump has failed to manage the Covid-19 pandemic; that he has not dealt correctly with the racial issues that have arisen; and confidence in the president is declining. A key group of Trump supporters is the Evangelical Christian community in the US.
This group has reluctantly supported Trump despite his immoral behaviour in the hope that he can achieve for them critical objectives dealing with gay rights, migration, and abortion. The US Supreme Court has handed down three rulings that go against the Evangelical’s hopes. Trump has reduced value in their eyes. The leadership of the Evangelicals, while putting up a brave front is increasingly worried about their association with Trump.
Their underlying values are carrying greater weight. This group is moving closer to Vice President Pence and abandoning Trump. Evidence is emerging that those Republican Senators contesting their seats are in serious trouble having to carry the responsibility for Trump’s wild behaviour. It increasingly appears that the Democrats are going to win the election and gain control of both Houses of Congress. Democrats will gain influence in many state legislators and win more governorships.
The political direction of the US will turn against the Republicans. Many Republican leaders now realize that their commitment to Trump is leading to the destruction of the Republican Party. The party is now working out its response to this threat. With Trump as a leader, the signs of disaster grow day by day. A strategy has begun to emerge. Stories of Trump’s misdeeds and mishandling of his job are being leaked with increasing frequency.
There is a deliberate effort by the Republican Party to tear down his reputation in the month of July. We will see a flood of stories about his strange behaviour, his inability to govern, and his neglect of his duties. It will be suggested that Trump is suffering from growing dementia that leads him to behave in increasingly erratic ways. At the same time, the status and reputation of Pence will be touted.
Recently we have seen Pence begin to wear face masks and to argue for their use. The leaders of the Republican Party are true Americans who hold the interest of their country of first importance. There is a growing fear that, in the event of a close election, Trump will use his powers to proclaim himself the winner. He will claim election fraud, fake votes, and dubious vote counts.
Some analysts report that there is a real possibility that the outcome of the November election will be challenged by Trump and he will make every effort to remain in power whatever the election results. No one wants such an outcome. Political leaders do not want to plunge the US into a constitutional crisis that might lead to civil war, the break-up of the union, while the nation is ravaged by Covid-19 and the economy plunged down with massive unemployment.
We have seen in the past 100 years the breakup of the Russian Empire under the Tsar, German Empire, British Empire, Ottoman Empire, Chinese Empire, and the Soviet Union. Some of the same factors were at work that now challenge the US. There was Spanish flu, war, but most important, incompetent leadership. By the end of July, Trump’s reputation will have gotten lower and lower as more materials are released about his erratic behaviour.
Opinion polls will report a steady decline in his political support. Republican senators will be near panic as many see their seats threatened. Serious thinkers and wise old men that in some way run the US will fear an oncoming constitutional crisis. Vice President Pence will, along with at least eight members of the US Cabinet (15 members plus the Vice President), invoke the 25th amendment to the constitution and will inform the Congress that Trump is not able to continue as president.
Pence will become president. Trump will immediately challenge this and Congress will convene to dispose of the matter. Republicans and Democrats will join forming a two-thirds majority to uphold Pence’s take over.
The November election will be held on schedule and both sides will accept the outcome. The union will hold together and the US government will begin to work in a more constructive way. Donald Trump and his family, agreeing to leave politics and not engage in public commentary, will retire and live in comfort and peace. No charges will be brought against Trump for his misdeeds and his earlier financial malpractice.
Forrest Cookson is an economist who has served as the first president of AmCham and has been a consultant for the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.