The Four Most Dangerous Words From Trump’s Show Last Night
Trump’s RNC appearance signals that possession is the whole of the law.
There’s a theory that says we’re all a bunch of sillyheads to worry about what happens if Trump loses or derails the election. We needn’t concern ourselves with we will do if he’s unwilling to leave office, the theory says, because the Constitution prescribes a set term for it and when that term is up, the office leaves him.
At that point, the theory goes, he becomes an intruder in the White House and the federal law enforcement apparatus (including the Secret Service) that has been thus far obligated to protect him will then be obligated to remove him.
I call this a theory not because the proponents are wrong in their premise. As of the twentieth amendment, the Constitution does indeed say he’s only president through noon on January 20th, 2021. What is theoretical is its application, its usefulness in the face of a man who insists to the contrary with the backing of his party.
My theory has long been that the Secret Service, the military, and all the national policing apparatus will not just fail to resolve such a situation, they’ll refuse.
My theory is that the people in government and federal services who wholeheartedly support him will echo and amplify his claims that the election was rigged, that he never had a proper first term since Democrats were against him, that he’s owed at least one more year for every year of Russia hoax and that the people who wrote the twentieth amendment would have agreed and probably would have said so but nobody could have predicted a US president would ever be treated so poorly.
My theory is that among the people carrying firearms at the federal level, the “good guys” are all institutionalists who will believe it is a bigger threat to let the gunhavers resolve a question of who is president than to let the man have the damned thing if he wants it that badly. If they’re not fighting with guns drawn then it’s not really a coup so much as a president with question about his legitimacy, questions they can let the historians sort out.
The Constitutional theory basically depends on the idea that all of a sudden, at high noon on a particular Wednesday in January, the law will magically start to work in a way that it hasn’t yet so far.
I would submit that if nothing magical ever happens to make everybody in government fight to defend the sacred first amendment, it’s not going to happen for the rather blandly procedural twentieth.
Last time I expressed this theory on Twitter, it was to someone who insisted that there’s a difference between the way people have passively ignored and enabled lawbreaking so far and what would have to happen for Trump to hold onto power illegitimately through January 20th and beyond.
The way they saw it, from the moment the Constitution says he’s no longer president onward, any attempt to enable him requires an active, conscious, deliberate choice whereas removing him is the passive default, and they thought few would be willing to go that far to save him.
I would submit to you that for officers with guns to go into the officially designated president’s residence, surround the man on the president’s sofa wearing the president’s bathrobe who says he’s the president, and either shoot him, drag him away by force, or march him out at gunpoint… I would submit to you that there has never been a less passive use of legal enforcement powers in the history of the United States, that there has never been and will never be a moment that more greatly defines “sticking one’s neck out” than participating in that kind of event as a member of a federal law enforcement agency.
Mark my words: the dispute over who is president, if it happens, will be labeled “political” by anyone you might count on to forcibly resolve it, and those people and institutions will refuse to get involved in politics.
Last night, in an unscripted, off-the-cuff moment before he began reading a slow, meandering speech off a teleprompter, Donald Trump gestured around him and said four words that chill me to my core:
“We’re here, they’re not.”
He was speaking of the White House, which he possesses, and the Democrats, who do not have it.
In the context of a speech that was described beforehand as inappropriate, unethical, and illegal, the meaning behind his words were clear: the White House is his to do with as he wants and no one can tell him otherwise. He holds it and he’s going to use it. He assumes anybody else would do the same thing in his place, unless they’re too much of a fool to realize the opportunity, or too weak and cowardly to act on it.
Donald Trump is an Ayn Rand hero come to life; with him, the question isn’t who’s going to let him, it’s who’s going to stop him. He’s been asking that question for a very long time and so far it’s worked out pretty well for him over the long term, on average. I mean, it’s taken him to the White House and let him get away with murder from there.
The same Secret Service that sum think will turn on him at the stroke of 12:00 PM coordinated security at a clearly illegal campaign event last night. Why? Because to do otherwise would have meant getting involved in politics.
If he chooses to stay in office past the expiration of his term, this will create a political dispute, a difference in opinion as to who is really president. Some may attempt to resolve that dispute by force; others may seek a legal remedy, but we should note he’s already ignoring Supreme Court decisions, so it will probably ultimately come down to force and the willingness to use it.
For those with guns who back him, that’s a win-win proposition. They’ve been itching to use them.
For those with guns who oppose or dislike him, it’s murkier. Again, they’re institutionalists, and the institutionalists would sooner fall on their swords than install a president with their guns. They will be inclined to seek out the most peaceful resolution available to the problem, and inertia will not be on the side of what the law says but what the man sitting on the president’s couch, wearing the president’s bathrobe, says.
Because he’s there, and his opponents aren’t.
We're going to be in an anti-POTUS situation, looks like. The message from everyone else has to be "it isn't the building that makes you President, it's us—and we weren't going to move right in there anyhow. After all your Russian pals had access it can't be considered a secure place from which to run the executive branch."
That's a message Harris is particularly well-suited to lay the ground for; "After criminal activity you need to inspect a location /very/ carefully before you can consider it clean. There'll be a deeper security investigation necessary than was done after Nixon. Which makes this a good opportunity for necessary repairs and renovation on this historic building. As we conduct this work we will be engaging not only with the recent past, but with the troubling relationship between the building itself and slavery. This is a time for reflection and reconciliation."
The pandemic has set the precedent for people working from different locations until its safe to return to normal. Temporary relocation of the seat of executive power is appropriate.
The power isn't the building; let Trump sit in there playing pretend after he loses while we pull away one by one all the props he's using to hold himself up.
This is terrifying.