We’ve seen it: the belligerent typo-ridden tweets; the fawning press conferences with autocrats and overlords; the self-described Nazis on parade praising an American president’s name. We have seen it with our own eyes. There is a bloated authoritarian lounging in his bathrobe in a 200-year-old mansion that used to symbolize the principal republic of the world.
This is a man who openly conspired to cheat with the help of a hostile foreign nation in a federal election. On election night, he came in second place, yet due to a scab of slavery in the Constitution (the electoral college), this usurper has the full power of the most powerful military in history, command of the treasury, the absolute power to pardon and he can unilaterally annihilate millions of people with his command to deploy nuclear weapons. He’s made refugees begging us for mercy into orphans hoping it will deter other asylum seekers — because he can. He’s now poised to put a man on the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, who believes in supreme leaders (if they’re Republican, that is).
Impeachment won’t remove Trump from office
And I have other bad news. The remedy in our Constitution for a treasonous turncoat who got into the White House on a technicality is impeachment. But guess what? Impeachment has never gotten rid of a bad president in this country. Not ever. Bill Clinton finished his term after being impeached. The threat of impeachment got Nixon to step down, but impeachment as a whole has failed. It’s never lived up to its promise.
It failed to remove President Andrew Johnson, described by his contemporaries as “the vilest radical and most unscrupulous demagogue in the Union.” The main charge against Johnson was that he ignored the authority and will of Congress. It was then thata group of concerned citizens saw a monarchy in the making and drew up a petition titled “Memorial Regarding the Abolition of the Presidency.” Their idea was to copy the Swiss Republic and make the executive branch a federal council without veto power. Mid-19th century Americans’ trepidation that an emperor could follow an idealistic revolution was well founded; they’d witnessed that very thing in France with the ascension of Napoleon.
The petition makes the case that the three branches of government are not equal. “Congress is more dependent on the President than he is on Congress,” reads the petition. “The President has the elements of power; Congress has but words: he can act; Congress can but talk.” The pamphlet printed in 1868 offers that a constitutional monarchy is still a monarchy, and the exorbitant powers of the executive branch are borrowed from monarchs, which make it impossible to hold a president accountable. And if the president is above the law, they argue, he’s an autocrat and not a (small d) democrat.
Abolish presidency to save democracy
In 1973, the idea came up again a few weeks after the second inauguration of Richard Nixon, when Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Barbara Tuchman wrote a piece in The New York Times asking “Should We Abolish the Presidency?” Tuchman argued that Congress is at fault for the executive branch becoming too powerful. “Responsibility must be put where it belongs: in the voter. The failure of Congress is a failure of the people.” Eighteen months later Nixon resigned. His successor gave Nixon a blanket pardon, ratifying that he was in fact above the law. Tuchman also touted the Swiss Republic’s use of a council in lieu of a hero-like dad figure.
We can make that happen! My fear isn’t Trump; it’s that the next autocrat is most likely smarter and savvier than Trump. Every partisan from every niche of American politics should be alarmed. We have a branch of government that stinks so bad it’s wafted over the entire nation and its outer territories. The entire world sees it. We’re in trouble. The presidency is broken. Our little democratic experiment is in peril.
We can amend our Constitution to save the republic. Abolish the presidency! Power to the people! Power to the Congress! Make the co-equal branches of government more equal. Give us a council of boring bureaucrats who will do their job, serve the people and leave after their term ends.
Because, as our forefathers believed, democracy is worth fighting for — even if you have to fight a mad king for it.
Republished from USA Today with the author’s permission.