Kudos to the Senate Majority Leader. I’ve been extremely critical of Republicans for excusing President Trump’s outlandish statements and actions for the past four years, but I applaud Mitch McConnell for doing so today.
Yesterday, President Trump responded to a question about whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election by saying, “We’re going to have to see what happens. You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”
Some Republicans attempted to explain away or minimize Trump’s comments, but, to his credit, McConnell squarely stared down the president in a tweet that signaled that Senate Republicans will uphold the rule of law no matter who wins the election.
While McConnell’s response was appreciated, it should not have been necessary. Any president who will not commit to a peaceful transfer of power should not be considered for re-election because doing so is a blatant violation of the president’s oath to uphold the Constitution.
While some will argue that the question was unfair, it is not a new one. I’m old enough to remember when Democrats speculated that George W. Bush would refuse to leave the White House AND when Republicans said the same of Barack Obama. It’s tempting to to say that the speculation about Donald Trump is just more of the same.
There is a fundamental difference with Trump, however. It is not that difficult to picture Trump barricading himself into the Oval Office and refusing to leave, but that is not the real danger. The more likely scenario is that Trump will seek to discredit the results of the election. Doing so would undermine the choice of the people and quite possibly send both Trump’s supporters and opponents into the streets.
The reason this scenario is plausible is that Trump has spent months laying the groundwork to claim election fraud and even did so in his answer to the question. What’s more, Trump already tried to the tactic when he attempted to discredit the popular vote results from 2016 by claiming without evidence that there were “millions of people who voted illegally.” A commission that Trump created to investigate voter fraud was quietly disbanded in 2018 after failing to find evidence to support the president’s claims.
The Constitution is very clear on what happens after an election. The 20th Amendment specifies, “The terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January.” If the Electoral College does not select Donald Trump as the winner of the election, he will automatically cease to be president. Even if he refuses to leave the Oval Office, he will have no authority.
What he can do is foment a(nother) constitutional crisis by contesting the outcome of the election. He can also stir up resentment among his supporters to poison the relations between the GOP and the Biden Administration. It seems all too plausible that hell would have no fury like a Trump scorned and who would leave a trail of scorched earth on his way back to Mar-a-Lago.
One of the greatest things about our shared nation is the fact that we take the peaceful transfer of power between presidents for granted. In our nearly 250-year history, the only such issue was the unpleasantness that occurred after James Buchanan left office. No American in his right mind would want to repeat that. To my knowldge, no president since Lincoln has intimated that he would not abide by the will of the people.
For all these reasons, Mitch McConnell’s move should be much appreciated by everyone who loves America and wants to keep America great. If the majority had stood up to the president earlier and more often, the Republican Party’s prospects for November might have been much brighter than they currently seem.
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