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The Constitution's 3 Ways to Stop a Demagogue Like Trump Haven't Worked. Now What?

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A federal appeals court ruled that presidential electors who cast the actual ballots for president and vice president are free to vote as they wish and cannot be required to follow the results of the popular vote in their states.

NBC News (@NBCNews) August 22, 2019

Electoral College: The clearest symbol of how implausible Hamilton's notion of independent elites not susceptible to what he called the "heats and ferments" of the moment has become is the now-popular phrase for an elector who spurns the winner of his state's popular vote. "A faithless elector." It's interesting that Trump's public meltdown has occurred at the same time that a federal appeals court in Colorado has ruled that it's unconstitutional for states to prevent an elector from voting his conscience (which a Bloomberg opinion writer says opens the door for "chaos").

It's too late for the 2016 Electoral College and I have to agree that Hamilton's idea doesn't work in today's world, when the masses already believe with much justification that elites have gotten most everything else wrong. Those who on the left side of the political dial who pleaded with electors in 2016 to reject Trump would have lost their minds if, say, a white elector from Florida had rejected Barack Obama because of his race. The real solution to the Electoral College is to ditch it, which brings us to...

The 25th Amendment: Adopted in 1967 i.e., the height of the Cold War with the USSR the amendment deals with several uncertainties about presidential power and secession in a nuclear age when even 5 minutes of uncertainty over who's in charge could not be tolerated. Among other things, the 25th Amendment allows a president who's undergoing a medical procedure to delegate his power to his vice president, but it also creates a procedure for the Cabinet and in the case of president who's unwell but insists that he isn't, maybe Congress to replace a disabled POTUS, temporarily or permanently.

In theory, the 25th Amendment could be invoked for a president's slide into mental illness a theory widely embraced on Twitter (#25thAmendmentNow is a hugely popular hashtag) and by liberal cable-TV hosts but ... let's get real. The dilemma facing America in deciding whether the captain of our ship is suffering from insanity is a lot like the mutinous sailors on the U.S.S. Caine trying to decide what to make of Captain Queeg's hunt for a strawberry thief. (Queeg was officially found not insane, by the way.) Trump's Cabinet of hard core loyalists and pathetic sycophants would never vote to remove its Dear Leader unless Vice President Mike Pence is a lot more Machiavellian than we all believe. And do we really want America's government run by Machiavellian Mike Pence? Which leaves....

Impeachment: Unlike the 25th Amendment, this could actually happen especially with opposition Democrats now controlling the House. In recent weeks, there's been a weird interplay between the president's Great Unraveling and the House impeachment process, which has been proceeding unofficially at a snail's pace, weighed down by the opposition from the one Democrat with too much power over the process, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"The public isn't there on impeachment," Pelosi said after a week in which maybe a dozen everyday folks asked me, "Do you know what's wrong with the president?" When I say there's been some weird interplay on impeachment, I mean that the public process is very focused on the constitutional language of "high crimes and misdemeanors" and even more narrowly on the Mueller report, which lays out a damning but, frankly, complicated argument for presidential obstruction of justice.

Frankly, there's better impeachment cases in Trump's role as "Individual-One" in a campaign-finance felony and his nonstop violations of the Emoluments Clause. But despite Pelosi's resistance, a whopping 135 House Democrats have endorsed a full-blown impeachment inquiry. Why the late rush to hop on the impeachment bandwagon? Frankly, I think it's less over "high crimes and misdemeanors" and more over what we can all see with our own eyes. Donald Trump is simply unfit.

So now what? If the 243-year history of the American Experience has taught us anything, it's that we enormously value the will of the people (even if that's sometimes more in theory than in practice). The fact that Trump was able to play Electoral College bingo and rack up 306 (or 304) electoral votes on November 8, 2016 (even as his opponent gained roughly 3 million more popular votes) has been given enormous respect by the political elites arguably too much so, in light of the president's subsequent conduct.

But the only thing that could end Trump's presidency and the threat of a nuclear first strike on hurricanes or whatever before January 20, 2021, is a powerful demonstration that a strong majority of the American people find the current state of affairs intolerable. The people of Puerto Rico showed us the way clogging the streets of San Juan until the rule of an arguably much-less-unfit-than-Trump governor was over.

If Nancy Pelosi needs to be shown the people are "there" on impeaching Trump, then people need to show her, dramatically. The only workable fix for a broken democracy is the will of the people if necessary, expressed with our marching boots.

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Will Bunch is author of the new "Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future", published by Free Press, which examines the calculated effort by the modern right wing to canonize the 40th president, (more...)

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