Some of the more volatile rhetoric that has sprouted as the election approaches is a disturbing suggestion that President Trump follow the steps of foreign dictators who have suspended their constitutions and assumed absolute power.
To be sure these are trying times, but we doubt the American people would tolerate such a move — even if they generally support Trump, his positions and his policies. Despite the challenges that face us today, such extreme measures needn’t be considered. Despite our current national discomfort with a raging viral pandemic and social unrest in many U.S. cities, this nation has endured much worse. And we’ve never had to miss an election.
One high-profile Trump supporter who says that times are too tough to hold elections is Roger Stone, the longtime Trump adviser who was pardoned after he was sentenced to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress and interfering with witnesses during the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Stone said the November election shouldn’t be held, and if it is and Trump is defeated, he should seize all ballots, invalidate the vote, assume absolute power and jail his critics.
Trump himself has suggested that he expects the election to be fraudulent and earlier this year said he was thinking of postponing the November vote, until he was informed that he did not have the authority to do so. He also has said that if he wins he plans to seek a third term, even though the Constitution prohibits it.
Our nation’s governing document would have to be amended by repealing the 22nd Amendment, which sets the presidential term limit. A new amendment would have to be approved by two-thirds majorities of both the House and Senate, then ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures. Even if all Republican Congress members support repealing the term limit, neither chamber has the majority needed to pass the amendment. The upcoming elections aren’t likely to give either party such a majority. If it did, 38 states would have to endorse it; currently, 31 state legislatures have Republican Party majorities.
It is worth noting that such a repeal would enable Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and George W. Bush to all run for a third term, if they chose to do so. Such a battle of heavyweights surely would be a sight to see.
Nor is any of our social troubles bad enough to warrant the suspension of the Constitution or imposition of martial law. Our nation has suffered pandemics worse than the current COVID-19 outbreak, and before vaccinations and other medical advancements, diseases including the flu, polio, tuberculosis, smallpox and other now-controlled diseases caused significant reductions in our nation’s population every year. Protests in some American cities, some of them violent, don’t compare to the nationwide unrest during the civil rights era and protests against the Vietnam War. And our economic conditions pale against the strains of the Great Depression.
Even the Civil War, which rent our country against itself, didn’t interrupt our presidential elections.
No matter what the outcome in November, Americans should remember that despite greater challenges of the past, our system of elections has never failed. It deserves our continued confidence.