Better brush up on the 25th Amendment if Trump wins

The conventions are over. The tweets and the tantrums have only just intensified.  President Obama played it cool, telling us not to fret or to worry. Instead he said, if you’re mad, or scared don’t boo: Vote. Still, it is hard not to worry or to fret; one-man-one-vote only goes so far within the scope of our electoral college. As such, a Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpO’Malley tells Dems not to fear Trump Right way and wrong way Five things to know about the elephant trophies controversy MORE Presidency is no laughing matter, not anymore. Unfortunately, it never was!

Despite her party’s successes in Philadelphia, Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonO’Malley tells Dems not to fear Trump FBI informant gathered years of evidence on Russian push for US nuclear fuel deals, including Uranium One, memos show Pelosi blasts California Republicans for supporting tax bill MORE has a long way to go to earn the trust of Americans. Her election is not inevitable, which is nearly unthinkable given who her chief rival is. Trump, the business mogul, reality television star and twitter handler could very well become the next president and leader of the free world.

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As Trump’s campaign morphed from a political gamble and business risk, to winning and winning big, the Republican Party elected to nominate a man who wears his emotions on his twitter page. Trump is not discreet; he is not 140 characters shy. He routinely mixes bravado, mendacity, imprudent rhetoric and violent imagery to offer Americans a dark and gloomy alternative to Washington’s recipe for gridlock. It's Trump’s political game: to tear down and to personally attack his opponents. It is prudent and justified to question Trump’s fitness for the role of President of the United States.

As someone who works in the health and mental health field, the mere possibility of a Donald Trump presidency alarms me. How did he pass the proverbial litmus test? Did Trump’s privilege and billions of dollars in assets prevent his party from fully evaluating his competence to lead America, and the free world? Hindsight is always 20/20.

I understand the process by which Trump ran, was elected by voters, and was finally nominated by delegates of the GOP to be at the head of his party’s ballot. As a former student of history, I know that the democratic process must be respected, not resented. It’s why democracy works: it represents the voice of the masses, even the voiceless.            

For democracy to continue to work, Americans must do their homework and prepare for a Trump Presidency.  

To prepare for a Trump Presidency, I urge Americans to study and to know the 25th Amendment. Knowing what we know now about Trump, e.g., how he thinks and how he reacts, it is a real possibility that his cabinet might have to exercise their rights under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, specifically Article II Section IV.

Article II Section IV reads: “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

The 25th Amendment was ratified in 1967, as a clarification to Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the U.S. Constitution. The 25th Amendment deals with the succession of the Presidency, especially at a time when the sitting President becomes unable, incapable or unfit to perform the duties of his or her office. It also establishes procedures to fill a vacancy left by the Vice President. It is essentially a safeguard against a president who runs amuck, or who goes insane, or who cannot fulfill his or her duties as commander and chief and leader of the union of 50 states. 

To me, it is more likely than ever before that Article II Section IV of the 25 Amendment could be enacted during a Trump Presidency. Why? Two of Donald Trump’s remarks trouble me the most.

First, Trump encouraged Russia to hack the private emails of the former Secretary of State, to produce for the media the 30,000 plus missing emails. He encouraged espionage by a non-ally and threat to the security of the United States. Essentially Trump called for a direct breach of his own government’s classified information carrying system. Some consider this type of speak treasonous. Later, Trump played it all off as “sarcasm”.

Second, Donald Trump has revealed a negative temperament, threatening violence: "to hit" his opponents, e.g., the men and women who criticize him. He quickly calls the media dishonest, telling his supporters that “we have to win” despite a “rigged system”. He repeatedly tells the media to “shut up”, even openly mocking one reporter with a disability. He tells his followers that our country is “going to hell”. Trump is a false prophet.

Sadly, such a questionable temperament will follow Trump (if elected) from his palatial residence to the White House.  But it is not merely sad; it is of grave concern to me that Trump has a legitimate chance to become President. As President, Trump will have access to nuclear codes, an ability to send our military and our reservists into combat.

Please note, Trump’s remarks are made as a private citizen who is only now running for office, he is not actually elected to that office. My point is: if Trump were President how would an immediate and timely invocation of the 25th Amendment protect our country?

Back to the race for President, where the mind of Trump the citizen, let alone presidential candidate worries me. For instance, he all-too-easily infects his followers with vitriol, becoming in many ways a lord of the flies. But Trump is no mere pest.  America’s children are tuning in and listening to Trump, much more than they do to Clinton. Look at the ratings.

Our children and our children's children should never expect their President to threaten someone or anyone with physical or emotional violence. Trump tells us that he is a Presbyterian, a Christian. Christians are taught to put their swords back in their place. Further, one Proverb goes like this, "Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways." Thankfully, the 25th Amendment to the Constitution will allow for a legitimate (legal) remedy to remove Trump from office if his cabinet discerns him incapable of carrying out the duties of his office.

This election, America will see continuity in the election of a new President and Vice-President. In 2016, context matters. This primary season and its concomitant conventions have revealed just what Donald Trump might do under significant pressure from dictators, terrorists, even when confronted by criticism by other businessmen or members of the Democratic Party.

When America was founded it put in place a system of checks and balances to ensure the efficacious running of the country. Over time various Amendments to the U.S. Constitution have helped the country run effectively, to include more people in our democracy, to safeguard against the rule of a tyrannical, unstable demagogue.

Since ratification, the 25th Amendment was invoked six times. What will happen if Trump is pushed to a breaking point? Already he has demonstrated a negative temperament, one with little room for discernment, strength and poise. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it best about the real Donald Trump: “Imagine—if you dare, imagine—imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

I do not envy Trump; I do not support his lack of vision for America, or that his proposals lack measure or detail. I, like all Americans, must prepare for the possibility of a Trump Presidency. I, like all Americans must get to know the 25th Amendment better, and quickly.

Brenkert is a New York based writer. He writes for The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post. This fall, he will begin a doctorate in education at Teachers College, Columbia University.


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