Do Americans deserve the right to recall a president?
During former President Trump’s administration, hundreds of thousands of Americans looked for a way to impeach or recall him to get him out of office. Change.org attempted to give them a platform to channel their angst and anger. Through various petitions, the group collected more than 6 million signatures from people wanting to hold Trump “accountable,” impeach him, or recall his election.
“We, the undersigned, have no confidence in Donald Trump’s ability to lead our country,” read one petition. “He is unfit for office, he is a national embarrassment … he is hopelessly compromised, blatantly unethical, and demonstrably ignorant. The best and most expedient method to replace him with a fit POTUS is a national recall election, and the sooner the better before he and his administration can do more harm.”
There you have it: Grassroots democracy in action.
One might safely assume that those who signed this petition would be hesitant to apply even one of those charges to President Biden or his family, but it is also safe to assume that millions of other Americans would be thrilled to do just that.
All of this begs the question: In our age of polarized politics, in which no one wants to give an inch on any subject, is there an option for one side or the other to actually recall a U.S. president? The answer is “No.”
And that leads to another question: Do the American people deserve the right to recall a president?
Once again, in our hate-filled political times, that seems like an option that millions of Americans on both sides of the “We are always right — you are always wrong” divide would support wholeheartedly.
Most everything is now sadly viewed through partisan, self-serving lenses. But what if voters did elect a U.S. president who even a great many people from the opposing side agreed was truly incompetent, corrupt, personally flawed or obviously uninterested in the welfare of the American people?
And what if that embarrassment of a president’s negative attributes and liabilities still did not enable the 25th Amendment to be invoked? Section IV of that amendment — which was quoted ad nauseam by liberals as a vehicle to remove Trump from the White House — reads:
“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department 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.”
Clearly, that section can put too much power and temptation into the hands of a small group of people to attempt to invalidate the greater will of the American people for partisan means.
But what if the American people decide that the president — maybe even one for whom they voted — is no longer serving the nation and clearly does not have their best interests at heart? Do “We, the People” have to suffer another few years from the damage that could be inflicted by such a president — one who could unravel our national and economic security as he or she bumbles about the Oval Office? The answer is “Yes, we do.”
So, what’s one possible solution to this dilemma? A new constitutional amendment to allow for a president’s recall.
At the federal level, there is no mechanism to recall elected officials, not even members of Congress. But, as we just witnessed with the failed attempt to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom, that option does exist in a number of states and cities.
The need for the American people to have the option to recall a president has been floated a number of times. In 1951, Robert Hendrickson, a Republican senator from New Jersey, possibly tired of almost two decades of Democratic rule from the White House, offered up just such a constitutional amendment. The suggestion went nowhere, but it is an idea that could be gaining steam among partisan Americans.
How then to bring about the ability to recall a president?
Step one might be to offer the option to voters during a national election. Would a majority of them agree that such an escape clause should be available to them? If they vote yes, then an amendment to recall a president should be given serious consideration.
Common sense would dictate that if we can recall a mayor or a governor who can do irreparable harm to a city or a state, we should be able to save the nation from the same fate. Unfortunately, until that “do-over” is granted, we are stuck with the mistake the majority of Americans made in the voting booth.
Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.