FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Is Trump Proving That the System Actually Works?

Perhaps one of the most overused phrases in the news and among commentators is the phrase “constitutional crisis,” especially as it applies to a cluster of issues surrounding the Donald Trump presidency including whether he can be indicted or if, as an anonymous NY Times op-ed asserts, administration officials are part of a resistence to limit his action. I am not sure what the term means, but there is no constitutional crisis when it comes to Donald Trump, the “system” is working whether we like it or not.

A constitutional crisis means a situation where the Constitution and the laws cannot handle or address a specific situation and we are left totally with non-constitutional solutions to address a problem.  This is not happening here.  When Trump was first elected, I began giving a series of talks that continue to today.  In those first talks I said that there was something remarkable the day after the election–there were no tanks in the streets or troops on the corner.  I said that what will largely happen is that the Trump administration will confront this nasty thing called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and both will largely do their job.   Lacking government experience and an inclination to want to learn, Trump would face the checks and balances and separation of powers limits that the Constitution imposes.  Moreover, for Trump to get anything done he and his administration needed to secure the assistance of the 3,000 or so members of the Senior  Executive Service–SES–the careerists who really run the federal government.  Finally, were Trump to exceed the political boundaries of what Americans could tolerate, elections would be the final remedy.

Largely, all of this is happening now. Legal investigations are tightening the noose around Trump. His and the Republican overreach and ineptness will produce electoral results that will hold him Trump accountable, or at least check him, and the complex system of administrative law and members of the SES or the bureaucracy also are checking the president.  All of this is consistent with the Constitution and its design.

Additionally, as the special prosecutor finishes his investigation, we may soon find Trump and others facing criminal charges.  If a sitting president can be indicted for federal crimes, then the criminal justice process will render a final verdict.  If a sitting president cannot be indicted–and we do not have a clear answer to that question–then possible impeachment or simply voter retribution against him or Republicans may occur.  Trump of course can pardon those accused of committing federal crimes, but he cannot issue pardons for impeachment, civil action, or state crimes.  It is also unlikely anyone would seriously argue the president can pardon himself.

Even if Trump were to fire the special prosecutor, he cannot remove the federal career prosecutor in New York who went after Michael Cohen, and even if he does fire him, Trump cannot fire the Manhattan Borough district attorney or New York State Attorney General who are investigating charges against Trump and his foundation.  It is also an open legal question regarding whether a sitting president could prevent facing state criminal charges.  And the Supreme Court has already ruled that a sitting president can  face civil law suits.  Federal courts have already ruled against Trump on many key issues, and more adverse decisions will come.  Overall, regarding of who sits on the Supreme Court, Trump will face monumental legal challenges that have already checked much of his behavior.

Even if the legal process breaks down, the final verdict lies with the people.  Barack Obama said it well in his Friday, September 7, 2018 speech when he said that: “Because there is actually only on real check on bad policy and abuses of power, and that’s you. You and your vote.”  Elections are the ultimate check on abuses of power, and they are provided for in the Constitution.  Trump’s overreach appears to be producing renewed interest to vote and perhaps will yield significant Democrat Party  turnout that will correct and check the worst of the abuses.  2020 may too be another verdict.

The Constitution is proving to be able to address or anticipate many of the problems we are seeing, acting as disciplinary tool to define mainstream political economic orthodoxy. Trump has not precipitated a new constitutional crisis. Maybe there is a political crisis but not a constitutional one.  The Constitution is mostly a process document, not one of substantive public policy.  Yes Trump and Congress have enacted many ugly policies that hurt people.  When I say the system works, I do not mean it produces the policy outcomes that I want or which liberals may desire.  The system is working for many of the ways it was designed to work, which was undemocratic from the start.  The Electoral College is by today’s standards undemocratic but it may be working the way it is supposed in the sense that it checks real populism.  The structure of the US Senate that favors rural and less populous interests too is undemocratic.  And one can argue that it is no coincidence that the racial, economic, and overall demographic profile of the people who head the government and the economic institutions of the United States today look a lot like the people who were the constitutional framers.

If there is a constitutional crisis, it is because the Constitution may be working in ways it was supposed to, it is just not the way many of us like.

 

More articles by:

David Schultz is a professor of political science at Hamline University. He is the author of Presidential Swing States:  Why Only Ten Matter.

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail