The Real Constitutional Crisis: The Constitution

Signing the Constitution, September 17, 1787 – Public Domain

It has been amusing to hear liberal commentators say over and over that the malignant racist rogue president Donald “I am the World’s Greatest Person” Trump is precisely the sort of terrible tyrant the United States Founding Fathers had in mind when they devised their “genius” Constitutional system of “checks and balances.” The Tiny-fingered, Tangerine-Tinted, Twitter-Tantruming Tyrant Trump (hereafter “T7”) owes his ascendancy to the White House and his continued presence there largely to the U.S. Constitution.

Ballot-marked by roughly a quarter of eligible U.S. voters in 2016, the venal aspiring fascist strongman T7 remains too transparently terrible a human being to win support from most U.S.-American voters. But so what? The hallowed 1787 parchment’s Electoral College system permits someone to ascend to the White House without winning a majority in the national popular presidential vote. Majority support is not required under the constitutionally prescribed U.S. electoral system. A President Elect does not have to win most of the votes from the very modest majority (just 55% in 2016) of the U.S. electorate that bothers to participate in the nation’s money- marinated presidential elections. The Constitution’s absurd, democracy-flunking Electoral College significantly inflates the “democratic” electoral voice of the nation’s most reactionary, white, racist, rural, and “red” (Republican) states by rendering popular vote totals irrelevant in more urban, racially diverse, high population, and reliably “blue” (Democratic) states. It grants slightly populated “red” states a disproportionately high number of collegiate Electors.

It is openly ridiculous, from a democratic, one-person-one vote perspective.

(Incidentally, Puerto Rico is a preponderantly Latinx U.S. territory that is home to more than three million people who pay U.S. [payroll, business, and estate] taxes but have no Electoral College votes even as they help fund the U.S. government [The same is true for other U.S. territories]. It has a bigger population than do seventeen U.S. states, all of whom have at least three presidential Electors and four of which [Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, and Nevada] have six Electors. The combined total population of the nation’s four least populous states [Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, and North Dakota] is less than that of Puerto Rico alone. Those very predominantly white four states together have twelve presidential Electors.)

A different way in which T7 (the tiny-fingered, tangerine-tinted, Twitter-tantruming tyrant Trump) owes his 2016 victory to the Constitution is less obvious. As has been documented at length, T7 was elected largely because the neoliberal-corporate-globalist Obama-Clinton Democrats demobilized the nation’s all-too silent progressive majority. The dismal-dollar-drenched Democratic Party – the nation’s perennial Inauthentic Opposition and Fake Resistance – is vote-depressingly awful thanks in great part to the distorting role big-money campaign contributions play in determining the outcomes of the nation’s ever more preposterously expensive elections. And that role is attributable in no small measure to the holy Constitution. The Founders created the Supreme Court as a critical, presidentially appointed-for-life check on the popular will. And in two landmark decisions, Buckley v. Valeo (1976) and Citizens United (2010), the high court has ruled (in total violation of majority public opinion) that private campaign contributions are “free speech” and that there are no limits to be legally set on how much the rich and powerful can invest in the giant organized bribery project that is U.S. campaign finance. With full Supreme Court approval, the American money-politics system subjects U.S. candidates to what current US Congressman Jamin Raskin (D-MD) once accurately described as “the wealth primary” – the requirement that one either possess vast personal wealth or access to others’ vast personal wealth in order to make viable runs for elective office. T7 rode the money-politics “wealth primary” to power indirectly, through election investors’ demobilizing impact on the Democratic vote, and directly, through Trump’s self-financing (decisive in the primaries along with massive free media promotion) and campaign backing from right-wing moguls like Robert Mercer and Sheldon Adelson (critical to T7’s success in the general election).

Equally if not more horrendous is the Constitution’s role in preventing T7’s properly rapid removal. T7 announced its wretched unsuitability for the office to which it had arisen on its very first day in power. That’s when it gave a mind-bogglingly moronic, delusional, and disjointed “speech” at the CIA’s headquarters. It blustered that “we should have kept [Iraq’s] oil” and that “maybe you’ll have another chance” (to get “the oil”).   The dementia-addled low-lights included passages like these:

“I know a lot about West Point…Every time I say I had an uncle who was a great math professor at MIT…who did a fantastic job …and then they say, Is Donald Trump an intellectual? Trust me, I’m like a smart person…You know, when I was young. Of course I feel young – I feel like I was 30, 35….39…Somebody said are you young? I said I think I’m young…I remember hearing from one of my instructors, the United States has never lost a war. And then, after that, it’s like we haven’t won anything. You know the old expression, to the victory belongs the spoils? You remember I always say keep the oil….we should have kept the oil….But okay, maybe you’ll have another chance ….as you know I have a running war with the media, they are among the most dishonest human beings on earth…”

“In the seconds after [T7’s CIA monologue] finished,” Michael Wolff has recounted, “you could hear a pin drop.” The rest, as the saying goes, is history: think Charlottesville, “shithole nations,” concentration camps, the fake national emergency, the Nativist Wall, the criminal diversion of taxpayer funds, “go back to the crime-ridden countries you came from,” Kavanaugh, reckless environmental deregulation, the abrogation of asylum rights, record-setting drone war, “fire and fury,” “I might end birthright citizenship,” threats of “tough guy” violence if Congress or voters try to remove him from office, disfigured weather maps, the torture of Puerto Rico, covering for Saudi Arabia’s dismemberment of a dissident journalist, the torture of Yemen, 10,000 false statements, Alabama Hurricane threat, “no obstruction,” “the Blacks love me,” “my perfect phone call,” “the Kurds are very happy,” “this phony emoluments clause”….the maddening list of T7’s offenses goes on and on and on. An activist Website gives the following daunting list of offenses for which the aspiring fascist strongman deserves impeachment: Violation of Constitution on Domestic Emoluments; Violation of Constitution on Foreign Emoluments; Incitement of Violence; Interference With Voting Rights; Discrimination Based On Religion; Illegal War; Illegal Threat of Nuclear War; Abuse of Pardon Power; Obstruction of Justice; Politicizing Prosecutions; Failure to Reasonably Prepare for or Respond to Hurricanes Harvey and Maria; Separating Children and Infants from Families; Illegally Attempting to Influence an Election Tax Fraud and Public Misrepresentation; Assaulting Freedom of the Press; Supporting a Coup in Venezuela; Unconstitutional Declaration of Emergency; Instructing Border Patrol to Violate the Law; Refusal to Comply With Subpoenas; Declaration of Emergency Without Basis In Order to Violate the Will of Congress; Illegal Proliferation of Nuclear Technology; Illegally Removing the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. I would add one: the criminal acceleration of Ecocide, the biggest issue of our or any time. Trump has brazenly violated his oath to serve the General Welfare by doing everything he can to turn the world into a giant Greenhouse Gas Chamber as soon as possible. (Where Burisma-Biden-Gate ranks on this list is a matter of ideologically mediated interpretation.) Meanwhile, T7’s dreadful and Huxwellian womanchild adviser Kellyanne Conway tells us that it “needs to tweet like the rest of us need to eat.”

But right on Day One, with T7’s insane, rambling CIA oration, it should have been clear as day that Malignant Orange was mentally (as well as morally) unfit for the demanding position to which it had been so absurdly yet constitutionally elevated. The “Stable Genius” is, among other terrible things, an abject dotard. An immediate Vote of No Confidence should have been immediately held in Congress, mandating the calling of a new national presidential election as soon as possible.

But, of course, no such commonsensical parliamentary procedure is permitted under the U.S. Constitution, which mandates absurdly time-staggered and strictly scheduled presidential elections just once every four years. That’s the ridiculously brief and spaced-out window when the corporate-managed citizenry gets it absurdly filtered (Electorally Collegialized) “input” on who sits in the nation’s most powerful job (the world’s most powerful job after 1945): two minutes once every 1460 days.

There is, it is true, a Constitutional procedure for the removal of a president on the grounds of incapacity – the 25th Amendment. But nobody takes this remedy seriously, short of a finally crippling presidential stroke or some other White House calamity/Godsend that renders T7 unable to tweet. Even if T7 could be Twenty-Fifthed out of the Oval Office, the process would only give the White House (under our “genius” Constitution) to demented evangelical fascist, Mike Pence. Who wants his apocalyptic fingers on the nuclear codes even for one day?

There is of course the impeachment path. Impeachment is now very likely thanks to the Democrats’ electoral takeover of the House of Representatives and to T7 getting its venal little red hands caught in the “deep state” Ukraine-Biden-Burisma cookie jar (Burisma-Biden Gate). But actual removal is unlikely under the nation’s sacred parchment because the U.S. Senate is majority Republican and therefore likely to hand T7 an “exoneration” he could use as an electoral asset next November. It requires just a simple majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to impeach but two-thirds of the U.S. Senate to remove a president under “our” beloved Constitution. We’ve had two presidential impeachments (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton) in U.S. history but no removals, though the evil nut-job Richard Nixon (who Trump thinks was “framed”) would have been both impeached and removed had he not resigned first

It might seem absurd that the U.S. Senate is majority-Republican given the fact the Trumpified Republican Party is widely hated and deeply unpopular in the United States. But this irrationality (from a democratic perspective, at least) is fully constitutional, for the nation’s unjustly hallowed charter grossly exaggerates the Senate voice of the nation’s whitest, most reactionary, Republican, gun-addicted, racist, and proto-fascistic regions. The Constitution assigns two Senators to each U.S. state regardless of (steep) differences in state population.

Like the Electoral College, it’s totally ludicrous from a democratic standpoint. “Red” (Republican) Wyoming, home to 573,720 Americans, holds U.S. Senatorial parity with “blue” (Democratic) California, where more than 39 million Americans reside. That’s one U.S. Senator for every 19.5 million Californians versus one U.S. Senator for every 287,000 Wyoming residents.

Just one of New York City’s 5 boroughs, bright-blue Brooklyn, has 2.6 million people. If Brooklyn were a state and US Senators were apportioned there with the same populace-to-Senator ratio as red Wyoming, Brooklyn would have 9 U.S. Senators, al Democrats.

The following 13 states together have a combined population of roughly 34. 4 million: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.  Together these 13 “red states” send 26 Republicans to the U.S. Senate. The single “blue state” of California, with a population more than 5 million higher than these 13 states combined, sends 2 Democrats to the upper chamber of Congress.

Due to “a growing population shift from the agricultural interior to crowded corridors along the coast,” Daniel Lazare noted two years ago, it is mathematically possible now to “cobble together a Senate majority with states that account for just 17.6 percent of the popular vote.”

(And by the way, the bright blue District of Columbia is home to 693,972 people, more than all of Wyoming and just roughly 46,000 less than that of Alaska.  It is absurdly denied voting representation in either the House or the Senate.)

This preposterous (from a pro-democracy perspective) apportionment system means that the Republican Senate majority answers to a very disproportionately white, rural, and reactionary section of the electorate.

How idiotic (from a democracy standpoint) is that?

And what, by the way, would the impeachment and removal of Herr Donald give the nation under the “genius” Constitution but the presidency of the arch-right-wing Christian Fascist Mike Pence? There’s a case to be made for impeaching and removing Trump anyway, but Pence’s constitutionally ordained ascendancy is no small negative incentive.

Look at the following passage from Nancy Pelosi’s recent House floor speech in support of open impeachment hearings on the orange malignancy’s abuse of power in the Biden-Burisma Gate case:

“And, what is at stake?  What is at stake, in all of this, is nothing less than our democracy…I proudly stand next to the flag…which stands for our democracy. When Benjamin Franklin came out of Independence Hall –  you heard this over and over – on September 17, 1787, the day our Constitution was adopted, he came out of Independence Hall, people said to him, ‘Dr. Franklin, what do we have a monarchy or a republic?’  And, he said, as you know, he said, ‘A republic, if we can keep it.’  If we can keep it.”

“And this Constitution is the blueprint for our republic and not a monarchy.  But, when we have a President who says, ‘Article II says I can do whatever I want,’ that is in defiance of the separation of powers.  That’s not what our Constitution says. So, what is at stake is our democracy.  What are we fighting for?  Defending our democracy for the people.”

You know in the early days of our revolution, Thomas Paine said, ‘The times have found us.’  The times found our Founders to declare independence from a monarchy, to fight a war of independence, write our founding documents and thank God they made them amendable so we can always be expanding freedom.  And, the genius, again that genius of that Constitution was the separation of power.  Any usurping of that power is a violation of our oath of office.  So, proudly, you all, we all raised our hands to protect and defend and support the Constitution of the United States.  That’s what this vote is about.”

“Today – we think the time found our Founders, the times found others in the course of our history to protect our democracy, to keep our country united.  The times have found each and every one of us in this room and in our country to pay attention to how we protect and defend the Constitution of the United States – honoring the vision of our Founders who declared independence from a monarch and established a country contrary to that principle, honoring men and women in uniform who fight for our freedom and for our democracy and honoring the aspirations of our children so that no President, whoever he or she may be in the future, could decide that Article II says they can do whatever they want… let us honor our oath of office.  Let us defend our democracy” (emphasis added).

Notice anything wrong here? Pelosi accurately described the nature of the government blueprinted by the ruling-class Founders just one time: a republic. She got it wrong six times when she called it “our democracy.” As I have shown (with no special claim of originality) here and elsewhere on numerous occasions, democracy – the rule of the popular majority – was the last thing the Founding Fathers of the United States ever wanted to see break out in their newly created white male property-holders’ republic, which later developed into a corporate state-capitalist oligarchy. Their charter was brilliantly crafted precisely to keep democracy at bay in numerous ways that cripple our efforts to practice serious popular sovereignty 232 years later.

At the same time, even the explicitly non-democratic “small-r” republican promise of intra-elite checks and balances is undermined today by hyper-partisan politics so extreme that 9 in 10 Republicans oppose the House impeachment inquiry while 9 in 10 Democrats support it. The Founders’ “genius” scheme was always flawed by the possibility, indeed likelihood, of party politics overriding the Constitution’s heralded checks and balances. What does Congress’ and/or the Supreme Court’s supposedly grand institutional power to check the tyranny of the imperial presidency really mean when Congress’s powerful upper body (the Senate) and the high court (whose presidential for-life appointees are approved only by the Senate) is controlled by the same party that controls the White House?

Candidate Trump was not that far off when he said that his Red State party base would still back him even if he “st[ood] in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot somebody.” None of T7’s long list of sickening outrages (of which the Ukraine-Biden scandal is just one example and arguably not the worst one) have shaken the dedicated support T7’s white-Amerikaner “heartland” fans give their Dear “Make America Hate Again” Leader. At this point, one has to wonder if real-time video of the orange malignancy dismembering and eating live children could dent their faith in the Great God Trump. T7 taps his neofascist base’s lust for an authoritarian master who smites liberal and left elites and puts brown-skinned people back in “their place.” The herrenvolk are sticking by their Manimal president come Hell or high water. Many among the nation’s heavily armed white male militia cohort are ready to go “full animal” themselves, proclaiming their readiness to act on the Great God’s not-so veiled call for “Civil War” if Congress acts seriously on its constitutional duty to check the current tyrannical POTUS. Even Major League Baseball umpire Rob Blake has tweeted that he will buy an assault rifle to use in “CIVAL WAR” if Trump is impeached.

It’s depressing that a third or so of the electorate clings so tenaciously to the noxious neofascist sociopath in the White House. But it is equally demoralizing that T7’s “deplorable” (something horrible Hillary got right) base enjoys such absurdly outsized political voice in the fake-democracy granted to us by our slave-owning “founders,” for whom popular sovereignty (democracy) was a dreadful specter much to be checkmated in advance.

To no small degree, “our” (their) archaic Constitution is the constitutional crisis. It helped hatched the Trumpenstein and it is helping keep it in office perhaps for five or, God help us, more years. The way to get rid of this terrible tyrant is through a mass and prolonged popular rebellion that includes among its demands the call for a new national charter, one that includes among its provisions (just for starters) the abolition of anti-democratic absurdities like the Electoral College, the disenfranchisements of Puerto Rico and Washington DC, the provision of two Senators to each state regardless of its population size, the lifetime appointment of Supreme Court Justices, and the eviction of private money from public elections. The whole damn system that spat up/shat out Malignant Orange is guilty as Hell. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote not long before his death, “the real issue to be faced” beyond superficial matters is “the radical reconstruction of society itself.”

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).