Less than a year from now, the United States may be in the grip of another Trump-generated Constitutional crisis. The presidential election will be over—at least for those of us who believe in the Constitution and are ready to accept the outcome of the election even if our preferred candidate loses.
Unfortunately, the probability of another Constitutional crisis—another insurrection—is increasing. Donald Trump is again running for president and is unlikely to win without cheating. Or so one can hope.
Why does Trump remain at the center of the American political stage? Despite Trump’s legal, financial, and psychological problems, many Republicans still prefer him as their standard bearer over anyone else. How a foul-mouthed candidate who led Republicans to a mid-term election debacle last year, who has been described as a rapist by a New York Judge, and is facing 41 felony counts, remains popular defies understanding. One must ask, is Trump’s nomination and possible election to another term as president inevitable?
Let’s hope not. But it will take more than hope to get the defeated election denier off the political stage. If we know nothing else about Trump, it is that he will not easily give up his dream of returning to power. To prevent Trump’s return to the White House, it will take a village. That village would be composed of people willing to try to persuade Trump supporters to walk away from their candidate. Put another way, the effort is getting Trump supporters to think about what values they are supporting in continuing to choose Trump over the alternatives.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I jotted down a list of five qualities needed in a successful American president. At the top of the list is allegiance to the Constitution. The other qualities are honesty, humility, sanity, and commitment. Trump has none of these qualities. The effort to persuade Trump supporters to abandon Trump requires, I think, getting them to reassess their support for Trump through this or a similar analysis.
Trump regularly professes his love for America. Have you seen the picture of him hugging an American flag at a campaign rally? But that love does not include the Constitution. In 2022 he wrote, “A Massive [Election] Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” The Constitution includes the Bill of Rights guaranteeing free speech, freedom of religion and a number of other rights.
Trump’s practice of honesty is reflected by its absence. The Washington Post and other newspapers have called him out for telling more than 10,000 lies. More importantly, former Trump administration officials now acknowledge that Trump knew he had lost the 2020 election and continued to claim otherwise. Is better proof of Trump’s dishonesty possible?
What will it take to convince Republican voters who still believe Trump won the 2020 election that he did not? If Trump knew he lost and knew that the only way to retain power was to set aside the Constitution, why do so many Republicans continue to believe the lies?
And what about humility? Trump has none. But Trump supporters seem to admire that. Trump, a self-described genius, believed he was so smart that he did not need to listen to national security briefings, consult with subject matter experts, or even think about decisions before he made them. The result was four years of “policymaking by gut instinct” that alienated allies, created worries of wars with North Korea and others, resulting in a constant state of chaos.
Interested in a humble president? Try Joe Biden. Biden understands that the job of president is that of leader of a team. In contrast to Trump, Biden’s cabinet and key advisors are experts in their fields, have been free of scandal, and have guided Biden administration policies.
When I listen to Trump campaign rallies, I often turn them off when they descend into insane rantings. When Trump condemns special counsel Jack Smith as “deranged,” promises to put him and various judges and other prosecutors in inpatient psychiatric care, he tells us “I am your retribution” and “I am your justice.” That is insanity. What will it take to get Trumpers to see these speeches as pathological?
Finally, consider what I call commitment. In 2016, when Trump was declared the winner of the presidential election, he saw himself as winning a prize. He won four years of the right to fly around in a 747, to be on TV constantly, and to enjoy all the perks of the office. He did not see himself as accepting an exceptionally demanding job.
The vision of a president who spent mornings watching cable news, regularly played golf throughout his presidency, and devoted hours to Twitter and Facebook (before being banned), is deeply troubling. We need a president who accepts the responsibilities of the presidency. Trump is not that guy.
I am starting to question whether Trump voters will wake up before it is too late for his party to choose someone else to lead their ticket. Anyone else would be an improvement.
I salute those in the Republican party who are calling out Trump and suggesting he drop out of the race. I also salute journalists and media who are stepping up efforts to persuade Trumpers that their leader is a threat to democracy and is not their friend.
Will these efforts work? I retain hope that a combination of things will finally rid us of Trump. The GOP still has time to find an alternative candidate, but it will take a village, including many of us who are not Republicans and do not plan to vote for the party’s candidate to make that happen.
Be part of that village. If you see something (a dangerous candidate who has already admitted to rejecting democracy), do something.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, and other subjects.