After what seems like an eternity since the election, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States this week. Whilst the initial shock of the election result has started to wear off it has been replaced with the smaller, but more frequent shocks of how a Trump Presidency is shaping up.
Donald Trump, as might have been predicted, is acting like a man with a big mandate to govern but in a style that is all his own. Those who had insisted and expected that he would start to conform to a more traditional approach to the role of President and Commander-in-Chief, are starting to realize that wishful thinking was the basis of their analysis rather than observing the history and actions of the man elected.
As the reality sets in, the latest ways of thwarting him, are being mooted and explored, including Impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment (more below).
It is likely that there will be many opportunities for impeachment in the future as Trump and his actions cause outrage, but it is his and his team's connections to Russia that are the focus at the moment. Having dealings with a foreign and possibly 'enemy' power to subvert an election is not just illegal it is also potentially treasonous. The Republicans whilst initially reluctant to explore what has happened, are now more interested in investigating the allegations that have emerged. This could be a slow ticking time-bomb for Trump and one that might haunt and undermine his presidency, if not bring it down. Accusations of working with outside forces to win an election are not new territory. Richard Nixon's campaign in 1968 has been accused of secretly undermining peace talks with the North Vietnamese to stop Hubert Humphrey gaining credit for any peace developments. Ronald Reagan's team is blamed for the ultimate October Surprise in using back channels to stop the American Embassy hostages in Iran being released before Election Day and thus giving President Carter a last minute boost.
Using the 25th Amendment is uncharted territory. The Vice President and the majority of the Cabinet would have to provide a written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. The original motivation of the Amendment was to deal with health or other incapacity of a President, so what would be the rational and legitimacy of using it to remove a sitting President who was in seemingly good health? It would essentially be a coup d'état but unlikely to be delivered by the men that Trump has hand-picked himself.
If the last year has taught us anything, it is that nothing should be ruled out, even though these seem to be yet more of the Stop Trump schemes that have so far come to nothing. It is worth remembering things that were going to derail him at various stages: the other 16 well qualified Republican candidates who the public would find far safer; Marco Rubio's attempt to take him down in one of the Republican debates; Governor Kasich and Senator Cruz's Pact in the final stages of the primary season to have one of them beat him; the talk of his nomination being overturned at a brokered Convention; the Access Hollywood tape that would force him to give up the nomination; to name a few. All came to nothing, and like Jason from 'Friday the Thirteenth' and Michael Myers from 'Halloween', just when you thought it was all over, he reared his head again.
The loss of the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by over 2% is seen as grounds for him to lack legitimacy, added to the obvious fact that he didn't gain the majority of the vote. However, it is not the first, but in fact the fifth time, that the winner of the popular vote didn't become President. Most recently, George W. Bush in 2000 launched into his Presidency with gusto and acted as having a mandate. He won re-election more convincingly four years later. It is also worth pointing out that neither he nor Bill Clinton won over 50% of the vote in any of their presidential elections.
The rules are the rules, and it is clear that Donald Trump won under the rules that exist. How he won is more debatable, but in a democracy trying to thwart the will of the people without very good cause is a dangerous game, and sets all sort of unpredictable precedents.
The words of Democratic politician and strategist Dick Tuck come to mind. After he ran for the California State Senate in 1966, but finished second in a crowded field, Tuck said: "Well, the people have spoken-- the bastards."