The Philistine

Apart from God, Only Trump Can Stop Trump

The defeat of Donald Trump in 2020 saved American democracy. Not from Donald Trump: he never shut down websites, imprisoned protesters, or sicked the security services on his opponents. No, if anything, the 2020 election saved American democracy for Donald Trump. The four-year Trump pause that began on January 20, 2021, put the grown-ups back in charge in Washington—and the world. Like grown-ups everywhere, they immediately maxed out their credit cards, mortgaged the family home, stabbed their friends in the back, picked fights with the neighbours, gave stern speeches in their coronavirus masks while posing for unmasked selfies at the Superbowl, and offered nuclear weapons to Iran in exchange for promises to stop supporting terrorism and shift to nuclear blackmail instead. Thanks to the 2020 election, we all know what adult democracy looks like.

It’s a lucky thing, too. Had there been no coronavirus; had the major media not conspired to suppress the Hunter Biden story; had the election been run under the pre-Covid rules, we would now be blaming Trump—for everything. The phase “imagine if Trump had done that” might never have entered the political lexicon. Ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan? Blame the rank amateurism of Trump’s bumbling foreign policy team. Renewed North Korean missile tests? Blame Trump’s personal courting of “little rocket man” Kim Jong-un. Russian invasion of Ukraine? Trump was only waiting for his second term to repay his true master in the Kremlin. Inflation a problem? Impeach Trump under the “emoluments clause” for raising the rack rate at the Trump International Hotel. We would never have known how much better things might have been.

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Luckily, the Democrats didn’t just gain the Presidency in 2020, but both houses of Congress, too. As a result, the House January 6 Committee is free to conduct its insurrection investigation unhindered by budget constraints, Senate interference, or the rule of law. The investigation is absolutely crucial: not satisfied with blanket smartphone footage (and lacking access to the blanket security camera footage that the Democratic Congress refuses to release), the public wants to know what really happened on that “darkest day” of American democracy. And the committee will surely confirm that the Capitol occupation constituted an “insurrection” instigated by then-President Trump against the government of the United States. The committee hopes to bar Trump from running again under the Fourteenth Amendment, since if the American people actually want Trump back, they must be insurrectionists too.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, passed in 1868, guaranteed “the equal protection of the laws” to formerly enslaved African-Americans. Incidentally, it also guaranteed the equal protection of the laws to New York real estate developers, Capitol occupiers, and even former insurrectionists—with one exception. It contains a special clause intended to deny equal rights to the erstwhile President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. Section 3 of the amendment provided that:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.

Parse that, Sydney Law grads. This convoluted language was inserted to deny Davis—a man of modest means—a future living at public expense. Davis had been tried for treason, but acquitted on the clever argument that he had never engaged in treason against the United States because he had renounced his American citizenship before joining the Confederacy. There was thus nothing to prevent his being appointed to a sinecure by a sympathetic southern governor, or even resuming his pre-war seat in the US Senate. Thus the careful language in the clause: no one who had “previously taken an oath … to support the Constitution” and later engaged in insurrection, whatever his citizenship status at the time, could run for Congress or “hold any office … under the United States”. Merely giving “comfort” to the enemies of Nancy Pelosi would, under the Fourteenth Amendment, forever bar any supposed insurrectionist from ever holding office again.

Whatever the Macquarie Street barristers may make of that, careful Quadrant readers will certainly have spotted the loophole. Trump, it turns out, has never “taken an oath … as an officer of the United States” and thus cannot be penalised for having broken it. That’s because the President is not an “officer of the United States”. The Constitution is reasonably clear on this point, always distinguishing between the elected leaders of the executive branch and the “officers” appointed to serve them. And even if that implicit distinction were to be ignored, the amendment itself explicitly enumerates the key positions from which insurrectionists are barred, and does not mention the presidency. Its framers seem to have felt that if Jefferson Davis had the audacity to run for president, he was welcome to give it a shot.

Not to worry: plans are afoot to find other mechanisms through which Trump can be prevented from running for a second term as president (or, should he be afflicted by an unlikely case of humility, a first term as vice-president). Unfortunately for the Democrats, most of these plans involve state laws to keep Trump off ballots, and the Republicans control most of the state legislatures. The fourteen states that the Democrats control outright would back Hillary Clinton anyway (did you really think she would sit this one out?). So absent a wave of never-Trump victories in the 2022 mid-term elections—about as likely as a wave of viral TikTok dance videos emerging from the US Senate—the only person who can stop Trump from running in 2024 is Trump. Or God, should He decide to intervene. And even on that, the Constitution is vague.

Nothing says “democracy” like passing special laws to prevent your opponents from running for office. Still, if the self-described Democratic Party were to succeed in banning Trump, they might be doing the Republicans a favour. Today’s Republican Party has a deep bench of talented demagogues who embrace Trump’s policies and appeal to the Trump electorate but are not yet blocked on Twitter. Trump himself remains the most-disliked politician in America, beating even President Brandon (just)—though it must be admitted that data are not currently available for Hillary Clinton, who holds the unique distinction of being the only presidential candidate ever to become less popular after losing an election. Unsuccessful politicians usually receive an opinion poll bounce as the public forgets their foibles and reassesses their accomplishments. But during the first two years of the Trump administration, Hillary’s approval rating actually fell a further six points.

Gallup hasn’t done any polling on Hillary for four years now, but it may have to reboot its Clinton operation after the 2022 mid-terms. It will certainly have to reboot Trump. Gallup polled non-President Clinton continuously for twenty-six years, from 1992 to 2018, but ceased its Trump polling immediately after the Capitol occupation, pegging him permanently at an all-time low of 34 per cent. In fact, it seems that no one has done any Trump polling since he left office. When pollsters don’t ask an obvious question, it’s usually because they don’t want to know the answer. Can’t live with him, can’t live without him? That may sum up America’s relationship with its least popular president since Andrew Johnson, who after all was only impeached once. Only Trump could have trumped that. It seems that Trump does everything bigly—even impeachment.

If (no, let’s face it: when) Trump runs for president in 2024, it seems unlikely that he will face any serious opposition for the Republican Party nomination. The never-Trumpers are a dying breed, and one that Trump supporters are hunting to extinction. But the Democrats will field an opponent (“anyone but Hillary”, we can hear the party faithful crying), and sometimes even a Zoom avatar on mute can beat the most disliked man in America. Whoever the Democrats run, remember that the presidency is not a popularity contest. As America’s record voter turnout proved in 2020, it’s unpopularity that drives the race. Electioneering is a blood sport, and it’s blood the voters are out for. No one watches Squid Game for the victories. Democracy, too, is all about the losers. Nothing beats the satisfaction of stepping into the voting booth, pulling a lever, and whispering to the losing candidate: “You’re fired”.

12 comments
  • ianl

    >”Nothing says “democracy” like passing special laws to prevent your opponents from running for office.” [Salvatore B, above]

    … and especially so if they’re likely to win.

    Advice: when about to read a Salvatore B essay, do *not* be drinking morning coffee lest you damage your PC irreparably.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    In my estimation, President Trump did a very good job, which qualifies him as a good candidate for 2024. His performance, versus President Biden, is so far ahead on important matters of government that some dedication is required to like President Biden’s policies.
    There, that was not so hard to write. Maybe this is because I am free of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) and free of adverse comments on social media (which I do not use).
    I continue to be fascinated by the ease with which the otherwise-intelligent have become fearful of repercussions, real or imagined, like getting cancelled on Facebook, criticised in a public forum, imagining their jobs are at risk, fearing punishments if they engage in debate by saying what they believe to be the case.
    The whole sorry business of climate change could be cleared up overnight if researchers who have found faults were plain honest and fearless, to say what they found. (Please note my traditional, correct use of “they”).
    How has intimidation become so serious a threat to open debate?
    Can honest people really be so weak as to cower?
    Geoff S

  • Adam J

    Geoff, yes. It’s easier and you don’t get sued.
    Try going to university and making a complaint about Welcome to Country rubbish. The complaint staff will lodge a complaint about your complaint and you will be hauled before a tribunal to justify hurting their feelings. I should know…

  • Claude James

    To comprehend matters at important levels, one must get above/under the idea that the Person who is President is ultimately consequential.
    The main issue is this:
    Which broader/deeper set of forces are constellated in the President’s Administrative system?
    And, do these people have traction within the Deeper State -the public service system which includes the the DoJ and FBI, in addition to Department of State and Defense, and those departments that control business regulation and all its elements in energy, environment and associated areas, and in how “government” money is distributed to allies/voters who are not nett contributors to the wealth of the nation.
    It is yet to be fully comprehended by most voters -all across the Western, incl Australia- that the public services/The State Apparatus are actually far from being controlled by appointed Cabinet Secretaries (in the US system) or elected Ministers (in our system.)
    They are powerful and largely autonomous forces.
    Trump was an expression of deep opposition to Western surrenderism and wealth destruction -after the terrible surrenderism and associated destruction under the anti-Westernist forces constellated in Obama and now Biden -chuckle, and Kamala Harris.
    We are in a war for Western Civ -we are not living an episode of Happy Days of Democracy.

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    Without prejudice, it is a usual popularity test to check out the punters when the official media declines to do polling.
    Trump is the clear favourite.
    Hillary does not make the cut.
    Joe Biden is runner up.
    https://www.thelines.com/odds/election/

  • Stephen

    Trump. I was surprised when he ran, just a publicity stunt. I was shocked when he received the Republican nomination, What were they thinking? When he was actually elected president I just couldn’t believe it. But then, to my utter astonishment, he spent four years being just about the best President the US has had since Reagan!

  • pgang

    Stephen, likewise I was very sceptical about the Trump nomination, but then as his campaign unfolded it became clear that something special was happening. This was not the hopeless politics of socialist despair that has so jaded us. Trump loomed large, but what he was really doing was awakening the American spirit to fight back against socialist tyranny. That legacy continues, and in spite of the Brandon misery years and mega-dodgy ballot counting, America may well make a comeback.
    The big question for the next presidential election, as with 2020, is not so much who will win but how successfully the Democrats will manage to cheat. If Trump is re-elected, perhaps this time he will dismantle Claude James’s ‘autonomous forces’.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    Adam J,
    Thank you for your comment.
    We seem to have the strange situation where the righteous majority is being cowed by a vocal minority. The classic way to fight this is to simply say. “No. I will not comply.” So, please tell us your scenario if you did formally complain about welcome to country ceremonies, you were asked to appear before a group and you simply declined to appear because it was not part of your employment contract.
    In part, I am coming from an experience in my younger days when our company Peko managed the Robe River iron mine. Our CEO, Charles Copeman AO (Rhodes Scholar) teamed with engineer Dr Ernest Miller and in-house industrial relations advisor Herb Larratt, to combat increasing union militancy. In short, they sacked the workforce of over 1,000 people with a rider that they could be re-employed on signing a new agreement that nullified future union demands. Productivity, profits, morale and safety all improved greatly, promptly, as most of the workers resumed. Many were relieved that they no longer had to take part in a synthetic charade..
    The point is that a firm “No” can bring matters into the open to help overcome miscellaneous wonderings about possible personal fears. Geoff S

  • Simon

    @Stephen – “But then, to my utter astonishment, he spent four years being just about the best President the US has had since Reagan!”

    -And that despite a constant war being waged on him by sundry entities including, to name a few: The FBI, MSM, Social Media and the Democrat swamp.

    I hope he gets his second term just to hear the wails and see the distraught faces on all the above. ‘Nooooooooo’ !!!

  • Salvatore Babones

    Thanks everyone for reading! And IAN — sorry about the PC. By the way, I’ve been off Twitter since January 19, 2021 in protest over its suppression of political speech (no calling the Capitol occupation anything but an (insurrection”). But with Elon taking over … who knows?

  • whitelaughter

    I also thought Trump was a joke candidate…and then watched in awe as he did brilliantly, Being the 1st president to speak to the president of Taiwan was my wake up call that he was the man the job needed.

    And of course, it remains to be seen whether he will wait until 2024. Becoming House Leader using that as a stepping stone to President by impeaching Biden/Harris would save us two years of the current ‘adults’.

  • guilfoyle

    Fantastic article – made me laugh and optimistic about the future. It is also a very perceptive comment by Claude James that “we are in a war for western civ”. By Trump and his particular personality, the bleak socialist hold that prevailed over the US (and here), was exposed. It may be now that the genie is out, the cultural wars might begin to be revealed in their real nature. I am constantly made aware of the fact that our (Australian) upbringing, while appearing to be conservative, was actually quite socialist. It is only now, when we are faced with the consequences of what can only be described as a cultural revolution starting with the sexual revolution, that we are seeing the downstream effects. It is becoming more apparent that it was the legacy of the culture wars that gave rise to the hysteria that accompanied the hatred of Trump. I too, was one of those who was aghast at his election and who feared that he would prove to be a tyrant and a dictator. At first, I could not work him out, but the sales fell off in his ridicule of Kim Il Jung as “Rocket Man”, to which baiting, the feared dictator of North Korea responded (and to which, of course, Trump received no praise or recognition). I then realised that with Trump we were seeing a person who eschewed the platitudes of political manoeuvring and the bland double-speak that politicians such as Obama and Hillary engaged in. His unorthodox approach arose from the fact that he spoke the language of the alleyway in the sense that he talked tough to people who only respected strength. Another example was his remark about Putin where he said that he told Putin that if he engaged in military action, he (Trump) would attack Moscow. He was asked if Putin believed him. He said “Yes, about 5% or 10%”. His remarks that Putin would never have commenced the military assault are correct – any country viewing the fiasco of Afghanistan would have been encouraged to commit any atrocity after Biden’s mishandling of that terrible military withdrawal. Further, some days prior, one of Biden’s military heads had given a press conference solely directed to the fact that then military was “inclusive” and encouraged “diversity”, an attitude that would be despised by any middle eastern country and certainly by Russia, and which signalled to the world that the US was a weak, ineffectual country and that the western world had lost its defender.

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