Thursday, July 30, 2020

If President Loses Election and Fails to Step Down...What Next?


Our American Constitution was signed in 1783, and in it the tenure and condition of the presidency was laid out in great detail.

    People concerned about this are asking themselves..."What happens if President Trump will not step down or recognize the results of the 2020 General Election?" That is a great question. The United States of America has never encountered this with respect to a sitting president. Try as historians and political theorists may, there is no precedent about a president not recognizing a loss at the polls and still retaining control of the government. 

    Before I go further, I must note that the Electoral College, which attempted to skew the results of the last General Election in favor of Mr. Trump, was created to avoid electing a candidate that may place national security at issue. And, since it is clear the Electoral College can no longer fulfill its role as a protector of the nation then its usefulness has come to a place in the road where it should be asked 'what use is it then?' Also a wonderful question. 

    The precedents for Mr. Trump's possible actions following an election loss do exist, though in a part of history that is dark and does not immediately come to mind. There have been occasions when popes and anti-popes have been elected and pitted one against the other. Certainly, history is resplendent with royal families feuding for control of nations. But, all of this should have nothing to do with our American way of life. Well, it does.

    Whether it is the War of the Roses, the 100 Years' War or the many Anglo-Franco wars during the middle ages or the myriad of uprisings in the Third World that littered the 20th century, the result is the same. It means civil war. I am not saying that I would ever want to see anything like a civil war again be fought in this country. It is the most disastrous affair I could contemplate. 

    However, we Americans have a president who has flaunted his support among militant reactionary civilian organizations (since 2016). We have a president who states that elements of the military would support him should he attempt to exceed his office. This claim is unique and disturbing for anyone who is a student or adherent of the Constitution. 

    During my time in the military, it was my privilege to work in the proximity of some Army generals and, as I recall, field grade and general officers of the military are perhaps the most ferocious protectors of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I would be very shocked if any, let alone many, of these men and women would side with a rogue president. As for the reactionary groups that the current president cites, I would not be shocked if these people fled to his side in such a situation.

    If legitimate authority does not address this potential uprising by the current president, under the situation he has repeatedly teased, then bloody conflict will rule our land for a time. Any direct challenge to the Constitution must be met with a united front by all Americans, regardless of their political affiliations. Failing this, there will be bloodshed. That is all I am speculating about. 

    I believe it would be judicious for reasonable people in government to throw the proverbial 'wet towel' about any speculation about Mr. Trump may exceed his office. Trump is not special compared to the rights and guarantees the Constitution offers to American citizens. 

    This speculation offered by the current president does, in my opinion, constitute a threat to U.S. national security. And it is not just because I do not agree with Mr. Trump's decisions in office (for the record, I do not agree with many of his decisions). Any threat, foreign or domestic must be met with determination and resolve. I daresay that the time for polite rebuttals may be coming to an end, as the election is about 100 days out at this point. 

    I am worried. I am concerned. I do pray for reasonable reactions by good men and women in government leadership. These are perilous times, perhaps the single occasion where a sitting president has flouted the guarantees of the Constitution. May God protect our republic. 

(Jim Purcell is a U.S. Army veterans and graduate of the New York Theological Seminary. He was a print journalist for 20 years before retiring from the industry.)