How the US Constitution Has to Be Amended to Protect the Country and the World from Further Trumpian Presidencies
An Article in the Compendium of Market-Based Social-Ecological Economics
Key issues in view of the neoliberal crisis:
How can we guarantee employment and fair income?
How can we protect the environment effectively?
How should we shape the economic globalization?
What should the economic sciences contribute?
What must be the vital tasks of economic policy?
How can we legitimize economic policy democratically?
Table of Contents
This article is not about the mind set of a person named Donald John Trump, and it’s not about the bizarre daily routine of a president of the same name. The concern here is rather to scrutinize the process of US presidential elections and to show ways in which procedural risks can be eliminated. Because the obvious shortcomings of the procedure, which are justified in the more than 200-year-old US Constitution, endanger not only the USA, but also the whole world, with the US President as leader of the greatest military and economic power.
Trump has undoubtedly been democratically elected to the presidency in full accordance with the existing US Constitution. But the very fact that a person of his conduct and questionable past, to say the least, was able to enter and pass the election process unhindered, is first and foremost proof of the Constitution’s weaknesses. Not to mention the opaque machinations of his aides, including the proven infringements of electoral laws. Therefore, it’s all now in the hands of Congress to take advantage of the sobering experience of Trump’s election and presidency to pass amendments to the Constitution by the required two-thirds majority in both chambers.
What the US is experiencing today is not a constitutional crisis in the sence that key decision-makers are selfishly misinterpreting or overstretching the rights granted by the Constitution, but rather a crisis caused by fundamental shortcomings of the Constitution.
In historical retrospect, Trump’s presidency could still prove to be a stroke of luck, by having given the decisive impetus to make the system of separation of powers (checks and balances) introduced by the founding fathers forever immune even to such extreme threats as Trumpism. The United States could emerge democratically strengthened from Trump’s autocratic violation of ethical, political and economic standards, and newly appearing Trumpian characters would already fail in their nomination as presidential candidates, and, not least, US citizens’ pride in their constitution would again be justified.
2. What Do the Terms Trumpian and Trumpism Mean?
According to the website Dictionary.com »The term Trumpian is found as early as 1988 in an issue of Yachting magazine. Trumpian especially characterized large-scale business failures (“a Trumpian tumble”) or financial woes (“Trumpian debt”), alluding to the real estate mogul’s own difficulties at the time. Trumpian took off after Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015. Thanks to how many view Trump’s rhetoric and conduct, Trumpian began to describe blustering, narcissistic behavior and a brazen disregard for truth. Others began use Trumpian to characterize racist, sexist, and xenophobic ideologies, authoritarianism, and an angry brand of populism. After he won the White House in 2016 following an unorthodox campaign, some observers have taken to describing the broader culture under Trump’s candidacy and presidency as the Trumpian era,…«
As of today, »Trumpian refers to the bombast, egotism, and lies, or anti-establishment, authoritarian, bigoted ideologies that some associate with the language, conduct, and viewpoints of President Donald Trump.«
A quote from Dictionary.com reffering to the second term reads: »Trumpism refers to the nontraditional political philosophy and approach espoused by US President Donald Trump and his supporters. The term Trumpism can also be used to directly refer to an outrageous or idiosyncratic statement made by Donald Trump. In a July 2015 speech, then-presidential candidate Rick Perry defined Trumpism as “a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.” Seth Millstein published a book titled Trumpisms in December 2015. The book is a collection of “the most mind-boggling, insane, crass, ignorant, and downright offensive statements” from speeches, tweets, and books by Donald Trump. As a political philosophy, Trumpism is an anti-establishment blend of economic populism, reactionary nationalism, and strong militarism summed up in Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Due to bigoted statements Trump had made and the viewpoints of some of his base, Trumpism is sometimes associated with white supremacy.«
3. What Are the Current Requirements for Presidential Candidates?
Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution imposes only three eligibility requirements on persons wanting to serve as president, based on citizenship status, officeholder’s age, and time of residency in the U.S.:
“No person except a natural born Citizen shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”
These requirements have been modified twice. Under the 12th Amendment, the same three requirements were also applied to candidates for the vice-presidency of the United States. The 22nd Amendment limited office holders to two terms as president (maximum twice four years).
4. Two Additional Requirements for Presidential Candidates
In the following, I describe two supplementary requirements that candidates for the US presidency should meet, and which I urge members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to adopt as an amendment to the US Constitution – in classical legal terms a lex electione praesidis. Members should have no difficulty with the resolution, because firstly, the President cannot veto amendments to the Constitution, and secondly, the proposed amendment would increase members’ chances in case they’d decide to enter the race as candidates for the presidency themselves.
I deliberately limit myself to the following two proposals for candidates, because they already promise to minimize a broad range of potential misdemeanours a president might otherwise be tempted to. Further down I separately propose four limitations of power relating to sitting presidents, which should also be adopted as an amendment to the Constitution.
4.1 Up-to-Date Experience Gained in Public Office
To start with, it is worth taking a look at the CVs of all US presidents, which provide astonishing insights: Donald Trump is the only one among the 45 presidents since George Washington, who had no political, diplomatic, legal or military experience when he took office. Moreover, since the beginning of the 20th century, only three presidents did not hold a public office immediately before becoming a candidate, however, they had gathered appropriate experience in earlier times. These include Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. And Dwight D. Eisenhower was the only one who had brought only military experience to his new role.
Proposal No. 1 for the amendment of the Constitution: Presidential candidates should hold public office when announcing their candidacy and have completed the following terms of office: Senate members one term (six years), House members three consecutive terms (six years), State governors two consecutive terms (eight years), and Mayors of the largest US cities (with at least 100,000 inhabitants) six years.
4.2 Top-Level Security Clearance Before the Election
A curiosity of the US presidency is that the president is the only one of the executive branch’s top representatives who is not subject to security screening and clearance. Trump would never have received a security clearance because of his involvement in opaque domestic and foreign businesses and the concealment of his tax declarations and returns. And the same applies to his daughter and son-in-law.
Proposal No. 2 for the amendment of the Constitution: Candidates for the presidency should be subject to a top-level security screening at the beginning of their candidacy and would be required to obtain the final security clearance during the campaign in order to be eligible for election. In addition, candidates would have to announce their potential candidates for the office of vice-president parallel to their own candidacy, so that these candidates could also undergo the same procedure of security screening and clearance.
5. Four Additional Limitations of Power Relating to Sitting Presidents
Following the proposed additional requirements for presidential candidates above, I recommend four additional limitations of power that should apply to sitting presidents, and which I also urge members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to adopt as an amendment to the US Constitution – in classical legal terms a lex praesidis virtutis limitationem.
5.1 The Presidential Power to Pardon should be eliminated
The US president’s right to grant pardons for federal crimes is a relic of the era of divine rights of kings, general autocratic rule, elevated aristocratic privileges and supposedly natural class distinctions. An act of grace from a higher authority is unworthy of a democratic constitutional state, especially since US lawyers are still arguing about whether the president could also pardon himself. A self-pardon would, however, be another threat to democracy in putting the president above the law and tempting him to arbitrary rule.
Proposal No. 3 for the amendment of the Constitution: The president’s power to grant pardons, including commutations of sentence, should be removed from the Constitution. The presidential power to grant amnesties should remain.
5.2 Presidents Should Not be Above the Law and Thus be Indictable.
The requirements for initiating impeachment proceedings laid down in the Constitution should also apply to the initiation of legal proceedings against a sitting president, so that legal action by the courts could supplement and enhance possible political action by the Congress, however, the power to eventually remove a president from office should be solely in the hands of the Congress.
Proposal No. 4 for the amendment of the Constitution: The requirements for the political impeachment proceedings laid down in the Constitution should also be applied to legal proceedings against a sitting president, but with the decision to remove a president from office remaining in the hands of Congress.
5.3 Presidents Should be Prohibited from Changing or Issuing Security Clearances.
The vetting (screening) process preceding a security clearance and the final issuance of a security clearance to a particular person must solely remain in the hands of the responsible US agencies. No individual, including the president, should have the authority to change an existing security clearance or to issue a security clearance at his/her own discretion.
Proposal No. 5 for the amendment of the Constitution: A president should be expressly prohibited from issuing and changing security clearances.
5.4 Presidents Shouldn’t Have the Authority to Nominate or Appoint Supreme Court Justices
For the long-term good of the country, Supreme Court judges should have balanced judgement, that is, they should come from the middle of society and therefore be nominated and appointed independent of the party affiliation of the sitting president. To put it bluntly, Trump has succeeded in upsetting the balance of the Court with his appointments. Now the Court needs to be depoliticized.
Proposal No. 6 for the amendment of the Constitution: The composition of the Supreme Court should be the sole responsibility of the US Senate. The best procedure to guarantee the balance would be for the Senate to nominate three candidates and then appoint one by at least a two-thirds majority.
Click here for the German-language version: Wie weitere Trumpianer zu verhindern sind.
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