Removal vs Impeachment

A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE

Instead of seeking to impeach a President — and thus forcing all the members of Congress to make difficult political choices regarding their own re-electability — the Constitution could/should have a provision to have a second crack at a sitting President and Vice President under stringent but realistic possible conditions.

One would think it ought to be possible to impeach under the current broad standard of high crimes and misdemeanors. But, with conviction in the Senate requiring a 2/3s vote, that quite vague standard (as we see now it) makes that option effectively impossible.

There are valid and important reasons to make impeachment very difficult.  But perhaps the Constitution always needed an extra clause, a ‘reset’ button roughly akin to the “no confidence” votes in parliamentary systems to allow political reassessment — even in the absence of high crimes and misdemeanors — to correct obvious mistakes or address changing circumstances.

To stand any chance of success, a provision allowing the nation to “start over” would have to remove the decision from sitting elected federal officials (Congresspeople and Senators), whose severe partisanship and political self-interest inevitably and unavoidably distort such decisions.

The Framers rightly viewed the States as the political units closest to the people. Why not let them make the call? For example, if the legislative bodies of states with a majority (or even supermajority) of the nation’s population and the Chief Justices of those states voted in favor of a new election, then the sitting US President and Vice President would have to stand for re-election (or not) in, say, 90 days from certification of the vote. Alternatively, the threshold would automatically remove the President and Vice President from office, making the Speaker of the House President for the remainder of the term, or if more than 2 years were left in the term spark a special election.

That would, of course, be very difficult to accomplish under all circumstances. It would, however, remove the process from Washington, D.C. to the States, where the connection between voters and the legislators is sufficiently different to consider the removal of a President in a less radioactive way. It would also give the country another possible way to correct a serious mistake made in the previous election (or, it should be noted, overcome election tampering that might be discovered only after the fact).

Granted this idea runs into the same basic problems of Constitutional change that we have with the electoral college and impeachment provisions.

The fact that it would add a new dimension to the Constitution could be helpful and it is based on using a truly democratic tool to solve a very big problem for which there is no solution practically available today.

I do not expect that this will ever be relevant to Trump, except that he gave rise to the need. And if (God forbid), Trump were re-elected in 2020, most of us would be in Canada and Australia and cease to care!

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