Democracy Demands Accountability: Trump Must Go—Now

Trump is testing our commitment, not to him or his party, but to the very idea of government by the consent of the governed.

Vice President Mike Pence officiates as a joint session of the House and Senate reconvenes to confirm the Electoral College votes at the Capitol, January 6, 2021.

Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to call on Vice President Mike Pence to initiate immediate constitutional action to remove President Trump from office.

Every House member who cares about the integrity of our democracy, the security of the nation, and the message we send to future leaders should vote to pass this measure.

It would give Pence 24 hours to invoke the 25th Amendment, which protects the nation from a rogue president like Trump, by providing the means to remove a president from office when a majority of the Cabinet finds them to be “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

Under the House measure, should Pence and the cabinet fail to act, the House would vote on Wednesday on whether to impeach Trump for inciting last week’s violent assault on the U.S. Capitol. Should Trump remain in office on Wednesday, every House member should vote to impeach and the Senate should vote to remove him from office.

Trump’s actions disqualify him from further service. He’s in breach of his oath to defend the Constitution. He’s a danger to the republic. He’s unfit to serve another minute. One way or the other, he must go—and go now.

President-elect Joe Biden won the November election by a decisive margin of more than 7 million votes and, in the Electoral College, 306 to 232. These results have been independently certified by every state in the nation, upheld by court decisions in more than 50 separate lawsuits, and formally certified by both houses of Congress. There has been no evidence presented of any material fraud or misconduct.

Trump, though, has rejected the will of the people, sought to overturn the election results, and tried to strong-arm others to do the same. He has vowed to never accept the election outcome. He has slandered his opponent, alleging, without evidence, that Biden somehow stole the election.

And Trump, of course, called on supporters on January 6 to take their grievance to Capitol Hill. A mob of thousands then followed, sacking the U.S. Capitol, putting lawmakers to flight, and putting them, their aides, maintenance staff, journalists, and police at risk, in a melee that killed four rioters and a U.S. Capitol police officer and injured dozens of others.

Defying the will of the people, subverting the Constitution, and inciting violent insurrection against the government are unprecedented acts no functioning democracy can tolerate.

If democracy means anything, it means holding our leaders to account for what they do, or fail to do, on our behalf.

Yes, voters held Trump to account in November for a failed presidency. Yes, he will leave office on January 20. Trump’s deliberate attack on our democracy last Wednesday, though, demands a reckoning all its own.

Beyond accountability, Trump must be prevented from doing further damage.

Until the nation ushers in new leadership next week, we can’t know what additional mischief Trump might cause or incite. Many of his supporters have vowed to return to Washington in greater numbers next week, with some saying they’ll bring more weapons.

The country deserves a safe and orderly transfer of power next week. We can’t afford for that to be put at risk by a president who has used his office to foment violence in an effort to cling to power by defying the will of the people.

Every minute he remains in office, Trump can wield the massive powers he has repeatedly abused. He can issue presidential pardons. As commander-in-chief, he has authority over the nation’s nuclear arsenal and the power to issue orders that the military may feel obliged to obey.

Allowing Trump to keep his finger on the trigger of the U.S. military is a risk no responsible nation can afford to take.

Finally, removing this patently unfit man from office is necessary to send a message to future presidents that there are lines that simply can’t be crossed.

Our democracy, while far from perfect, is the greatest forum yet devised for the open contest of competing priorities, judgments, and ideas. It is designed to enshrine our values, protect our interests, and advance the aspirations we share. It is the final guarantor of our freedom, but it is not a free-for-all. It requires us all to respect the responsibilities, obligations, and limits necessary to ensure that we, the people, are sovereign.

Trump’s actions constitute a direct assault on all of that. If successful, he would have overturned the sovereignty of the people in favor of a tyrant’s rule.

Democracy is ever a work in progress. It is strengthened or weakened every day, not solely, or even mostly, by our leaders, but by the leadership we demand.

Trump is testing our commitment, not to him or his party, but to the very idea of government by the consent of the governed. We must reject his dark, radical, unlawful attempt to overturn the election that will unseat him. And we must send a message to would-be tyrants everywhere that the standards of democracy will be upheld, by our actions, as by our words.

Both Congress and the cabinet have the constitutional authority, and the moral obligation, to enforce that now. The rest of us have the right, and the duty, to demand that they do so. If we, together, fail to do that, we will fail the country, not just for today, but for all time.

About the Authors

Mitchell Bernard

Interim President and Chief Counsel

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