Why Donald Trump Is Either Way Less Scary or Way More Scary Than You Think
A lot of people think a lot of different things about our Founding Fathers. Some point out their hypocrisy when writing “all men are created equal” while owning slaves. Some laud them for their leadership in creating a new nation. Whatever your stance on the Founding Fathers, you must acknowledge that they system of government that they created was excellent. The creation of the Constitution and the separation of powers between different branches of government were both revolutionary concepts at the time, and the US continues to be a shining example of how to set up a new government for countries around the world.
Now, we have two candidates running for President, and one of those two candidates would love to tear up our Constitution. (And no, as much as I dislike Hillary Clinton, it is not her).
I am not going to explain why Donald Trump will destroy the Constitution in this article. If you don’t think he will, or aren’t aware how he will, look at this publication by the ACLU. But just as a warning, it is 27 pages long and covers six different areas of policy that Trump would have to violate the Constitution. It might take you a while to get through.
This list alone makes Trump the most frightening Presidential candidate in a long time, perhaps ever, to be running in a US presidential election— to say nothing of his absurdly naive and possibly corrupt foreign policy stance which is even more horrifying. So it’s a good thing that the executive office has checks on it so that the President cannot violate the Constitution. Right?
There are two main checks on the executive branch in the US Government. These are the other two branches of government, the legislative branch — which is the Senate and the House of Representatives — and the judicial branch. Unfortunately, the executive branch has a tool that makes it easy to bypass one of those branches: the executive order. The executive order allows the President to control the various bureaucracies in government without having to go through either branch of Congress, effectively ignoring the restrictions that Congress has put on the executive branch.
Essentially, Congress can do little to nothing if Trump decides to deport all Muslims, he can do it with an executive order and never have to consult with anyone in the legislative branch if he does not wish to. That should be at least a little frightening. (Actually, they can do something, but we are gonna take a look at that at the end of the article, so stick with me here).
The judicial branch, however, is a different story. They can take action on orders that Trump issues that are potentially unconstitutional. If Trump ordered an action that was unconstitutional by way of an executive order, the various groups or individuals could sue the federal government.
Let us assume that there has been a court case against one of those many things in the ACLU packet and Trump has lost the case. In this scenario, the court has ruled against the federal government and determined that Trump’s executive order is unconstitutional and thus should be rescinded. There are now two different responses that Trump could take in the face of a court ruling against him, and these are the two responses that either make Trump way less dangerous or way more dangerous than you might think.
Basically, if Trump decides to obey court rulings that go against him, he is a lot less dangerous than he seems to be right now.
The first response that Trump could take is to back down. I would not expect him to give up without a lot of whining and complaining about “corrupt judges” or some such ridiculous rhetoric on a twitter rant. However, if he gives up and acquiesces to the court’s demands, then Trump loses a lot of his threat to the Constitution and the citizens that are protected by it. Basically, if Trump decides to obey court rulings that go against him, he is a lot less dangerous than he seems to be right now.
There is a second option, and this one is what makes Trump so much more dangerous than he might seem right now. Trump could just ignore court rulings and refuse to abide by the rules set out in the Constitution. This is possible because the courts have no ability to enforce their rulings. They have no armed forces to send out, they rely on the other branches of government to obey and enforce their rulings.
Trump could just ignore court rulings and refuse to abide by the rules set out in the Constitution.
This has already happened before in American history. Famously, Abraham Lincoln ignored the Supreme Court ruling that found his suspension of habeas corpus — the right to be brought to a judge or court if you are arrested — during the Civil War was unconstitutional. Lincoln chose to keep suspending the right even when the courts said he could not do it.
However, Lincoln had an argument for suspending the right. In the Constitution, it says that the right may be suspended in times of rebellion or invasion. This makes Lincoln’s decision at least somewhat justified. Even if he disobeyed the courts, he did it using the Constitution itself. He did not act outside the rights given to him in the Constitution and in the process damage the legitimacy of the Constitution or the courts.
The worry with Trump, and the thing that makes him dangerous, is that Trump will not disobey the courts within the bounds of the Constitution. At least Lincoln can point to the Constitution to defend his decision. If Trump decides to not obey a court’s ruling, he will defend that decision with the sentence: “because I said so”. And I can say, without hesitation, that if Trump does that, history will mark that moment as the moment when the American government started to come apart at the seams.
For those of you who might feel fine if Trump violates various Constitutional amendments and disobeys the courts to follow through on his campaign promises, let me show you what the ramifications of his actions will be. Say Trump has a four year term and deports Muslims while violating the Constitution and ignoring a Supreme Court ruling against him. Now imagine he loses the next election to a democrat candidate. And this candidate hates gun violence and will do anything to end it.
If Trump decides that he will ignore the courts because they have no way to enforce their decisions, he opens the gates for an increasingly totalitarian government to make its way into society.
So this liberal candidate goes out and uses an executive order to confiscate all guns in the United States. We can assume this is an unconstitutional order and that the courts will rule against it. However, instead of stopping the confiscation of guns, the new liberal President says “I’m not stopping because I don’t have to. Trump didn’t stop and neither will I.”
Now do you see where the problem comes in here? If Trump decides that he will ignore the courts because they have no way to enforce their decisions, he opens the gates for an increasingly totalitarian government to make its way into society. If you support a conservative President tearing up the Constitution to enforce the things that he promised he would do for you, then you have to bear the consequences of a liberal President doing the same thing during the next term.
I imagine that many of you are thinking one thing here: “But Seth, doesn’t Congress have the ability to impeach the President? Wouldn’t Congress be able to get Trump out of office if he did some action like this?”
And that is absolutely the case. However, you have to take into account what kind of a person Trump is. Ask yourself, really, how much do you think Trump would care if he got removed from office? The main problem here is not that Trump would or become a dictator. The problem is that he busts the power of the executive office way above the other two branches so much that it would be almost impossible to re balance.
And if you do not think that future Presidents would exploit that power that comes in that office to further their agenda, I suggest you stop being so naive. Maybe even go study a little history and come back to this article. Almost every time a human is given a huge amount of power, they will use it to advance their interests. There are only a few instances of people not doing that in history, Cincinnatus — the Roman general/dictator/farmer — being one of the few exceptions that readily come to mind.
In short, if you think that Trump will obey the decisions of the judicial system, Trump is a lot less scary to you. If you think, as I do, that Trump would seriously flirt with the idea of not following their rulings, then Trump becomes incredibly more dangerous than he appears now.