Should Americans Depose Trump And Pence Before They Take Office?
Online and in prominent advertisements in major American newspapers, a group of activists calling themselves Refuse Fascism has called upon Americans to rise up and prevent Donald Trump and Mike Pence from taking power in the White House.
The group proposes a two-pronged approach to preventing Donald Trump and Mike Pence from becoming President and Vice President:
Prong 1: Americans take to the streets in anti-Trump protests of such high numbers between now and Inauguration Day that their message cannot be ignored.
Prong 2: Leaders who are part of the “established power structure” conspire to force Donald Trump and Mike Pence to agree not to be inaugurated as President and Vice President.
“In the name of humanity we refuse to accept a fascist America,” the group writes. “Protests would have to have the effect of figuratively “stopping society in its tracks” and would raise real questions as to whether people very broadly would recognize the legitimacy of such a regime to even rule in basic ways and enforce its edicts.”
Reflexively, I like the idea of preventing Donald Trump from becoming President. In practice, is this a good idea? Should Americans depose Donald Trump and Mike Pence before they even take the Oath of Office?
It doesn’t take long for me to arrive at the answer: No. Protesting against Donald Trump is essential. Trying to preemptively remove Trump and Pence from office, on the other hand, is a very bad idea.
1) Donald Trump would be removed from office. Mike Pence wouldn’t.
Never mind that Mike Pence is a right wing extremist. Next to Donald Trump, he looks mild-mannered. Pence is a creature of the political establishment. There’s no way that the Republicans who currently control the government would block him from taking office as President if Donald Trump were prevented from taking that office. In this context, all Mike Pence would have to do to seem like a Great President would be to avoid the clumsy buffoonery that Trump delivers day after day. This outcome would actually embolden Republican extremism, not hamper it.
2) Using street intimidation to overturn democratic elections is what fascists do.
Yes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Legally, that doesn’t matter. What matters legally is the Electoral College. We’re free not to like the rules of our country’s democratic elections, but we are not free to overturn the results of those rules just because we don’t like them.
Individual civil disobedience is a legitimate form of protest when the people who undertake it are willing to accept the consequences of punishment under the law. Collective violation of the law through a revolution that forces legally elected leaders to give up their positions is not legitimate, because it forces the nation as a whole to deal with the consequences. The presidential election of 2016
3) The power elites are coalescing behind Donald Trump, not in opposition to him.
The “established power structure” has made it clear that it has no intention of stopping Donald Trump from taking the Oath of Office. America’s power elites are standing behind the election of Donald Trump because he’s making it worth their while, by supporting tax plans that will put huge amounts of money in the pockets of America’s wealthiest families and most powerful corporations.
The established power structure had the chance to evade the election of Donald Trump when the Electoral College met in December. The elites chose Trump.
Even Hillary and Bill Clinton are turning out for the Trump inauguration – not to protest it, but to passively witness it, providing their endorsement of the process, if not of Trump himself.
4) Americans didn’t turn out in massive numbers to pressure the Electoral College, and they won’t turn out in popular street revolution against Trump, either.
A majority of Americans opposes Donald Trump. However, a majority of Americans also opposes overturning the results of legal elections.
The attempt to rally massive numbers of Americans was profoundly unsuccessful. Only a handful of people turned out for these protests, even in Washington DC, because the protests sought to undermine the rules by which the 2016 presidential election took place.
If street protests urging electors to legally switch their votes didn’t materialize, protests demanding that Trump be prevented from becoming President certainly won’t.
5) The Russian attack against the US during the election doesn’t justify a coup d’etat.
Yes, spies from the Russian government attacked the United States during the election and used the information they gained in these attacks to enable Donald Trump to win. However, Vladimir Putin’s spies used propaganda to manipulate Americans into voting for Donald Trump. So, although the Russians’ actions were criminal, the election remains valid. If it’s discovered that Donald Trump conspired with the Russians to make the hacking possible, that’s a high crime for which Trump can be impeached. However, that conspiracy has not yet been proven.
6) Historical precedent suggests the result would be totalitarian rule, not democratic resurgence.
When Roman senators killed Julius Caesar, the result was not a return to Senate power over the Rome. The result was a civil war, through which the power of totalitarian emperors was established. That’s a result that no American should aim to replicate.
If the movement to depose Trump before he became President is successful, it will establish the precedent of overturning the results of democratic elections through the creation of the appearance of popular opposition. Wealthy families and corporations will always have the upper hand in creating the appearance of popular opposition, because they control mainstream media and have the resources to pay, coerce, or manipulate people into attending protests, as the astroturf “Tea Party” demonstrated.
Refuse Fascism cites the anti-Mubarak protests as a successful instance of popular uprising against a corrupt elected official. What Refuse Fascism doesn’t mention is that after Hosni Mubarak was deposed, a brutal theocracy was established, followed by a military dictatorship.
Liberals won’t win a game of competing coup d’etats. The fascists will.
7) The replacement of Donald Trump would be Republican.
Let’s suppose that the Refuse Fascism plan succeeds, and both Donald Trump and Mike Pence are forced to step aside before Inauguration Day. What would happen next? The Republican Party controls both houses of Congress, so the replacement of Trump and Pence would be an unelected Republican – probably Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. The agenda would be the same.
I will be at the inauguration, protesting against Trump. I will spend the next four years agitating against Trump, on the streets, online, and in any other arena for resistance that opens up. I will engage in civil disobedience.
As I protest, however, I will be advocating for the peaceful, legal opposition to President Donald Trump and his fascist agenda. I won’t be arguing for a coup d’etat that drives him from office.
An impeachment of Trump would be great. The best chance we have for that, however, is an electoral upset in 2018 that establishes non-Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. Only when that takes place will we see the investigations and oversight that could lead to impeachment or to legislative opposition of the Trump agenda.
It’s going to be a long and difficult two years, but to be effective, we need to oppose Donald Trump through democratic means. An attempt at a quick power grab will only embolden those who seek to impose fascism in the USA.