13 December 2016

The Republicans' game -- down the Constitutional rabbit hole

Some Congressional Republicans -- not many yet, but the list is growing -- are signing on to the view that Russian interference in the election merits investigation or is at least a serious scandal.  Trying to look at the Trump problem as they must see it, I'm beginning to get an idea of what their game is.

Even to guys like Ryan and McConnell, it must be obvious that a Trump Presidency would be intolerably dangerous.  He's not even in office yet and he's already created an international incident with China, he's blatantly kowtowing to Russia, he refuses to take intelligence briefings, and in general he's randomly blundering in ways which, continued over four years with the full power of the Presidency, would inevitably mean disaster.  He's also blithely tossed a number of right-wing sacred cows in the dump, such as free trade.  Even if he doesn't cause a nuclear war or a global economic crash, he's likely to mess up badly enough to provoke a huge anti-Republican backlash in 2018 and 2020.  Party leaders understand things like this.

That doesn't mean, of course, that they want to respect the popular vote and make Hillary President by a revolt in the Electoral College.  They want a Republican -- just not Trump.

What I think they're doing is allowing a case to be built for impeaching Trump as soon as possible after he takes office.  Collaboration with a foreign power to subvert the election would certainly qualify as grounds for doing so.  If Trump becomes President and is then removed, Mike "God hates fags" Pence becomes President.  And most Republicans would be totally fine with that.

By the way, about that Electoral College gambit -- yes, Trump's unprecedented unfitness for office makes it somewhat credible that as many as 37 Republican Electors might defect and deny him an absolute majority, but it's still very unlikely that 37 Republican Electors would defect to Hillary.  Defectors would be far more likely to choose some other Republican -- Romney and Kasich have been mentioned as possibilities.  If no one gets an absolute majority, the choice moves to the House, where a majority of state delegations are Republican-dominated (remember, if the House chooses the President, it's one vote per state delegation, not one vote per member).  Republicans would probably split, since many don't want Trump but also don't want the onus of installing the other Republican who got none of the popular vote because he wasn't even in the election.  Assuming the Democratic delegations voted for Hillary, no candidate would get a majority.

Now get out your Constitution and turn to the Twelfth Amendment, and also section 3 of the Twentieth Amendment, which supersedes part of the Twelfth.  If the deadlock in the House continues through January 20, the Vice-President-elect becomes acting President until the House gets its act together.  And the Vice-President-elect would probably be Pence, since in this scenario the Senate would have chosen the Vice-President, and the Senate has a Republican majority.  (If you want to speculate that three Senate Republicans could be persuaded to defect and choose Tim Kaine as Vice President, go right ahead, but then I suspect the House Republicans would unite behind the non-Trump Republican option the Electoral College had given them, popular vote be damned.)  Assuming the House never did settle on a majority for one candidate, Pence would simply continue in office.

One final oddity presented by this scenario is that if the Democrats somehow won a majority of House state delegations in 2018, they could elect Hillary as President on the grounds that Pence had merely been the acting President for the past two years, pending a House majority for a single candidate.  Whether they could actually make that stick, probably only a true Constitutional scholar could figure out.

So our best-case scenario here is to get one of the most theocratic and homophobic politicians in the US as President, even though Hillary won the actual vote by a margin approaching three million.  For the future, our country can avoid a recurrence of this bizarre mess by enacting the National Popular vote initiative.  If you live in one of the 12 states where it has been partially enacted or in one of the 27 where it has not been voted on yet, consider contacting your state legislators and urging them to support it.

Update:  If there is indeed a Republican plan to use the Russian connection to take Trump down, Fox News seems to be on board with it.

[Image at top:  The likely President for most of the 2017-2020 term, caption by Mock Paper Scissors]


Blogger Kevin Robbins said...

I love the HRC in 2018 possibility. Not that Dems are going to re-take the House. It is sad that Pence is our best hope. There was a guy who predicted Trump's victory, but also predicted he would be impeached. That's looking more likely. What would the grounds for it be? Is being the Muscovite Candidate sufficient?

13 December, 2016 08:19  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

The criterion for impeachment and conviction is "high crimes and misdemeanors". Collaborating with a hostile foreign dictatorship to subvert an election would certainly seem to meet that standard. The point is, it would be up to Congress to decide, and if I'm right about what the Republicans are thinking, they'll want to decide it that way. Even if they don't care about the integrity of elections, they'd be choosing between leaving an unpredictable Trump in power with likely disastrous consequences, or installing Pence who is a much more predictable and conventional Republican. It looks like a no-brainer.

13 December, 2016 09:02  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Incidentally, it wouldn't surprise me if Putin would keep egging on Trump to get confrontational with China. If it did come to a nuclear war between China and the US, Russia would be left as the only intact superpower.

13 December, 2016 09:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If a president is removed by impeachment, or resigns to avoid that eventuality, it almost seems like there should be a new election. As it is now, the new president would be the person handpicked by the criminal president.

13 December, 2016 11:53  
Blogger Comrade Misfit said...

I am reasonably certain that the Electors are limited in choosing people who received votes in the election.

But this probably hasn't come up as an issue in the last 228 years....

13 December, 2016 12:35  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Anon: Unfortunately we're bound by the rules as they are, not as they should be. I'm not aware of any Constitutional basis for holding a new election.

Comrade: I don't know of any such rule, but if it exists, the Republicans' alternate option could be Evan McMullin. He did get some votes. The Constitution does say that, if it goes to the House, they have to choose among the top three vote-getters in the Electoral College -- not in the actual election.

13 December, 2016 12:52  
Anonymous Marc McKenzie said...

Infidel, you are right--there is nothing in the Constitution that lays out the process for a new election, a "do-over".

And I'm also tired of people demanding that President Obama do "something". Are these people aware that Obama is a Constitutional scholar and taught classes on it? I mean, I know that there are those on the Right and the Left who dismiss that while whining how Obama is destroying the Constitution.

And also, let's not throw up our hands about 2018 (no, you didn't do that, Infidel, so this isn't directed at you. :) ). If the Tea Party could take the House in 2010 after starting in 2009, then we can take back the House and the Senate--or make the damned attempt. That would require us to get organized, to get our s**t together and reject the "voting doesn't matter" horse-pucky that too many on the Left are parroting (while conveniently ignoring the voter suppression being carried out by the GOP).

Just my 2-cents.

13 December, 2016 13:59  
Anonymous nonnie9999 said...

Veddy interesting, infidel, but I'm skeptical. I think that, right now, Ivanka's boyfriend is a useful idiot. The Cowardly Ryan and Yertle McConnell are well aware that the orange turd doesn't give a shit about learning all that presidentin' stuff. He's Sarah Palin in an ill-fitting suit. They will be falling all over each other in order to try to be the last one whispering in the Hairy Cheez Doodle's ear. If he gets a bit too frisky with his Twitter account, they might consider impeaching him and installing the bigoted Q-tip Mike Pence. I don't even see this happening unless the great unwashed masses in the disproportionately Electoral College-advantaged whining white guys in the flyover states get pissed off at Hair Furor. If they continue to support him, their reps will be scared to death to vote against him.

13 December, 2016 19:10  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

I think this is the best summary of the situation I have seen. In brief, the Republicans just have too many tricks that they can pull for there to be any real hope that the right thing will happen. Too bad, huh?

13 December, 2016 22:48  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Marc: I can't imagine what they expect Obama to "do". A lot of his critics seem to think the President has unlimited powers. As to accomplishing something to mitigate the threat posed by Trump, that will depend on a shift of focus from bemoaning how bad the situation is to discussing what to do about it. Endlessly talking about how bad and terrible this or that cabinet pick is, or how outrageous Trump's latest bloviation is, is basically like stomping hard on a gas pedal that isn't connected to the engine. The focus has to be on strategy and action.

Nonnie: I'm certainly aware that the Republican leadership are cowards -- that was shown clearly by their (rather surprisingly) feckless reactions to Trump during the primaries and general election. But I think they fear a nuclear war or a new global depression (or being swept out of office by public reaction to those things) even more. Remember, the economic elite doesn't want to see the present order of things overturned. They're making out quite well from the present order of things. They have an alternative which is safer, more controllable, and more to their liking (Pence), and I think they'll opt for that.

Green: Thanks. Yes, the Republicans have majorities in the Electoral College and in both houses of Congress, and those are the only institutions which can do anything about Trump, so the solution will be tailored to their preferences, not ours. I would love to be proven wrong about this, but I don't expect it. Unfortunately, any scenario which ends with Hillary becoming President depends on Republicans doing things which they have no plausible motive to do.

14 December, 2016 03:34  
Anonymous Michael Scott said...

Every morning I wake up depressed thinking about what is to come, and while there may not be a lot I can do it about I firmly believe #resistanceisnotfutile

14 December, 2016 09:35  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Michael: If we fight back, we might lose. If we don't, we'll definitely lose.

14 December, 2016 17:03  

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