Trump supporters want to rip up Constitution to allow him a third term – before he’s won a second

Donald Trump has already spoken longingly of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s status as dictator-for-life

April 4, 2024 6:00 am(Updated 6:01 am)

Sod the Constitution. That in a nutshell is the message from an article in The American Conservative calling for Donald Trump to be allowed to stand for a THIRD TERM. Yes, you read that correctly.

All Trump’s minions need do is repeal the 22nd Amendment, which states “no person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice”.

Trump is about as familiar with America’s celebrated charter of government as he is with the contents of his “favourite book”, the Bible (get your Trump-approved version now, just $59.99). Trump fan and journalist Peter Tonguette has, however, spotted a flaw in the US Constitution. “As the primary season has shown us, the Republicans have not moved on from Trump – yet the 22nd Amendment works to constrain their enthusiasm by prohibiting them from rewarding Trump with re-election four years from now,” he declares.

You might have noted that the far-right-wing fringes of American politics – which, let’s face it, are no longer really the fringes – are getting ahead of themselves. The perma-tanned grifter hasn’t yet won a second term.

It goes without saying that the prospect of being in charge for as long he likes would suit Trump just fine. At a closed-door fundraiser in 2018, Trump spoke longingly of the unfettered power that China’s ruthless dictator Xi Jinping had acquired for himself after eliminating presidential term limits in that country. “He’s now president for life and look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great,” he said. “Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.”

If enough floating voters are repelled by the thought of Trump II, let alone Trump III, Joe Biden will retain power at the 8 November election.

If Trump loses, he’ll claim victory regardless. The fact that he hasn’t actually won and did not fight the election as the incumbent will limit his options this time compared with 2020, when he sat seething in White House.

That doesn’t mean he won’t try at rigging the results, perhaps by targeting the election-certification process.

In their book How to Steal a Presidential Election, Lawrence Lessig and Matthew Seligman note there is little to stop Trump-supporting legislatures from simply ordering appointed electors to vote for the candidate that they, and not the people of the state, want to win.

Surely, they wouldn’t, though?

We said the same about the notion of Republicans selecting Trump as their candidate in 2016. We didn’t imagine there would be an attempted insurrection in January 2021. Who’d have thought there would be a Republican candidate in 2024 with 91 criminal charges against him, or a Supreme Court willing to ignore the ruling of appeals court judges, and instead, seriously consider the absurd claim that a disgraced former president might have total immunity from prosecution.

Given what we’ve seen in the past eight years, it seems unwise to rule anything out.

Besides, Trump and Biden are neck and neck in the polls despite the continuing primaries. Some suggest that if the election were held tomorrow, he’d win without cheating. There’s a realistic chance he might be president again. But polls funded by one side or the other often favour their candidate.

The article in The American Conservative suggests that Trump’s threat to be a “dictator for a day” next January, could, if anything, be an understatement.

To change the Constitution would be more than a little tricky, if not from an ethical perspective for Trump and his supporters, than from a legal and political one. He’d need super majorities in both chambers of Congress, which doesn’t seem likely. With the spectre of a Trump II Administration looming, maybe the much-derided filibuster, which allows a Senate minority to block contentious legislation, doesn’t seem so bad after all.

It’s worth noting that the Equal Rights Amendment, which was first introduced to Congress in 1923, was approved by the Senate in 1972. It was ratified by the 38th required state in 2020, but four years on, it has still not become the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.

When it comes to explaining the route to a rolling Trump dictatorship, Tonguette is very light on detail. In truth, there’s more chance of Trump learning Japanese and taking up Ikebana than there is of Congress cancelling the two-term ban and the required 38 out of 50 US states agreeing with them.

One of the most striking aspects of the article is the absence of constructive argument explaining why voters would want to vote for Trump again or why he should be given the chance to stand for a third time.

There are digs at Trump’s opponents and their “endless babbling about Donald Trump’s alleged threat to democracy”, but nothing at all on what Trump has achieved or now advocates for that would suggest he deserves a third go. Ironically, this article underlines why many of Trump’s opponents are “babbling” in the first place.

If Trump continues guzzling KFC buckets and messaging splenetically into the early hours, he might not be around long enough to contest an election in 2028, aged 82.

But the fact that someone writing in The American Conservative suggests he could and should, shows how low the political debate in American has sunk – and how extreme the right has become in the pursuit of nothing other than the vilification of its opponents and its idle amusement at the thought of Donald Trump’s own pursuit of vengeance.

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