Every election is proclaimed to be, “the most important election in our lifetime.” That is, of course, almost never true. However, this election has also been called, “the weirdest election, ever.” That one is true, for so many reasons. But it has gotten to the point where it doesn’t seem worth the trouble.
The parties have come up with the most disliked candidates in American history. That’s bad enough, but now, both candidates are also under investigation of criminal behavior. Donald Trump is preparing to go to trial on charges of fraud and racketeering, regarding Trump University, as well as the charge of rape of a minor, with a hearing set for December.
And Hillary Clinton is always being investigated about something, never really clearly described. The current investigation is about her use of an email server.
So now, the question is, how could we get rid of these two? If we’re headed for an election in which the parties are evenly matched, but neither candidate can even depend on support from his or her own party, we’re talking about having a president who is not only disliked, but has a the support of a minority of a minority—those few of us who vote, and this time, without much enthusiasm.
Since the problems are legal, would it be up to the Supreme Court to decide that both candidates are probably guilty of “high crimes” and/or “misdemeanors,” so it would be a legal travesty to have them elected? There is, of course, no precedent for that, and conversely, there is plenty of precedent for the election of candidates who are under investigation, and even those who have been convicted.
One example is Michigan Congressman Charles Diggs.
The late Rep. Charles Diggs “was indicted on charges that, among other things, he had taken kickbacks from three of his Congressional employees” in 1978, according to The New York Times. As the paper reports, he was found “guilty of all 29 counts against him in October 1978” before winning re-election. He was eventually censored and went to prison.
The courts were not involved. It was up to the House to censure Diggs. So it is unlikely that the Supreme Court could become involved in the current election. It would be considered a violation of separation of powers, in which the executive, legislative, and judicial branches have limited interaction.
The Constitution doesn’t forbid a felon to be elected to office—probably because it wasn’t considered a possibility! The issue came up in 2014.
Nothing in the Constitution disqualifies a felon from serving in Congress. That doesn’t mean he or she can avoid serving time in prison, but conviction doesn’t necessarily mean expulsion. . .
Again, nothing in the Constitution prevents him from serving in Congress despite the conviction, or even “serving” by phoning it in from a bank of federal pay phones. The only requirements (Art. I, § 2) are that representatives must be at least 25 years old, “seven Years a Citizen of the United States,” and an “Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen” when elected. Under Section 5, either house can “punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour,” but it takes a two-thirds vote to expel a member, a requirement that itself implies that neither conviction nor anything else, for that matter, is enough to boot someone automatically.
Under House of Representatives Rule XXIII(10), any member convicted of a crime for which a sentence of two years or more may be imposed—which would include the charge to which Grimm pleaded—”should refrain from participation” in committee business and “should refrain from voting” until and unless vindicated, pardoned, or reelected. Assuming the House enforces that (making “should” into “will”), and assuming that’s constitutional, then Grimm’s district would effectively be unrepresented until November 2016.
Likewise, Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution says a person must be at least 35 years old, a resident of the United States for at least 14 years, and a “natural born citizen,” although we’ll never settle what that means.
Yes, it’s possible to elect a felon. In fact, we can even elect dead people, such as Mel Carnahan, in 2000.
In that Missouri situation, the Democrat Carnahan died in a plane crash on October 16, 2000, and the voters still “elected” him U.S. Senator, on November 7, 2000, with more than 50% of the vote, above the incumbent Republican, John Ashcroft. There was much confusion of what to do. Republicans argued that the candidate had to be a citizen of the state, and Carnahan was no longer a citizen, being. . .dead. However, it was decided that the “Democrat” won, and it was up to the Missouri Democratic Party to come up with a candidate to fill the term. They chose the candidate’s wife, Jean.
OK, so the courts are out, and there doesn’t seem to be a way for Congress to do anything. However, the political parties could do something ahead of the election.
An obvious precedent would be the presidential election of 1972. Democratic presidential candidate, George McGovern, selected Senator Tom Eagleton, also from Missouri, to be his running mate at the Democratic convention. But then, news came to light of Eagleton’s struggle with depression, from 1960 to 1966, which included electroconvulsive therapy.
After insisting that he was behind Eagleton “one-thousand percent” (sic), McGovern tried to find a replacement. His first choice was Ted Kennedy, who refused to “go down with the ship.” Several others also demurred. Finally, Kennedy’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver accepted. Although a poll showed that 77% of the public said Eagleton’s medical record would not effect their vote, on August 1, Eagleton resigned as vice presidential candidate. McGovern/Shriver lost to Nixon/Agnew in a landslide. Many thought that the way McGovern handled the situation probably made his loss greater.
There was actually a lot of discussion by Republicans this year, after the release of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording of Trump bragging about his predatory attitude toward women. RedState asks why the party didn’t do it, and why Trump didn’t “do the right thing.” But neither acted.
That weekend, dozens of Republicans rescinded their endorsements. There was a concerted, apparently last-ditch effort to usher this charlatan out the door at last. To replace him at the top of the ticket. But the party folded like cowards, and his committed supporters, most of whom claim they don’t like him so much as they hate Hillary, stood by him the whole time with their fake “locker room talk” lie.
But we shouldn’t have backed down. He should have stepped down.
Now, the Chicago Tribune is telling Democrats to have Hillary step down, too.
If ruling Democrats hold themselves to the high moral standards they impose on the people they govern, they would follow a simple process:
They would demand that Mrs. Clinton step down, immediately, and let her vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, stand in her place.
Democrats should say, honestly, that with a new criminal investigation going on into events around her home-brew email server from the time she was secretary of state, having Clinton anywhere near the White House is just not a good idea.
That eliminates the political parties, the Supreme Court, and Congress are out. If one of them is found guilty, Congress could then impeach, and if convicted, the vice presidential candidate would be elevated to president. In that case, we’d need a new vice president, who would just be picked, in about the same manner in which we choose a loaf of bread at the grocery store. It has only happened once—when Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, Spiro Agnew had already resigned in 1973, had been replaced by the unelected vice president, Jerry Ford, who was elevated to president, and he chose Nelson Rockefeller to be the new unelected vice president.
That leaves us with the prospect of two candidates who are not just disliked, but may also be criminals. Is there anything we could do now?
Is there a way for us to vote “no confidence” on November 8? What if we all wrote in “none of the above”—or at least, a majority of us? Could we direct the political parties to schedule a new election next year? In that case, Obama would have to serve an extra year. According to the 22nd Amendment, a president can only be elected twice, but he or she may serve up to ten years.
Imagine if we could have two candidates we could respect. Of course, that would mean a full year of more campaigning. Do we really want that?