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Joseph Kaminski

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November 21, 2019

25th Amendment? The Resistance Embraces the Idea of President Pence

What should be considered an impeachable offense by a sitting U.S. President? Violating the U.S. Constitution? A scandal of international proportions? A war justified by lies and waged on innocent people? Murdering innocent people and children remotely using drones? Using the office of President to directly and indirectly from the federal government? According to the stalwart radical centrists of #TheResistance movement online, none of these crimes and blunders should be considered. All, rather, are a distraction from the true evils of the Trump administration: alleged mutual fellatio with Russian President Vladimir Putin and skin of a tepidly orange hue.

On Sunday, Donald Trump committed an act of grave indecency, suggesting a rapidly deteriorating brain, telling of his widely rumored psychiatric insanity, and bordering on the impeachable. The President of the United States of America tweeted a low-resolution GIF image. The “meme”, presumably taken from the president’s Direct Messages with an admiring 14-year-old fan, is adapted from Trump’s 2007 WWE appearance; and it shows, in a few frames, Trump body-slamming his opponent, whose face has been replaced with the CNN logo, and then walking away from the carnage in another few frames. The disturbing incitement of violence against the fair journalists of one of the world’s most profitable media corporations is accompanied by the unarguably slanderous hashtags #FraudNewsCNN and #FNN.

In all seriousness, it seems to be nothing more than a lame gif created by a dullard troll on Reddit. In a week, no one but a select few pundits and their incessantly outraged followers will care — or at least pretend to care. In a month, Trump’s degenerative brain will most likely forget that he ever tweeted it; and in the annals of U.S. political history, even those accounts dealing specifically with the social media habits of sitting U.S. presidents, it will remain, rightfully so, totally neglected.

No one should care. And what a world this would be if, when the “dumbest, fattest, and oldest president” in history, to quote Twitter-user Bakoon, was simply ignored when he shares a childish meme in his typical self-aggrandizement. But of course it could never be that simple, all thanks to the tireless efforts of #TheResistance, a centrist opposition-front. Read the latest article: The Resistance: A Failing Neoliberal Fracture by Joseph Kaminski

Trump’s latest stunt (pun unintended and instantly regretted) has wrecked havoc on Twitter and beyond in a way that only a few of his other tweets in the past few months, this one now in excess of 125-thousand replies and more than three times that many favorites. Its instantaneous proliferation is mostly responsible to Trump’s typically dedicated Twitter following, tens of thousands strong, joined by an even wider range of general internet bad-content-sharers, favoriting his tweet, and a seemingly even-more-vast #TheResistance sphere of Twitter collectively expressing their disgust for the president and their entirely predictable shock and outrage at his entirely predictable social media antics.

Emerging from all of this clamour, in the relatively small sphere known as “left” and “socialist” Twitter is a willingness to admit that the Trump WWE tweet is obviously not an incitement of violence against the media and its members, albeit very surreal; and a further exasperation with #TheResistance-types for their newest crusade against a manufactured scandal. We are thus brought to the horrid idea and viral hashtag #25thAmendmentNow.

The #25thAmendmentNow hashtag on Twitter, alongside the resulting trends on that social media site and, to lesser extents, others, surged immediately from its nascence in the early afternoon on Sunday to dominate political social media trends. The hashtag is a call for the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to be invoked, resulting in an official pronouncement of Donald Trump’s incompetence for the office of President of the United States and his removal from office. The implication is, no surprise, that Donald Trump is an incompetent in his role as U.S. President, and this is the surest, quickest route to replacing him with a competent successor — and, so it seems more importantly to those using the hashtag in earnest, finally being rid of him, once and for all.

This is, unequivocally so, a grotesquely unhinged idea, the only proper response to which is abject horror.

I would hope that to those who have at least an informed layman’s working knowledge of the 25th Amendment, and U.S. Constitutional history in general, understands why. But I’ve been abjectly disappointed by the lack of recognition of #25thAmendmentNow’s grotesqueness as much as I’ve been abjectly horrified by the hashtag itself. Public… intellectuals, let’s say, of the once-and-present MSNBC variety are primarily responsible for the cancerous spread of #25thAmendmentNow. For a quintessential example, this tweet from Keith Olberman:

For those who understandably don’t know why this hysteria is any further advanced than previous hysterics from #TheResistance sphere, a brief history follows.

November 1963 seemed only to offer prospects of a sustained political climate of normalcy, total and perfectly banal, in the United States. The rather popular President of the United States had signed off on the assassination of the President of South Vietnam, Ngô Đình Diệm, a loyal U.S.-ally in the war against the insurgent peasant farmers of the communist North Vietnamese Viet Cong, along with the plurality of his own people, as the crest of a coup d’état engineered by the CIA, in the eighth year of a rather unpopular war. Similarly, two years after the failed but extremely violent CIA-engineered coup d’état in the Cuban Bay of Pigs, which included a failed assassination attempt on Fidel Castro by the fascist elements of the Cuban opposition, the resulting promise made by the President of the United States to, in the words of his friend, the historian Arthur Schlesinger, “bring the terrors of the earth” to Cuba was being swiftly realized, as Cuba’s economy suffered international sanction, its national security constant terrorism, and its people both. To put it simply, the second half of the young President John F. Kennedy’s first term was off to a promising start.

Until, on an unsuspecting Friday, 22 November 1963, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine, ironically a likely extremist of the ineffectual and widely disillusioned anti-war movement. While the federal government and national political climate of the United States was thrust into an internal turmoil — the likes of which had not yet been seen in the 20th century — the terrors of the earth were brought to the managerial sectors of American political life. Someone, after all, needed to be appointed President, and soon, lest the U.S. stranglehold on the pre-industrial world be irrecoverably loosened.

Moreover, though as a distant afterthought, a minor constitutional crisis was triggered: Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was uneventfully sworn in as the 36th President of the United States that same night, and from then faithfully carried out the president’s duty to escalate foreign wars against peasant communists. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people were yet to be ruthlessly murdered, but this was merely the standard; the true crisis of foundational law to be addressed by the U.S. Congress, rather, would be the proposal of a 25th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, known most widely by its quintessential first section: “In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.” The 25th amendment was ratified by all but three states May 1967. (For the curious, the Vietnam War would not end until the Liberation of Saigon, April 1975.) However, the operative section of the 25th Amendment — that is, in its proposed use to remove Trump from office — is it’s mostly unknown-of fourth section:

“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

“Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.”

Only twice in U.S. Presidential history has Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution been seriously considered, both for Reagan. The first would-be invocation was suggested in hindsight of 30 March 1981, when President Reagan was unconscious during surgery following an unsuccessful attempt at his assassination; the second was suggested throughout 1987, as the results of his advanced Alzheimer’s gave small rise to calls for the 25th Amendment to be invoked.

Otherwise, only in ABC’s Scandal, perhaps the least realistic politics-based television drama ever, has the 25th Amendment successfully been invoked. Unfortunately, that small fact is illuminating of my own hypothesis, shared by several others, that most people who identify with #TheResistance believe they’re living in a television drama, and Donald Trump, rather than being the product of a fundamentally corrupt system of government, from whatever root the corruption is theorized to have developed, is just the arch-villain of this season of American politics. More commonly, even so, is to protect the notion that our system of government, instead, fundamentally works, by assigning the role of shadowy arch-villain to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and making Trump out to be his puppet, often employing overtly homophobic rhetoric and imagery to do so.

Regardless of whether they really do live in such a collective fiction, what is certain is that they do not understand what politics is — not even in the most rudimentary sense.

Trump nominated each member of his Cabinet. They were passed through a majority-Republican Senate lacking a unified Democratic opposition. It includes some of the most blatantly unqualified Cabinet Secretaries ever nominated; people like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who failed to answer a single substantive question during her confirmation hearings, and Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, who has no experience with organized labor and only has intentions to destroy its last remnants. Trump nominated an Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, whose nomination for a federal court judgeship in 1986, because of his anti-black, Jim Crow voter policies, Coretta Scott King wrote a considerably strong letter against — a letter which Sessions’ fellow Republican senators would not even allowed to be read during consideration of him for the Attorney General confirmation. Trump has effectively ceded all control of the U.S. middle east presence to Jared Kushner, once known only in tabloids as a moron and in cheap business magazines as a moron who appears in tabloids.

The point is, Trump is an unintelligent, egotistically insecure, geriatric rapist who’s surrounded himself with scumbags, confirmed by a Senate of sycophant Republicans and ineffectual Democrats, who all answer more or less to Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus.

I will unequivocally grant anyone that Trump is unfit for office. But ask yourself the first relevant question after that: Why would your strategy to invoke a yet-uninvoked, obscure section of an amendment that’s barely ever been invoked itself hinge on the goodwill of at least a simple  majority of the most corrupt cabinet in modern history… and incumbent Vice President Mike Pence, one of the most evil people in modern politics?

Which begs yet another question: Why would you hope that the former governor of a state that legally electrocuted LGBTQ people as “conversion therapy” and engineered one of our nation’s first statewide bills to legalize business discrimination against people on religious grounds, written with queer people in mind, and another anti-transgender so-called “bathroom bill”, all in the same year, to become the President of the United States? Tell me that a Pence administration would murder fewer Yemeni and Somali children; that it would be any less corrupt; that it would advance nuclear proliferation at a slower pace; that it won’t install another set of fascist governments in Latin America, given the chance; that it won’t deport 11 million undocumented people, sever families, and treat refugee children fleeing terrors in Central America of U.S. design as possible terrorist threats; that it won’t continue to destroy the public scientific institutions of the United States and use Orwellian tactics to keep climate change out of the federal discourse; that it won’t sell off our national parks; that it won’t antagonize Russia in eastern Europe and aid nazi militants in the Ukraine; that it won’t help the Sauds export Wahhabism; that it won’t scale back as many civil rights as possible and create an Supreme Court of deeply evil faux-jurists that will last for decades, if not indelibly.

Either you haven’t considered any of this, in which case you’re a simple, perhaps well-intentioned reactionary; or you have considered all of this, in which case your entire politics is elucidated and your political beliefs against the antics of “Trump” are null and void.

If you are willing to hinge every political chip you have replacing Trump with a president who will head the very same Cabinet and enact the very same agenda, but more “competently”, as per the 25th Amendment, and without all the Twitter antics you deem “below the office” of President, then you only maintain two earnest beliefs about what politics is: First, an unwavering belief that the American system of government is fundamentally a beautiful work of Enlightenment-era geniuses, and an essentially good and just one at that. Second, that the people affected by the President’s actual politics don’t really matter, that their agenda is irrelevant, so long as the President fulfills the noble aesthetics you believe are rightful of the office of President of the United States.

The conclusion has become painfully obvious the months since Trump’s inauguration: #TheResistance would embrace Mike Pence and any other radical, far-right Republican; #NeverTrump is exclusively against Trump and the centrist, neoliberal members of “The Resistance” would quit their online protesting if anyone besides Trump became our President. If the 25th Amendment were to be invoked and Trump removed from office, nothing about the Presidency would change except its public face. Centrist Democrats would suddenly become willing participants in compromises with the same evil, merely because that evil would play by the established rules of engagement. #25thAmendmentNow reveals the true nature of “radical centrism” more starkly than any other #TheResistance-related online trend yet.

For those so-called moderates occupying the fabled apolitical center, the aim of politics, what politics actually is, has never been to defeat evil or to affect real, lasting change, but to compromise with a civilized evil, and to name the result progress.

This article was written by a guest writer: Elijah Williams, a university student and freelance writer with a passion for leftist politics. He is a self-described libertarian socialist and an internationalist. Minor edits were done by Joseph Kaminski before publication. You can hear more about the whole ‘Impeach Trump’ movement from Elijah and Joe (and Omar) on their short-lived political podcast project the Broletariat

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