Election

Turn Democrats Upside Down

Karen Handel, R, winner of Georgia's 6th District U.S. House seat.

Karen Handel, R, winner of Georgia's 6th District U.S. House seat.

Democrats hoped to win special elections for the U.S. House of Representatives this year. Tuesday in Georgia, Republican Karen Handel won the 6th District House seat.

Republicans have skunked Democrats in 2017. During this year of Trump, they have lost four of four special elections for which the previous House members were Republican.

Georgia was the largest Democratic effort, with $23 million spent by the party’s candidate, Jon Ossoff. He did not help by living outside the district. The fact that much of his funding came from outside the area detracted too.

Indeed, Ossoff’s outsider issues reinforced the impression of Democratic smugness. For instance, no law requires a House member to live in the district represented, but common sense says a representative should. Too often, Democrats lord their view of themselves over their view of Republicans, particularly Trump supporters.

Democrats should turn themselves upside down. They should look upward for inspiration — practically speaking — from Republicans and especially from Trump supporters.

Handel’s victory is proof. She won 51.9 percent to Ossoff’s 48.1 percent, a difference of 3.8 points. This was the most expensive House race in history, with more than $50 million spent.

Never mind that the presidency of Donald Trump has been error-prone and unsubstantial since Jan. 20, when the new president insisted that his inauguration’s crowd size was monumental despite photographs showing the opposite.

Among the president’s real troubles are carrying no legislation of note from proposal to approval; staff turmoil; investigations of impropriety, which include a special counsel; and an early morning habit of writing on Twitter. Even within his core, many wish he would lay off the often-contradictory tweets.

The operative words are “never mind.” Despite an overall approval rating in polls of 40 percent or less for the better part of a month, those who support Trump — his core — do so with dedication and enthusiasm.

They do not want to be told what to think about the president or much of anything else. Many beyond the Trump core characterize this outlook as “don’t confuse me with facts.”

These gazes from above simply stiffen Trump’s supporters. The concrete of their foundation is strong down at ground level.

Such faith keeps the Trump movement rolling like a tank against small arms. Day-to-day Democrats should learn from the president’s core. They should discover that it is they as a broad group — not party tiptops — who need to pull the movement together, set its priorities and make its choices.

The Democrats can argue that their losing streak is explainable. Republicans had held all the seats. In the case of the 6th District, Republicans had held it since Newt Gingrich’s victory in 1978.

The arrogance exposed by Ossoff’s outsider problems, however, is not arguable.

It was an easy target for a Trump tweet in which he stated his view on Ossoff’s positions, then nailed him by saying he “doesn’t even live in district.”

Likewise, Handel’s final-week TV ad “About You” packed a powerful punchline in its final three paragraphs:

“My opponent doesn’t live here, doesn’t share our values.

“He’s raised millions outside of Georgia from Nancy Pelosi and outsiders who just don’t share our priorities.

“He wants to make it about them. It should be about you.”

Democrats think they are the teachers. Instead, they should become students. Rather than looking down on Trump’s supporters and other Republicans, they should look up and learn.

The pendulum will swing, as it always has, but time could drag.

If Democrats hope to speed the movement, they will start at the bottom and construct their future from a foundation of shared strength. Momentum will build, as their opponents have shown.

▽ Download editorial in plain text — long-press or right-click to save/download.

Trump Can Be Replaced

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump can be replaced. No impeachment required.

This is true for any president, under the Constitution’s 25th Amendment. Although political problems would abound, the mechanism for judging the president’s ability to carry out his duties is solid.

Vice President Mike Pence would take the first step, following Section 4 of the amendment.

The vice president would gather support from a majority of Cabinet members.

Together, they would write a declaration to the Senate president pro tempore and the speaker of the House that the “president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

The vice president would take over as acting president immediately.

The president could resume his position by writing to the Senate president pro tempore and the speaker that “no inability exists.”

The vice president and a majority of the Cabinet could challenge the president’s declaration by submitting their own declaration, again, within four days.

The vice president would resume his place as acting president, and Congress would take up the challenge. It would have 21 days to decide if the president is able to serve.

Votes of two-thirds in both the House and Senate would keep presidential power under the vice president as acting president. Otherwise, the president would regain power.

The 25th Amendment does not prohibit the president from declaring again that he is able to meet the requirements of office. That would have the potential for resetting the cycle of a vice president-Cabinet declaration and congressional votes.

POWERS AND DUTIES

The president holds power over life and death. He commands the military. The power of clemency allows him to pardon a criminal or commute a prison sentence.

He may propose legislation, and sign or veto legislative bills passed by Congress. He directs foreign policy and deals with leaders worldwide.

He appoints ambassadors, as well as thousands of government officials. They include Cabinet members, federal judges and heads of agencies. The Senate confirms many of the appointments.

In short, the president runs the federal government day to day. His actions must adhere to the Constitution and federal laws.

REPERCUSSIONS

Critics question Trump’s fitness as president because of false and nonsensical statements.

On March 4, Trump wrote on Twitter: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

Trump offered no evidence that Obama had tapped his phones. Obama did not have the authority. Trump shamed himself and his presidency, rather than Obama.

On Feb. 18, Trump held a campaign rally in Melbourne, Fla. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening,” he said. “You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden.”

He implied and the next day confirmed reference to problems with immigrants, of which there is some. Nonetheless, was there trouble in Sweden on the night of Feb. 17? None. Trump’s claim: nonsense.

In an interview with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, shown before the Super Bowl on Feb. 5, Trump said enforcement of his Jan. 27 travel-ban executive order affected just “109 people.”

In truth, federal officials said, 60,000 visas were revoked because of the travel ban.

With a manner opposite to President Trump’s impertinence, Vice President Pence is loyal, serious and substantially more conservative.

Those qualities would lead Pence to ignore a challenge to Trump’s presidency, other than emergence of an ability-to-serve problem clear both for supporters and opponents to see.

Pence’s calm, purposeful demeanor sets an example for the executive branch.

The nation would owe Pence a debt of gratitude if he would counsel Trump. Advise him to focus outward on the needs of others — rather than inward on himself — to build respect and power.

▽ Download editorial in plain text — right click to save/download.

The Trump Amendment

In this century, only one of three presidents has won the most votes cast by citizens.

George W. Bush and Donald Trump became president by focusing on the Electoral College. They used its rules to their benefit.

Such campaigns are fair. The rules are not. A handful of state-by-state electors choose the president. The nationwide vote of citizens is ignored:

  • In 2000, voters favored Al Gore, a Democrat, over Bush, a Republican. The Electoral College chose Bush.
  • In 2008, voters favored Barack Obama, a Democrat, over John McCain, a Republican. The Electoral College chose Obama by a substantially greater margin than the national voters.
  • In 2016, voters favored Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, over Trump, a Republican. The Electoral College chose Trump.

By elevating 538 electors over more than 100 million registered voters, the Electoral College contradicts the opening words of the Constitution, "We the people."

Trump agrees.

In 2012, he wrote that the Electoral College is "a disaster for a democracy." He called it "a total sham and a travesty."

Three days after his Nov. 8 victory, Trump sat with Lesley Stahl of CBS News for his first postelection interview. She asked if he stood by his condemnation.

"I'm not going to change my mind just because I won," he said.

Trump said he respects the system. He noted that it engages all the states. However, his bottom line: "I would rather see it where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes and somebody else gets 90 million votes, and you win."

SHAMEFUL HISTORY

In 1787, the Three-Fifths Compromise skewed apportionment of the Electoral College and the House of Representatives. Enshrined in the Constitution, the compromise counted a slave as three-fifths of a person, despite having no voting right and few others. The result was more electors and representatives for Southern states.

The 12th Amendment changed the arrangement of the first-place candidate winning the presidency and the second-place candidate winning the vice presidency. After its ratification in 1804, presidential and vice presidential candidates ran together on party tickets.

The Electoral College reversed the people's decision twice in the 19th century.

When congressional dissatisfaction over the 1876 election drifted into January, the Compromise of 1877 shifted 20 disputed electoral votes. The votes moved from Samuel J. Tilden, a Democrat, to Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican. Tilden had won the people's vote.

Democrats gave up the 20 electoral votes and Tilden's probable victory in the secretly negotiated compromise. They gained a Republican promise to remove post-Civil War federal troops from the South. In short, Southerners found a way to end Reconstruction and repress blacks.

In 1888, the voters favored Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, over Benjamin Harrison, a Republican. The Electoral College chose Harrison.

'28TH AMENDMENT'

Americans elect governors, senators, dogcatchers and other officials on voting ballots throughout the country. Those candidates win or lose on the basis of votes cast by the citizens. The president is the exception.

Congress and the states, led by President Trump, should amend the Constitution to eliminate this aberration, the undemocratic Electoral College.

In honor of a president fond of personalization, call this prospective 28th Amendment "The Trump Amendment."

For the nation's future, Trump would sweep away a sordid history of slavery boosting, red-flag a game of favoring voters in certain states and produce a system of straightforward presidential election.

Votes cast in one state must count the same as votes cast in the 49 others. Any tick on a presidential ballot counted as superior or inferior cheats the national notion of a union.