End this calamitous presidency now — The Hill
In an opinion column that ran on the day the United States reached three million coronavirus cases, I urged our governors to call for the resignation of Donald Trump. I contended that the nation, already crippled by disease and economic disaster due to mishandling the pandemic, could not have additional damage that he would inflict until the inauguration of the new president. The governors hold the credibility and stature, based on their frontline battle with the coronavirus, to end this incredible failure.
Now, one month later, the United States has hit five million coronavirus cases. Trump, after a moment of sound judgment in which he canceled the Republican convention in Florida, went back to attacking his public health officials, urging governors to reopen schools while the pandemic runs rampant across the nation, praising his wonderful leadership, and renewing his prediction that the coronavirus will simply disappear.
Trump has also ramped up the efforts to suppress the vote and call into question the election, including suggesting that it might be delayed and undermining the ability of the Postal Service to handle mailed ballots. He sent federal officers to “dominate” the streets of Portland and threatened other cities. Legal scholars and political observers started talking about the options if Trump refuses to leave office if he loses the election.
We have a president who denies responsibility for fighting the pandemic that has killed more than 160,000 Americans and plays no useful role for negotiating a relief package, but he appears ready to disrupt the election results, militarize the streets, and seize on the moment of tackling racism to foment civil war. What justification is there for giving Trump more than five additional months to wreak further havoc across the country?
While I believe the Senate failed the country in the impeachment trial, I saw some merit in the argument by Lamar Alexander that impeachment had mirrored our deep partisan division, and that removing Trump under those extreme circumstances would only “rip the country apart and pour gasoline on the fires of cultural division that already exist.” Because this was an election year, voters must pass judgment on the president.
But that was before his utter failure to deal with the coronavirus crisis. If there was any evidence that Trump knew his mistakes, felt some remorse, accepted responsibility, and was changing course, there would be some reason to wait for the election. However, there is no such evidence of any of this. Instead, we have an increasingly unhinged president desperate to avoid being a “loser” and in fear of possible criminal indictments.
Some argue that his supporters will only accept his leaving office if he is defeated in the election. But there is no evidence that his base, including those who oppose a mask mandate and believe the nation is on the right track, will ever accept his leaving office, unless he does the unexpected by leaving with some grace. Waiting for their approval is fruitless.
If a bipartisan group of governors called for Trump to resign, the Business Roundtable, the American Bar Association, and countless more prominent organizations would quickly follow suit. Even Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leaders in Congress, might climb on board. No one ever thought Richard Nixon would leave office voluntarily in 1974. But he resigned within days when his political support had collapsed.
Public health and economic experts tell us that the months between now and January are likely to be one of the darkest periods in our history. We have to prepare for the difficult time ahead and be heard in the election. The one certainty is that the country could come through it better, with fewer deaths and less division, if Trump were no longer president.
Ira Shapiro is a former staffer on Capitol Hill and former trade ambassador under President Clinton. He is the author of “Broken: Can the Senate Save Itself and the Country?”