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Posted on Nov 23, 2019

Trump’s influence may last long past time in office: Column

By Rich Elfers

Can we all agree that President Trump has divided the country? His actions and words have been divisive, and he has attacked and denigrated those who dare to challenge him. He has encouraged racism and bigotry and has called our free press “the enemy of the people.” These are not the words of someone who values First Amendment freedoms or respects his role under the Constitution.
Recently, a Trump supporter approached me and said she was concerned about how our president has divided the nation. In the same breath, she said she was disappointed in the leftward drift of the Democrats with their push to increase the amount of socialism in this country – college debt forgiveness, and the end of private health care insurance, to name two.
I agreed with both of her concerns. The progressive spending programs are unrealistic and would only increase the national debt. They are a form of demagoguery that is being used by some Democratic candidates to appeal to the young voters who want to be as irresponsible as the baby boomers have been with their social programs.
My only hope about this leftist move of several Democrats is my knowledge of how separation of powers works. Any president can say whatever they want while running for election. President Trump did. He promised that the Mexicans would pay for the building of the wall on our southern border. That didn’t and won’t happen. Congress makes laws, not the president. So, any promises by either Democrats or Republicans is meaningless unless Congress agrees and supports legislation.
This Trump supporter and I discussed the current House impeachment hearings. Most Americans do not know that impeachment is only an accusation or indictment. It is not a verdict of guilt. Any guilty verdict must be decided by two-thirds of the Senate before the president can be removed from office. Based upon the current attitudes of congressional Republicans, Trump will remain in office to run for re-election in 2020. House Speaker Pelosi knows this, and she is working to have the Senate vote on any impeachment articles by the end of 2019.
Pelosi felt that President Trump crossed a line when he tried to bully Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate Democratic front-runner Joe Biden by withholding aid to Ukraine until a public announcement of an investigation of Biden and his son. She felt she couldn’t allow such abuse of presidential power because it would set a bad precedent for the future.
Some Republicans are now stating that even if Trump bullied Zelensky, it’s not an impeachable offense. The question I’m troubled with is what if a Democrat were to win in 2020, and in 2024, that Democratic president decided to copy President Trump’s actions by trying to use foreign powers to influence the 2024 election to his/her advantage? What would the Republicans say and do then? They would have set a precedent that would be hard to argue against when a Democrat copies it.
What if President Trump is found guilty and is removed from office by a two-thirds Senate vote? Would he leave, or would he claim that the vote was rigged, and he wasn’t leaving? Then what?
Many of his supporters have made themselves very clear that they don’t care what President Trump has done or might do in the future. They will support him no matter what. On the other hand, what if he isn’t removed from office by the Senate and he runs for re-election in 2020 and wins? Will he then continue to divide the country with his words and actions and continue to ignore the Constitution? Will he stir up his supporters to overthrow the government and make himself a dictator? Such actions have happened in other countries. We are not exempt from such a situation in this country.
What If he loses in November 2020 and refuses to leave office? Are we looking at a civil war? I don’t know. I think we can all stipulate and agree that President Trump has created a great deal of divisiveness in this nation. It is a condition that threatens our democracy.
Are we willing to live with the possible consequences, whether or not he is removed from office by the Senate or he either wins or loses in November 2020?

Rich Elfers is a columnist with the Courier-Herald in Enumclaw, a former Enumclaw City Council member and a Green River College professor. He can be contacted at