If the GOP won’t do it, Democrats will have to block Trump’s nomination for them | Bruce Ledewitz

Any chance that Trump might become president should be avoided at all costs. Democrats have a role to play in the nominating process

May 19, 2023 6:30 am

Federal prosecutors asked former President Donald Trump for footage from a security camera that could have held classified documents and was outside a Mar-a-Lago storage room. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Democrats may have to act radically to deny Donald Trump the 2024 Republican nomination. We cannot rely on Republicans to do it. They do not understand the stakes involved.

Take the case of Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett.

Barnett is America’s leading constitutional conservative. He is the originalist’s originalist.

It was Barnett who almost convinced the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 that Obamacare was unconstitutional.

Barnett is now campaigning against Trump.

That is the good news.

The bad news is that Barnett, and by extension The Federalist Society and its many followers, still do not understand the mortal danger that Trump represents. 

Barnett recently penned a series of tweets that amounted to an argument in favor of Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis—or someone much like him — for president in 2024.

Barnett wrote that “one can believe” both that “Trump was a far better President than [Hillary] Clinton would have been & the US is better off he won in 2016” and that Trump is unlikely to win in 2024 and “would govern badly if he did.”

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Barnett added that it would be better to nominate someone else who can win, has demonstrated executive skills and character to govern better than Trump would and would be able to serve two terms if elected.

It is not a bad argument, if a little cool and indirect for mainstream politics.

But it demonstrates that Barnett has not yet come to terms with the tragic mistake he made in supporting Trump in 2016. 

No, America is not “better off” that Trump was president.

Barnett is focused on the newly minted conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court he now enjoys, courtesy of Trump.

In considering various policies that Trump pursued as president, Barnett is ignoring the one unforgivable sin Trump committed —refusing to peacefully transfer power after the 2020 election.

Instead of conceding defeat, Trump told his supporters that he had actually won, took arguably unlawful actions to try to stay in power, and fomented a riot at the Capitol when he could not convince Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to certify the election result.

Trump left office only because he could not figure out anything else to do.

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People forget that the fundamental problem the framers of the Constitution were attempting to solve was the peaceful and continuous transfer of power—the issue that had led to civil war in Great Britain and throughout world history.

America’s constitutional democracy functioned well in this regard until Trump.

For anyone who loves the Constitution, Trump’s actions after the 2020 election disqualify him from ever holding office again. 

What makes Barnett think that a President Trump, having resisted once, would yield power after the presidential election of 2028? Trump repeated his big lie about the 2020 election just last week on CNN.

It is true that Trump’s first attempt at a coup was clownish and bound to fail.

So was Hitler’s first attempt at a coup in 1923.

Because Barnett’s campaign against Trump does not point out this danger, it is far too mild to have any effect on Trump’s chances.

If Barnett were a patriot, he would write this open letter to the Republican Party faithful:

Donald Trump let us down by attempting to overthrow our Constitution in 2020. He is unfit to be President. If Trump is nominated, I, and many thousands of my fellow constitutional conservatives, will be forced to vote for Joe Biden.

And then Barnett would convince the leadership of The Federalist Society to sign the letter with him.

We Democrats must be willing to match the action I am calling on Barnett to take.

If Trump is still a viable candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination when the Pennsylvania primary comes around, I will change my party affiliation from Democratic to Republican and vote for the Republican candidate with the best chance of defeating Trump for the nomination.

And I hope many of my fellow Democrats will do the same thing, in Pennsylvania and across the country.

Of course, if we do this, we will be hurting Joe Biden’s chances of being reelected. If that were the only consideration, Trump would be the easiest Republican to beat. 

But Biden’s reelection is not the most important consideration.

Any chance that Trump might become president again is a threat to be avoided at all costs.

While I strongly oppose the policies that someone like DeSantis as President would enact, no political loss in our system of government is permanent. If your opponent gains power and executes bad policies, the damage can be undone in the next presidential election. 

With DeSantis, and really every Republican with a chance at the 2024 presidential nomination, I can be confident that there will be a next election.

Trump is the lone exception. Trump is the only political figure in America who threatens the end of constitutional democracy. 

It is time for Barnett, who helped unleash this threat in the first place, to face that reality and take the necessary steps to prevent it.

But if he will not take that responsibility, then, for the sake of the Constitution, we Democrats will have to step up.

Trump must be defeated. No matter what it takes. The first, and best, chance to do that is a Republican primary.

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Bruce Ledewitz
Bruce Ledewitz

Opinion contributor Bruce Ledewitz teaches constitutional law at Duquesne Kline Law School in Pittsburgh. His work appears biweekly on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. He hosts the “Bends Toward Justice” podcast. His latest book, “The Universe Is On Our Side: Restoring Faith in American Public Life,” is out now. His opinions do not represent the position of Kline Duquesne Law School.