Robert F. Jakubowicz: Trump threatens key concept of peaceful transition of power
PITTSFIELD — Americans held their collective breaths after an ugly, negative and slanderous presidential campaign in 1800. John Adams, the nation's second president, lost his bid for reelection to Thomas Jefferson. The then momentous question for the new nation was whether there would be a first ever peaceful transition of presidential power after what American historian consider to be one of the most vicious, partisan campaigns in this nation's history.
Jefferson, according to historians, was escorted to his inaugural speech by soldiers armed with swords for fear of violent reaction to his election. There was no violence. Americans exhaled and the rest is history. There would be peaceful transitions of power, as contemplated by the Constitution, after presidential elections. That is, perhaps, until now.
Donald Trump has been belaboring the unproven claim that the current presidential election is "rigged" against him. He began this line of campaigning by referring to a sinister international group of bankers, corporations and the media tied to Hillary Clinton as behind such a conspiracy. He has an oblique style of making veiled threats that "horrible" things can happen if Clinton is elected. But he then invariably adds that he doesn't know what will happen.
Here is an example. He told a North Carolina audience that if Clinton is elected and "gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks." But, then he added: "Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don't know..."
But he does know how the hard core fringe groups that support him will understand this political rhetoric. I have watched and listened with dismay to their comments. One of his supporters on television told Trump's running mate Mike Pence that there may be a "revolution." Another supporter of his actually used the phrase "Second Amendment" as one reaction to Clinton's election.
No presidential candidate from a major party to date has questioned, advocated or even hinted about the possibility of violent resistance if he lost an election. Trump is the historical exception. Voters should consider this very seriously because it is the worst kind of pandering for political gain. It implies the undermining of the basic constitutional system of the electoral peaceful transition of powers.
One wonders if he has any real conception about how our constitutional government works. He tells his audiences that Clinton should be locked up presumably without the benefit of having been officially charged with a crime and without a jury trial. He sounds like one of those dictator in a banana republic who jail their opponents.
George Washington, our first president, considered character as the most important trait for the presidency. Washington near the end of his life in 1779, according to American historian Gordon S. Wood in his book, "The Radicalism of the American Revolution," lost faith in what the revolution had done because of the early appearance of political parties and their takeover of the presidential nominating process. Wood noted that Washington presciently observed "that political party spirit" destroyed the influence of character in politics because "one party or the other now could set up a broomstick as (a) candidate and the broomstick would still command their votes "
This time the Republican Party has nominated a presidential candidate who is bereft of such character as evidenced not only by this talk about violence if he loses, but all the other things he has said about minorities, women, the disabled his recent group of alleged sexual abuse victims, and the like. He is one of those broomsticks that Washington referred to.
One Ohio voter in an early television interview called him a different name, She was asked by the interviewer whether the first presidential debate between Trump and Clinton changed her mind about whom she would vote for. She replied. "I am voting for the conservative party (the Republican Party). And if this jackass (Trump) just happens to be leading this mule train, then so be it."
Washington's operative word was "character." It should be obvious to anyone with common sense, decency and love of country that Trump has clearly demonstrated by his speech and actions that he does not possess the necessary "character" to be president. The kind of character that Washington and a number of his presidential successors had to actually make this country great.
The main factor in this election is a desire for change by the electorate from a dysfunctional federal government and economic help for the remaining distressed areas in the country.
The main question for the majority of voters who will elect the president is who will they feel most comfortable with in changing things that need changing. My preference is not Trump based on is clear lack of the necessary character for that role in government.
Robert "Frank" Jakubowicz is a regular Eagle contributor.
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