Jim Furlong: The Darkest of Spectres

This is an op/ed piece that wouldn’t have been written a year ago. You would have thought me quite mad to have even opened the subject. I am not the first to do this but the question has already been raised about what will happen if Donald Trump refuses to leave office after the 2020 election… particularly if that election is close. 

The idea of something other than a peaceful transition of power is not entirely new in recent American history. 

Unofficial decree

In the final days of the Nixon White House the embattled Dick Nixon was exhibiting behaviours that were quite bizarre. He was drinking heavily. He was seen by Secret Service men running through the halls at full gallop in the middle of the night. Nixon even made quiet inquiries about what army units might be stationed near the White House and where their loyalty lay. 

There was then apparently an unofficial decree from the Joint Chiefs of Staff that orders from President Nixon were not necessarily to be followed. In other words, Nixon had lost the military. His hand was no longer on ‘the button.’ 

In those delicate days if he ordered a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union his orders would, mercifully, not have been followed. 

In Washington these days House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already warned that if Donald Trump is defeated he may not leave office easily. You will remember that Trump famously claims that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote in the presidential election in 2016 and his opponents are now trying to engineer a coup to get him out of office. 

The duly elected President Trump is acting stranger by the day. It is doubtful he even understands the presidency and what limits there are on his authority. 

When concerns were raised about his term in office he joked to a rally about serving 10 or 14 years as president. “Whatever we like right?” Trump said. “Watch it’ll be headlines tomorrow; Donald Trump wants to break constitution.” 

I have included today a photograph from the president’s visit to the site of the tragic mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. That shooting was racially motivated and many opposed the visit of the president to the city because of his position on immigration across the Mexican border. The shooter was targeting Hispanic people and some hospitalized survivors declined to meet with Trump. 

Now the picture shows Donald Trump with a ‘thumbs up’ and a big grin for the cameras like it is a campaign stop. The child being held by Melania in the picture is an orphan. Both of his parents were shot dead in the El Paso attack.

Then what?

Donald Trump is President of the United States but his demeanor and his behaviour should give us cause for concern particularly when you stray into the area of what is next. Transition of power from one administration into a new government has never been a real issue in the United States. Today it is. Trump is most unlikely to win at the ballot box in 2020. The question is… Then what? 

NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]

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