Lawrence Lessig, the Roy L. Furman professor of law and leadership at Harvard Law School, offered hope recently for those still in denial over the 2017 presidential election. Lessig, seriously, argued in Newsweek that it is not too late. Hillary Clinton could still be president if things break in the right way. It would only require the removal of both Trump and Pence as well as a cooperation and resignation of a President Speaker Paul Ryan. That is all it would take to make for those who believe that there is no price too great to get the Clintons back into power. Even Lessig’s Rube Goldberg machine of presidential succession.
The scenario laid out by Lessig is that (1) Trump is impeached or takes a Nixonian dive; (2) then Pence is implicated and either resigns or is impeached; (3) then Ryan is made president and appoints Clinton as Vice President; and finally (4) Ryan resigns because it is the only decent thing to do. That would take as many as two additional presidencies (President Pence and President Ryan would leave office) to bring about a President Clinton.
Lessig insists that “This is one way that it could happen.” Presumably, the other way is that everyone but Clinton dies in an apocalyptic meteor strike.
Under these circumstances, Lessig insists “The answer seems unavoidable: Ryan should nominate the person defeated by the treason of his own party, and then step aside, and let her become the President.”
In fairness to Lessig, law professors love to play out fanciful or fun scenarios. However, Newsweek advanced this suggestion as a serious possibility.
What is curious is the Lessig would view Clinton as the Democrat to be elevated given the recent disclosures of how the DNC and Democratic establishment effectively rigged the primary against her opponents. Shouldn’t Lessig add an extra step for Clinton to step side for “the person defeated by the treason of his own party” and bring in the Administration of President Bernie Sanders?
There are a couple problems here. First, there is absolutely no evidence of treason and the allegations against Trump are well removed from any responsible definition of that crime. Second, Lessig ignores that the election appears to turn more on people voting against Clinton than for Trump. Both Clinton and Trump were the most unpopular candidates in the history of American politics. The DNC and establishment lost this election by pushing through a candidate who had record lows for trustworthiness. Even after all of the Trump controversies and Clinton’s post-election speaking tour campaign , he remains more popular than Clinton.
We have previously noted that polls have shown Trump would still beat Clinton in a head-to-head election (and here). While Trump is also facing declining polls, he is at the same level or even higher than Clinton. Clinton posted the lowest polling numbers yet with only 36% popularity and an unfavorable rating of 61%. Polls are showing Trump at 38 percent. While a new poll shows that half of people feel Trump should resign, it is clear that they want Clinton even less — the very same position held by many in the campaign. Before the establishment all but anointed Clinton as their candidate in the primary, polls clearly showed that the voters did not want an establishment figure so the DNC worked to guarantee the nomination to the ultimate establishment figure. However, it clearly goes deeper than that. Even against one of the most unpopular figures in history (Trump was even worse at 63 percent unfavorable), Clinton could not even maintain a majority of women with favorability ratings. Against a candidate who was intensely opposed by many, Clinton could not even get above 50 percent and finished 48 to 46 percent — with the electoral votes going to Trump. Had the DNC and establishment not engineered the nomination, another Democrat would likely have had a walk away victory.
Finally, there would be no compelling reason for either Pence or Ryan to resign. If Trump were to resign or be removed, there is no expectation of mass resignations to facilitate the swearing in of the losing candidate from the last election. That has certainly not been the case with past controversies like the Nixon resignation (despite the role of the “dirty tricks” team operating out of the White House).
The suggested path to a Clinton presidency through this chain impeachments and resignations smacks of a certain denial bordering on delusion.