President For Life?

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Image Capture: In rural Pennsylvania, Trump jokes about serving a 5th term. Image Credit: CBS News.
Image Capture: In rural Pennsylvania, Trump jokes about serving a 5th term. Image Credit: CBS News.



President Donald J. Trump apparently jokingly spoke of serving five presidential terms during one of his “Make America Great Again” rally. The rally, at Montoursville, Pennsylvania, took place Monday evening.

Do Trump’s supporters know, despite him joking about serving five presidential terms, cannot serve more than two terms?

Trump’s supporters typically eat up everything the president utters with a spoon. If it were President Barack Obama which were joking about a third, fourth or fifth presidential term, Republicans would be calling for his head on a platter but it’s Trump.

It’s apparently still ok if you’re a Republican. Republicans have a significantly lower bar to jump for fellow party members than they do members of the opposition.

Drawing comparisons between the American political system and that seen in the United Kingdom is illogical because Britons do not vote directly for the prime minister. Party members determine which individual they want as their party leader.

The British System

The British prime minister, the leader of the Conservative Party, is Theresa May. Consequently, the prime minister is the leader of whichever political party wins the election. As long as the party wants that person in the leadership role and the electorate wants that party governing, the party leader can remain resident of No. 10.

With May’s recent resignation, there will be a leadership battle play out for control of the Conservative Party. Because there will be no general election, the winner of that battle automatically becomes the next prime minister. it is just the way things work in the United Kingdom. That is not how the American system works.

In the American political system, Trump serving more than two terms is currently constitutionally impossible. The only person to serve four consecutive presidential terms in American political history is President Franklin D. Roosevelt but his presidency predates the existence of the 22nd Amendment.

Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution

Roosevelt’s presidency began in 1933 and ended with his death in 1945. Ratification of the 22nd Amendment became a reality on Tuesday, 27 Feb. 1951 when these United States saw Minnesota ratify it. Minnesota was the 36th state to ratify the 22nd Amendment. Consequently, on Thursday, 1 March 1951, the Administrator of General Services issued a certificate recognising 22nd Amendment duly ratified and part of the Constitution of these United States.

Image Credit: Cornell Law School
Image Credit: Cornell Law School

The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution of these United States prohibits individuals from serving more than two terms. President for life is therefore not constitutionally possible. It would take a constitutional amendment repealing the 22nd Amendment before Trump could run for a third presidential term.

The Repeal of a Constitutional Amendment

 

Image Credit: Cornell Law School
Image Credit: Cornell Law School

The only time in American history where these United States saw the successful repeal of a constitutional amendment was on Tuesday, 5 Dec. 1933 when the requisite number of states ratified the 21st Amendment. This amendment is unique because it repeals a previous amendment, the 18th Amendment.

Image Credit: Cornell Law School
Image Credit: Cornell Law School

The 18th Amendment was the most unpopular amendment in American history. Many people simply ignored it. The repeal of the 18th Amendment saw its casualties. Because the amendment was the catalyst for the rise of the ‘speakeasy,’ the 21st Amendment saw its demise. The term ‘speakeasy’ is now frequently used in association with retro-style bars rather than how it was originally intended.

Will the 22nd Amendment receive the same treatment as the 18th Amendment? Unless Trump establishes a dictatorship between now and the end of his presidency, the repeal of the 22nd Amendment is the only viable route to a third term.