Jason Shelton

JASON SHELTON

Prior to the election of Donald Trump, it was difficult for any American to imagine the President of the United States of America being an enemy of democracy. From George Washington to Barack Obama, every single American President has adhered to the fundamental principles of democracy and embraced the peaceful transition of power. Prior to last week, no living American has experienced an attempt by an American president to stage a coup or to engage in seditious behavior.

Unfortunately we have now all witnessed first-hand the threat of an unstable and immoral president with unscrupulous motives.

Our founding fathers lived during the time of King George III, a British Monarch, and at a time when the original 13 colonies were merely an overseas possession of Britain. The people of this land had no real rights or political power. The mistreatment of these colonial residents led to the American Revolution and eventually the formation of the United States of America that has operated as a Constitutional Republic since 1789.

Having experienced the wrath of unbridled power, the framers of our Constitution were careful to include checks and balances and to establish a separation of powers to prevent a president from becoming a king. While there have been several contested presidential elections decided by the United States House of Representatives, in the 231 years since our Constitution was drafted and adopted, there has been little need for the protections of the Constitution to prohibit a president from overstaying their time in office – because no previous President has ever attempted to unilaterally evade the will of the people as voiced in the presidential election. Though President Trump’s unlawful behavior was under the pretext of false claims of a fraudulent election, President Trump’s over 50 failed lawsuits and requests for numerous election recounts and audits only solidified the validity of President-elect Biden’s victory. President Trump himself, by contesting the election on multiple fronts, unequivocally defeated any claims of fraud in the 2020 Presidential election.

Next week, because of the wisdom of those great leaders over 230 years ago, a new duly elected president will be sworn into office and we can begin the process of healing our nation after four long years of chaos and division.

In the past four years, our nation has lost over 3 million jobs, added trillions of dollars to the national debt, lost our standing as the moral leader of the free world, and lost over 350,000 American lives due to a criminally inept national response to Covid-19.

Fortunately, American democracy has prevailed. Thanks to the wisdom of our founders, we can return to an era of American prosperity, fiscal responsibility, decency, and properly address the ongoing viral pandemic.

Now is also time to reevaluate our Constitutional and statutory safeguards on executive power. While we never thought an American president would be a threat to America itself, we have now witnessed a president incite a seditious riot against the United States Capitol in a desperate attempt to retain power. The presidency, in the wrong hands, is both a domestic and global threat, and more safeguards against the abuse of the power of the presidency may now be warranted.

We have seen the great importance of elections and the consequences of electing morally bankrupt leaders. We must protect America against the tyrannical anti-democracy forces currently at work in our nation.

As a final thought, I have seen little mention the fundamentals of presidential succession under our constitutional and statutory framework in the current election debate. If the Congress had not accepted the results of the electoral college and certified the election, or if President Trump’s attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021, was successful – he still would not have been a lawful president after noon on Jan. 20, 2021, when his term expired. Had the president’s efforts been successful, in the absence of a duly elected president or vice-president, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, would have become acting President until a new president could be selected as both the terms of president Trump and Vice-President Pence would expire by operation of law at noon Jan. 20, 2021.

JASON SHELTON is the mayor of Tupelo. Readers can contact him at jason.shelton@tupeloms.gov.

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