We may not be able to fix the damage that Trump’s incompetence has already caused, but at least we can stop him from doing any more harm. Public figures ought to be calling on the president to resign from office, to get out of the way and let competent people step in.
It is clear even to casual observers that Trump is in way over his head, has no idea what to do, and is interested mainly in public messaging that he thinks may mitigate personal political damage to him in an election year.
During the Friday press briefing, Trump bragged to the press about his supposed scientific expertise, suggesting that he has “a natural ability” to understand the issues associated with coronavirus. One reporter who was there said of the briefing that “the president’s statements to the press were terrifying.”
Some experts have suggested that we simply to have accept the fact that we have a president who is incapable of handling the crisis and work around that reality. Crisis management expert Juliette Kayyem concluded that “a crisis finds a nation as it is, not as its citizens wish it to be.”
On one level, this is a powerful observation. Public health experts charged with responding to the crisis have to confront reality as it stands right now, with a president who is not up to the task. They can’t wish their way around that.
On another level, however, it is a mistake to assume we are simply stuck with the president we have. If he can’t do the job, the consequences are deadly serious as lives are quite literally at stake.
While scientists, doctors, and other public health professionals deal with the day-to-day business of saving lives and mitigating damage, the rest of us — especially those with a platform that reaches the public — must say what is self-evident. Donald Trump cannot do his job. He must resign, immediately.
Readers who are generally receptive to this conclusion may not unreasonably ask: What’s the point? Trump will never voluntarily leave office. That is a fair observation, and I do not expect him to do so.
I still believe it is essential to call for his resignation because it is so plainly the right thing to do. In a functioning system, elected officials from both major political parties would call for the president’s resignation, and he would be forced to leave office or face impeachment and removal through the constitutional process.
Our system, tragically, has failed. But we must continue fighting against that failure by working to restore the normalcy that has been taken from us. That is what it means to have a constitutional democracy in these deeply troubled times. One step toward restoring normalcy—admittedly, a symbolic step—is insisting that ordinary standards still mean something, that Trump’s failure cannot be glossed over or be set to the side.
In calling for Trump’s resignation we are refusing to accept the assumption that Trump exists outside of normal rules, and that this is something we simply must accept. We know he isn’t up to the job. The question is whether we, as citizens in a constitutional democracy, are up to ours.
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