Win or lose next year, the former president could well return for another kick at the can as an octogenarian in 2028. Photo credit: Reuters/Al Drago
A former pastor of mine would often say, “I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet,” just before he would make a prediction. I will borrow that line as I muse about America’s political future.
As I gaze into the proverbial political crystal ball, two likely outcomes to the 2024 race exist. Either the current president wins or the former president reclaims his old job. The indictments of Trump, the rising concerns about Joe Biden’s role in his son Hunter’s business dealings, and the possibility of a third-party candidacy will all capture our imaginations in the months ahead. The 2028 election, however, deserves some speculation since many expect it to be the first Trump-free race since 2012, a considerable passage of time. I don’t want to rain on those hoping for that possibility, but consider the following two scenarios:
Scenario #1 – Joe Biden sweeps to re-election in November 2024, then promptly turns 82 about two weeks later. He will be constitutionally limited from a third term, even if he survives until 2028. If unable to serve his term, Biden’s vice president, Kamala Harris, would ascend to the presidency. Either way, the 2028 nomination fight in the Democratic Party looks like a coronation for Ms. Harris.
Not so fast on the Republican side. If Joe Biden wins re-election, then we know Donald Trump lost. Is there any chance Trump would entertain the idea of running again in 2028 at age 82? Call me an alarmist, but I see nothing preventing Donald Trump from seeking his coveted second term in 2028 if he fails in 2024. Those loyal to Trump will not abandon him. It could be a rough ride for the Trumpster, and he may face stiffer opposition, but his desire for vengeance will not allow him to pass up another opportunity. If you think a 2024 defeat will drive a stake through MAGA, think again. And Democrats are using legal partisanship to increase this eventuality.
Scenario #2 – Donald Trump wins the 2024 race and decides in 2026 or 2027 that since he served one term, then had an interruption, he should be able to serve two consecutive terms. You may laugh. I once did. I think Trump is entirely capable of convincing himself that he can claim a third term. He would start musing at his rallies, then make a declaration juxtaposing himself against the establishment. His followers have a habit of trusting him uniformly. Donald Trump has shown no restraint about serving his interests even if they collide with the Constitution. Just ask Mike Pence.
Suddenly, a Constitutional crisis erupts. Those who know Trump best understand that he brings a unique interpretation to constitutional matters. Every president eligible to seek a third term (Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, Obama, Bush 43) has accepted the 22nd Amendment as the law of the land, but they all won two consecutive terms. Trump can argue that he served one term and now deserves to serve two full ones. If his followers acquiesce, the Party, a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump Incorporated, will have no choice. Then what? Is there a 22nd Amendment Police Force? The idea that Donald Trump might consider defying the Constitution would not be a new development.
I can hear the objections from my readers even now, but indulge me. Consider the wording of the 22nd Amendment: No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. I read that as twice elected president a person cannot run again. Unfortunately, Trump has already suggested he would “negotiate” a third term.
At a rally in September of 2020 in Minden, Nevada, Trump asserted that he probably deserved a third term because of the interference his first administration faced from Congressional investigations. This followed a comment he made at a rally in Oshkosh, Wisconsin a month earlier, “We are going to win four more years…and then after that, we’ll go for another four years because they spied on my campaign. We should get a redo of four years.” Is it so hard to imagine an aggrieved Trump deciding that he should get two full terms? Some have stated that he was only kidding to unsettle the press, but his actions ignoring constitutional practice define the legal troubles he faces. January 6th, the claims of election fraud in Georgia and the classified document investigation all serve as reminders.
But how about the open letter Mark Tushnet, a Harvard law school professor, and Aaron Belkin, a San Francisco State University political scientist, wrote President Biden in July 2023? Tushnet and Belkin wrote to ask Mr. Biden to consider ignoring the Supreme Court when it rules against him. The two academics reasoned, “We urge President Biden to restrain MAGA justices immediately” by declaring that his “administration will be guided by its constitutional interpretations… A president who disagrees with a Court’s interpretation of the Constitution should offer and then follow an alternative interpretation.”
Liberals seeking to upend the constitutional order signifies nothing new and only sets the table for retribution. Trump could use this thinking to advance his agenda about term limitations even if the Supremes ruled against his efforts. Has anyone thought about how and who would enforce the 22nd Amendment if a president and his party walked through that barrier? Would those charged with printing the ballots be able to leave the Republican line blank if the Party submits Donald Trump? Ever heard of write-in campaigns? I searched the web for the eventuality of a candidate defying the 22nd Amendment. There exists precious little if it were to happen. Nothing would go unturned if Trump gave the green light.
Across American cities, lawless gangs have been caught on video stealing, breaking into shops, and even setting property on fire. Most of these crimes have occurred in Democratic-run cities and prosecutors citing various social justice dogma refuse to enforce the law. This effort to conjure up an urban justice for certain communities feeds the sense of a legal system run amok. Joe Biden using his Department of Justice to advocate sweetheart deals for his son or encouraging the padding of legal cases against his key political opponent all feeds this sense of Republican and MAGA World outrage.
Leaping from this increasing frustration to a Trump run in 2028 does not seem so far-fetched in a universe where laws for the Left’s political elite, their chosen victims, or their ideological counterparts vacillate depending on what best serves their interest. Those Trump 2028 flags, bumper stickers, and signs are already in print.
Trump in 2028? Bet on it! And you can thank the elite members of the political class within the Democratic Party for igniting this latest fire in what is becoming the American Crucible.
Dave Redekop is a retired elementary resource teacher who now works part-time at the St. Catharines Courthouse as a Registrar. He has worked on political campaigns since high school and attended university in South Carolina for five years, where he earned a Master’s in American History with a specialization in Civil Rights. Dave loves reading biographies.