The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump’s call for suspending the Constitution is too dangerous to ignore

Former president Donald Trump on Nov. 8 in Palm Beach, Fla. (Phelan M. Ebenhack for The Washington Post)

There was a time, in the naive spring and summer of 2015, when I deemed Donald Trump beneath my notice and refused to write about him: Why soil myself, I thought, and also: Surely he will fade away.

I finally caved, in July 2015, with this prescient sentence: “Do not worry about Donald Trump becoming president.

There was a time, in the increasingly appalling months and years that followed, that I deemed Trump too dangerous to disregard and I could not stop calling out his never-ending, ever-escalating outrages against American democracy. Mexican judges. Enemies of the state. Fake news. Muslim bans.

Even a columnist gets tired of repeating herself. And so, during his final stretch in office, and in the years since, I mostly averted my gaze. I called out Trump last August, when he warned darkly of “riots in the streets” after the Justice Department’s search of his Mar-a-Lago residence and before that, in December 2020, when he released a 46-minute video rant assailing the election.

But I mostly thought: Why bother? Shaming targets and convincing readers are the columnist’s goals. With Trump, no minds will be changed, and neither will his behavior.

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And yet, there are times when attention must be paid — if only to lay down a marker, if only (grandiose as this may sound) so historians will understand: This went too far. This cannot be allowed to stand without being denounced.

I might have made this choice in the aftermath of Trump’s dinner with antisemites and Nazi sympathizers Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) and Nick Fuentes. Who could have imagined, in the time before Trump, that a former president of the United States and declared candidate for president would so sully himself and the office?

But I am moved, now, to write about Trump’s latest post, on his Truth Social network, because it is at least equally dangerous and even more insidious.

“So, with the revelation of MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION in working closely with Big Tech Companies, the DNC & the Democrat Party, do you throw the Presidential election results of 2020 OUT and declare the Rightful Winner, or do you have a new election,” Trump posted. “A massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great Founders did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”

And, he followed up, “UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD REQUIRES UNPRECEDENTED CURE!”

Pause to take this in. The former and would-be future president has suggested suspending the Constitution in support of his deranged belief that he won the election and that its results are subject to change. A man who took an oath to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution now has hijacked “our great Founders” in the service of his megalomania.

No.

This is insurrectionism by social media. Nothing — and certainly not imaginary “Fraud,” capitalized or not — “allows for the termination” of constitutional guarantees. Trump is laying the groundwork for a coup.

We can dismiss the post as just the latest Trumpian bluster, something he will never be capable of implementing. Yet the mere willingness to entertain and encourage extra-constitutional action is alarming coming from a man who is seeking to return to office.

Which is why Trump’s words must be highlighted — and called out. I’m past expecting Republican leaders to speak out. We know that, for most, their spines have collapsed and their courage reduced to a shrunken kernel.

Trump “says a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean that it’s ever going to happen,” was the most that Rep. David Joyce (Ohio), chair of the Republican Governance Group, could choke out in response to questions by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

The White House was right to rebuke Trump. “Attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation and should be universally condemned,” spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement. If anything, the words should have been issued in the name of the president himself.

Others made more puzzling choices. For a full day, the New York Times, so far as I can find, made no mention of Trump’s post. I assume this was not an oversight but a deliberate decision not to let Trump hijack its product for his unpatriotic purposes.

I get it, but I’m glad the Times relented with a news report Sunday afternoon. The episode embodies the paradox of dealing with Donald Trump. We do not want to give him oxygen, yet there are times we dare not ignore him. This is one. It should be neither excused nor forgotten.

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