Venezuela is in the midst of a constitutional crisis. National Assembly Speaker Juan Guaido claimed that President Nicolas Maduro is a usurper of power and declared himself interim president until a free and fair presidential election can be held.
The Trump administration, along with many U.S. allies, has recognized Guaido as the country’s real leader.
Seemingly undaunted, Maduro is digging in. There has even been dark talk of an impending U.S. invasion to remove Maduro, who refuses to step down and who still controls the police and the military.
The United States has been a democracy for nearly 250 years. Over this period, it held presidential elections 61 times every four years — even in the midst of a Civil War and two World Wars.
The transfer of power has always been democratic and peaceful. Even when the sitting president lost, he would help his rival transition to the office and move into the White House.
George H. W. Bush, for example, wrote a gracious letter to Bill Clinton, which has been much quoted recently and which reinforced this great American democratic tradition.
Trump, the tradition destroyer
But all good things eventually come to an end. Leave it to Donald Trump to destroy this tradition.
He has already broken just about every unspoken and formal rule of the American presidency. His transgressions range from not releasing his taxes and personally profiting from his presidency to spewing daily, if not hourly, lies.
As the entire world knows by now, what Trump hates the most is losing. Or, rather, the appearance of losing. He sees that as a blow to the one thing he loves most — his own ego. He will stop at nothing to make sure that he still looks like a winner.
Consider the ongoing fight over his border wall. Last December, when the U.S. Senate passed the budget, he indicated that he would sign that bill — even if it didn’t contain the money for his border wall.
But at the last moment, his allies on the right pulled his chain and called him a loser. Trump reacted as prompted. He opted for a month-long partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government to try to get his way. It turned out to be the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
However, Trump got only a fraction of the funding he sought for his “beautiful” wall in the compromise deal negotiated by Congress. To overcome that, Trump declared a national emergency to obtain the funding against the wishes of the U.S. Congress.
Attacking just about everyone
But Trump is an equal opportunity slayer of U.S. institutions and long-observed democratic practices. Since taking office, he has attacked just about everyone who has not simply succumbed to him and his demands, quirks and obsessions.
The institutions in his crosshairs include the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the U.S. intelligence agencies, the country’s top military brass and the press.
Trump also tweets aplenty about supposed Fake News. The witch hunt he has conducted will one day become the key exhibit of the “innovation” his presidency has wrought. Nothing even remotely similar has ever been seen in American history.
Imagine what will happen if he loses in 2020
For all the attention given to the threat of being removed from office as a result of the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, just think of what Trump is likely to do if he loses the 2020 election.
If his actions up to now are any guide, he will simply declare the election rigged without a shred of evidence and refuse to leave the White House.
Sure, there is the Supreme Court which will have to adjudicate the issue. But then again, there is nothing that would stop Mr. Trump from declaring that the U.S. Supreme Court is corrupt and that it is illegally colluding with the Democrats.
That scenario, of course, assumes that the court were to rule against him which, in turn, would assume it marshals the required courage and doesn’t act, yet again, as a political wing of the Republican Party.
What would happen next? The odds are that, with an entirely feckless Republican Party serving in the U.S. Congress, Trump would still be Commander in Chief and will remain the de facto boss of the U.S. Justice Department.
Nasty though the current constitutional standoff in Venezuela is, it is still a minor regional problem. If a similar constitutional crisis erupts in the United States — and chances of it happening are quite high — it will be a global crisis the likes of which the Western world has not seen since the end of World War II.
Thus, with some U.S. politicians facilely and wrongly declaring themselves to be Democratic Socialists, the truth is that Washington is indeed hurtling toward a Venezuela-style disaster — except that the threat does not come from the left, but the right.
And from right inside the White House.