There was a very scary program recently discussing PEADs (Presidential Emergency Action Documents ). These documents are so secret that even Congress does not know what is in them. Supposedly, the documents authorize the President to declare an emergency and then act in ways that suspend the Constitution.
Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of a national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, said PEADs have not been subject to congressional oversight for decades. She estimates that there are 50 to 60 of these documents, which include draft proclamations, executive orders and proposed legislation that could be swiftly introduced to “assert broad presidential authority” in national emergencies.
Goitein said she especially worries about any orders having to do with military deployment, including martial law.
“You can imagine a situation where he (Trump) engineers a crisis that leads to domestic violence, which then becomes a pretext for martial law,” said Goitein, who insists she’s simply playing out worst-case scenarios.
This might be a worst-case scenario, but things have been happening that suggest we may be on the cusp of such an event. Trump has been fighting against the policy of mail-in ballots. He has even suggested that the national election in November should be postponed. Getting nowhere with that idea, he arbitrarily got the head of the U.S. Postal Service to remove 671 important postal sorting machines from service, thereby slowing postal delivery significantly. He has also gotten the removal of public post office mailboxes. (That has been stopped for now due to public outcries). No explanation has been given as to why these moves would improve postal service.
Trump has publically said that he has “absolute power,” and that he can declare a national emergency and use it. Back in 1952, President Harry S. Truman blocked a union strike against steel plants while in the middle of the Korean War, He did this by Executive Order nationalizing all the steel plants, claiming this was a national emergency. The federal courts made rulings during the next five weeks, and all of them, including the Supreme Court, ruled against the President. However, only two judges ruled absolutely against the President, and the others seemed to find reasons that Congress had acted in ways that prevented the President from seizing property or that the emergency was not quite so grave as to justify the President’s act. None of the judges would have agreed that the President had absolute power just by declaring an emergency and acting. Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952).
Although the COVID-19 pandemic is an emergency, it would seem doubtful that any court would permit Trump to declare it such an emergency that the national election should be delayed. This is particularly so because voting by mail is a far better solution than delay. The fact that Trump might on the one hand sabotage the Post Office while on the other hand attempt a unilateral delay of the election demonstrates clearly that we must get rid of him before he attempts to seize full power over the nation.
This then leads to the question which progressives like me must face: shall we vote for Biden and Harris, or not vote at all, or vote for a third party, or (gasp!) vote for Trump?
Since we aren’t going to vote for Trump, and since not voting is pointless if we want a better government, then what? Earlier in this election season, I advocated a mass progressive meeting with Biden and threatening to vote for a third party if he did not start taking more progressive positions. But that was before the danger of Trump ramped up. I don’t think we can take a chance that he might be re-elected, despite the fact that I mistrust Biden and Harris. I think that we must get rid of Trump, and the day after the election meet with the third parties and try to found a true replacement for the Democratic Party.