We’re at a perilous moment in our democracy. Based on a New York Times op-ed, and Bob Woodward’s new presidential tome, the President of the United States is actively being undermined by those who work in the White House. To be sure, it seems well-intentioned to curb his worst impulses and maintain a level of legitimacy, control, and sanity in the pressure cooker that is the Executive Branch. Nonetheless, it is undemocratic and virtually a fifth column within the government who have taken control.
Many are currently wondering why they have not begun actions to remove President Trump if they felt this way. Currently, what has occurred is some kind of nullification of Trump edicts or what can be labeled as an administrative coup of sorts. The three particular actions that could take place would be either 1) begin impeachment proceedings, 2) enact the 25th amendment to replace the President under the assumption he is incapacitated, and 3) resignation. Anyone in politics with a stake in the current administration would be hesitant to begin this process, because once you start to go down this road, there is really no stopping until it sees its way all the way to the end.
Which brings us to this week’s explainer, “Crossing the Rubicon.” The phrase goes back to not just the beginnings of the Roman Empire, but to THE beginning. Back in 49 BC, Julius Caesar was a Roman general and governor, who controlled an area from Gaul (modern day France) to Illyricum (the Balkan peninsula along the Adriatic) but not any land south of the Rubicon River in Northern Italy. As the terms of his governorship was coming to an end, the Roman Senate ordered Caesar to disband his army and return to Rome. Caesar’s army was both the largest of Rome’s legions, and exceptionally loyal to Caesar. Instead of ceding his governorship, he decided to take his army to march on Rome.
The moment he crossed the Rubicon with his army, he was acting outside of his legitimate authority, was committing treason and implicitly declaring war on Rome. Upon doing so, Caesar said “alea iacta est”– “the die is cast.” Crossing the Rubicon is essentially passing the point of no return. Caesar either had to march on Rome and win, or he would lose his life as a traitor in infamy. Caesar’s actions began the Roman Civil War, which lasted about five years, and eventually solidified Caesar’s standing as dictator for life– Imperial Rome’s first Emperor.
Today, we stand at a point where many wonder if we should cross the Rubicon and begin proceedings to remove President Trump. To initiate the process means either going all the way to impeachment/removal, or a branding as a traitor and unpatriotic. For those in power, it’s a decision not to take lightly and would most likely give pause before taking that first step. Nonetheless, sooner or later, something is going to happen.