Some people are comparing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. They say Trump preaches a form of fascism and might become uncontrollable, were he to be elected president. These people also point out an example from Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. At that time, the former Chancellor of Germany, Franz von Papen, helped Hitler get appointed as Chancellor. He did that as way to get political revenge at some of those who had had him removed from that position in the previous year. He also thought that Hitler could be controlled, once he was in the government. As it turned out, nothing could have been further from the truth. Once in office, Hitler and his Nazi Party soon seized total control of Germany’s government and its military. Therefore, there are those who fear something similar could happen in the United States with Trump.
However, we have something that Germany didn’t have – a Constitution that is difficult to amend. And one primary feature of our Constitution is the separation of powers clause that prevents any one person or group from controlling too much of the government at one time. In 1930’s Germany, Hitler and the Nazi’s were able to change and/or suspend their constitution on a whim. That can’t happen here. If Trump, as president, were to try to grab more power than he was constitutionally entitled to, someone could – and would – bring a legal challenge against him. It would likely end up in the Supreme Court, which would undoubtedly rule in favor of the plaintiff(s). An overzealous President Trump could also be impeached by the House of Representatives and convicted and removed from office by the Senate.
And Trump could not just arbitrarily suspend the Constitution and/or make changes to it unilaterally to give himself more power. A president can suspend habeas corpus during wartime, as Lincoln did, but he can’t touch the majority of our constitutional rights nor can he alter the separation of powers clause. The Constitution can only be changed in two ways, neither of which involve the president. The first way is by the amendment process, in which an amendment requires passage by two-thirds of the House and Senate and approval of three-fourths of the states to be ratified. The second way is by a constitutional convention, which must be called by two-thirds of state legislatures. That convention could then propose as many amendments its delegates would like, but any proposed amendments would have to be approved by three-fourths of the states to be ratified.
Therefore, rest assured that Trump would not be a runaway train, should he be elected President of the United States. He would not be able to do a fraction of things he might want to do. Our time-tested Constitution would keep him in check.