Method #1: Term limit
- Time required: up to ten years
- Examples: Obama (2017), Bush (2009), Clinton (2001), Reagan (1989), Eisenhower (1961), etc.
- Remarks: Thanks to George Washington, the first president, the custom was to step down after eight years in office. Only Franklin Roosevelt was president longer (12 years). In 1951 the 22nd Amendment to the constitution set the limit to two and a half four-year terms (10 years).
Method #2: Voting the president out of office.
- Time required: up to four years
- Examples: Bush (1992), Carter (1980), Ford (1976), Hoover (1932), etc.
- Remarks: The chief means provided by the constitution, though it is way easier to win an election as president than as a challenger (see term limits). The election for president takes place every four years, the next one in 2020. There are no recall elections for president.
Method #3: Assassination
- Time required: a few seconds (but would take days to months to prepare)
- Examples: Kennedy (1963), McKinley (1901), Garfield (1881), Lincoln (1865).
- Remarks: To date this has been done by shooting the president. The US is awash in guns, but the president is heavily guarded, increasingly so with each attempt and more so now because of the fear of terrorism since 9/11.
Method #4: Getting the president to step down
- Time required: months to years (because of some sort of scandal)
- Examples: Nixon (1974), Johnson (1968), etc.
- Remarks: In 1968 Johnson decided not to run for a re-election, the Vietnam War having made him deeply disliked. In 1974 Nixon resigned after leaders of his own party in Congress persuaded him to step down – though by then there was clear proof that he was behind the cover-up of the Watergate break-in, a crime, enough to carry out:
Method #5: Impeachment and trial
- Time required: months
- Examples: Bill Clinton (1998) and Andrew Johnson (1868) were both impeached but neither were convicted
- Remarks: Article II, Section 4 of the constitution:
“The President … shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
It takes a majority of the House of Representatives to impeach and then two-thirds of the Senate to convict after trying him for the crime. Generally speaking, about a third of the president’s own party would have to agree to convict.
Method #6: 25th Amendment
- Time required: days, maybe weeks
- Examples: none so far
- Remarks: If the president goes mad or is otherwise unable to carry out his duties, he can be removed by the vice president and a majority vote of the cabinet (the president’s top advisers) and a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate. Downside: Would only work in clear-cut cases, particularly since the cabinet is generally packed with loyalists.
For those keeping track at home:
- House: 55% Republican
- Senate: 52% Republican
The 2018 mid-term elections are unlikely to change it that much: the House is deeply gerrymandered to favour Republicans while in the Senate 25 Democrats and Independents will be up for re-election compared to only 9 Republicans.
– Abagond, 2017.
- 12 US presidential elections
- When President McKinley was assassinated
- Death of Outrage