What is Lame Duck President? Donald Trump is setting dangerous precedent by refusing to concede, abuse of power
By refusing to concede the election and blocking President-elect Joe Biden's smooth transition to the White House, Trump has digressed from the set fundamentals of an outgoing POTUS
The history of the United States has been filled with Lame Duck presidents because the country's constitution demands it. However, there has never been a Lame Duck president who has set as dangerous a precedent as President Donald Trump.
By refusing to concede the election even after weeks of his opponent is declared the winner, blocking Biden's smooth transition to the White House and continuing to fuel conspiracy theories about voter fraud believed by millions of Americans that will inevitably make Biden's efforts to govern more difficult, Trump has digressed from the set fundamentals of an outgoing POTUS.
And to understand why his digression might have a long-lasting negative impact on the incoming administration as well as the nation, it is important to go back to the term Lame Duck.
What is a Lame Duck?
Birds must periodically molt and regrow their features because they degrade from physical wear, lice and mites. Birds schedule their molts between other demanding tasks, like breeding and migration because it requires a lot of energy.
While ducks don’t use their short and pointy wings all the time, they mostly use it to fly longer distances, from one feeding site to another, or to migrate between their breeding and wintering grounds. Since they need the strength of all their feathers while flying or taking off from water bodies, ducks have come up with the solution of molting all of their flight feathers simultaneously.
"Every year in the late summer after the breeding seasons, ducks seclude themselves in a rich wetland or swamp with plenty of food, where they will spend three to six weeks completely flightless while they grow new wing feathers. During this period, these 'lame ducks' feed vigorously and prepare for fall migration, but they remain highly vulnerable to predation. To protect themselves, ducks retreat into the cattails, or other dense flooded vegetation when threatened," Richard O Prum, the WR Coe Professor of ornithology at Yale University, and the author of 'The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World and Us' explained in an op-ed for Slate.
'Lame Duck' used in political context
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the phrase “lame duck” was first used to refer to a damaged ship floundering at sea. The Congressional Globe used it in a political context in 1863. It was used in a piece about the proposal for a new court to resolve financial claims against the federal government.
Senator Lazarus Powell of Kentucky refuted the allegation of Senator John Hale of New Hampshire that the court was designed “to provide for retired and broken down politicians – 'lame ducks’, as the Senator from New Hampshire very elegantly and very classically calls them.” Later in the early 20th century, “lame duck” came to refer to the entire Congress between the election and the swearing-in of the next session.
The term gradually expanded to include the presidential office. A president is a lame duck after a successor has been elected, during which time the outgoing president and president-elect usually embark on a transition of power. This can happen if the president has completed his two-term limitation and by virtue of the US Constitution cannot be re-elected or has been defeated as an incumbent president after a single term.
Trump - impulsive Lame Duck president in denial
Trump became a Lame Duck president after becoming the first president in nearly 30 years to be defeated after one term so needless to say, he is not taking it well. Apart from tweeting up a social media frenzy every other hour, the president has refused to concede the 2020 election to President-elect Joe Biden and may spend the final 50 days in the White House feeding his impulses and sign one executive order after the next.
He has already granted clemency to Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators about his contacts during Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Earlier this year, Trump commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, another associate charged in the Russia probe.
Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, former Trump campaign advisers who were also charged for crimes related to the Mueller investigation, are both hoping for clemency too, according to the Times. As a result, an array of commutations might follow.
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and adviser, is leading a makeshift White House team “with a goal of announcing as many as hundreds of commutations for offenders now in jail for crimes ranging from nonviolent drug convictions to mail fraud and money laundering," the outlet reported.
Other than that, nothing is off the table — From the possibility of attacking Iran’s uranium enrichment site in Natanz to bring back firing squads and electrocutions for capital punishment on the federal level to blocking the annual National Defense Authorization Act in order to preserve confederate monuments — Trump could end up achieving all those and more.
Then there is the blockbuster — making his already narrowing immigration policy even more stringent by "excluding people with criminal convictions (even those that have been expunged), drastically shortening the application time and giving immigration judges more latitude to pick and choose what evidence to consider,” according to ProPublica.
Then there is the relentless sulking. Prum added, drawing parallels between a real lame duck and Trump: "Although President Trump is loath to admit it, he has certainly been behaving like a genuine lame duck. Sulking in secluded recesses of the West Wing since his election defeat, and well protected from potshots by the White House press corps, Trump’s presence is revealed only by occasional urgent quacks — ducky tweets — out from his swampy lair. After four to six weeks in seclusion, he will likely emerge with a new orange plumage, perhaps outfitted with a fresh oversized suit, and ready to migrate south to the warmer haunts of Mar-a-Lago for the cold winter ahead."