Americans Deserve A Presidential Recall Option

There is a quick and easy way to ease what Americans say is their growing anxiety over a Trump, Sanders, or Clinton presidency. Just give Americans the option to recall via a national referendum any future sitting president they clearly believe is taking the country in a wrong or dangerous direction or consistently violating the Constitutional limits on his or her power.

This is hardly a revolutionary idea. Californians in 2003 recalled their unpopular governor Grey Davis and elected Arnold Schwarzenegger in his place. Just this last March New Jersey newspapers urged state voters to remove Governor Christie for purportedly neglecting his gubernatorial duties.

Congress does have the constitutional authority to remove a president, but only  if the president is found guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors” via the woefully cumbersome and ineffective impeachment process.

In 1951 US Senator Robert Hendrickson (R,NJ)  proposed a constitutional amendment establishing a presidential recall. Currently sitting in House and Senate committees is a petition submitted by former legislative aide Gregory D. Watson of Austin, Texas calling for an amendment establishing a procedure by which voters can remove a president “by means of a nationwide recall election.”

A presidential recall option would serve as a powerful counterbalance to an office gradually morphing into the autocracy our founders warned against. Historians point out that most presidents since Truman have engaged in wars in the Middle East, Kosovo and Vietnam without the Congressional approval the Constitution specifically demands. In 2014, President Obama announced he would circumvent the new Republican House and Senate majorities’ anticipated opposition to his immigration and gun control initiatives through constitutionally questionable “executive actions” using his “pen and phone.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel worries that President Trump would succumb to the “Obama Power Temptation” to not only legislate via executive action but also direct government agencies to intimidate the political opposition much as the IRS did against the Tea Party a few years ago.  Attorney General Loretta Lynch hinted the White House might use the RICO Act, created to fight mobsters, to silence critics of the administration’s climate change stance. Karl Rove claims a President Hillary Clinton would ratify this new “post-constitutional order” by using unilateral executive power to raise taxes, change healthcare policy, and grant citizenship to those living in the US illegally “if Congress refuses to act.”

Is it any wonder 69 percent of Americans told Gallup they think big government is the biggest threat to their future?

The presidential recall option will transform our citizens from voters who select a president every four years and hope for the best into political watchdogs proactively monitoring the actions of presidents and the huge administrative apparatus implementing their directives to insure they are lawfully performing their duties at maximum efficiency.

Senator Hendrickson's recall plan called for a national vote held on a single day to retain or remove the sitting president whenever two-thirds of the state legislatures  petition for such a vote. If the nation votes out the sitting president, the Speaker of the House would complete the recalled president’s term. In the California system voters choose the sitting governor’s replacement from a slate of candidates at the same time they are actually voting on whether or not to remove the current governor.

Working out the recall’s details is child’s play compared to the job of getting adopted the constitutional amendment that would create the Presidential Recall Option. Two-thirds of the House and Senate must approve the amendment and send it on to the states in the hope that three-quarters of the state legislatures ratify the amendment.

Polling agencies should begin the process by asking Americans if they would favor the Presidential Recall Option.  If Americans overwhelmingly support such an amendment, Congress will probably not resist its creation, especially if the amendment exempts the then-sitting president from a recall vote. (A 2013 Harvard University Institute of Politics survey found that 52 percent of young Americans would vote to recall the sitting president, Barack Obama.)

Our 2016 presidential hopefuls can demonstrate their earnest desire to make government more accountable by enthusiastically endorsing in their campaign speeches and the debates the creation of a Presidential Recall Option.

Clearly, it is time that Americans engage in a national conversation about this important new means of empowering all citizens and enhancing our democracy.

Sociologist/Futurist Michael G. Zey, Ph.D, books include Seizing the Future, Ageless Nation, and the forthcoming  Envisioning America's Future. He is a Professor at Montclair State University's School of Business. His website is

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