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Editorial: All this time for ‘lame-duck’ behavior does more harm than good

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    Unless you’re one of the real-life stars of the Alaska-based television series “Life Below Zero” and you’re desperately hunting for meat/protein to stock your freezer before another brutal “dark winter” settles in, why would anyone want to have anything to do with a “lame duck”?

    That’s what we call this particular period of time here in the United States of America, the two-and-a-half months or so between a presidential election on the first Tuesday in November and when the presidential candidate who prevailed on election day is inaugurated during the third week of January. If the sitting president lost, he’s called a “lame duck” during this time. For congress, which typically has a fair amount of turnover on election day, those who were defeated still get to participate in a “lame-duck” congressional session.

    This period of time used to be much longer, when it took a much longer time to sort out the electoral college presidential election results. The 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1933, shortened this “lame” period of time, but, given what we’re currently witnessing, it might be time to shorten it some more.

    Maybe this largely awkward period was necessary and made sense when the Founding Fathers were brainstorming on how to establish our particular republic, but not today, not when all of these so-called lame ducks are given such ample opportunity to do more harm than good, and remind voters why they gave them the boot at the ballot box.

    Is this a rip on President Donald Trump? You bet it is. But, really, this is a bipartisan criticism. No defeated president and no defeated members of congress should be able to spend approximately 10 weeks after their election demise making critical decisions that affect the entire nation.

    Is it a “transition” thing? Does the incoming president elect really need all of this time to get his or her non-lame ducks in a row, so to speak? Certainly, it’s a massive job to usher one administration out while moving the next one in, but election day seems like an eternity ago already, and we’re still more than three weeks away from the inauguration of Joe Biden as president.

    Yet again, that’s probably due to the Trump effect. His ability to take what is already bad or negative and make it the worst thing ever is unparalleled. The fact he won’t accept his resounding defeat and won’t lift a finger to help the Biden team with their transition certainly isn’t surprising, but it just makes these lame-duck 10 weeks drag on like an endless slog. All Trump seems to be doing is tweeting, staying out of the public eye, chilling at his resort, golfing, pardoning sketchy people...and stepping way too late in the game into the debate over the next pandemic relief bill, which is tied to a larger omnibus spending bill, and in the process risking the crashing and burning of the entire federal government.

    So many are all up in arms about the electoral college, and rightfully so. How can it be seen as right and good for a president to be elected, as Trump was in 2016, and yet manage to lose the popular vote by more than 3 million? There is a serious discussion to be had on this subject.

    But it’s not the lame-duck electoral college. It’s a flawed system, to be sure, but there’s nothing lame-duck about it.

    But what we’re experiencing in the White House and in the halls of congress right now is more than lame. It’s damaging, destructive, even potentially dangerous. And unnecessary.