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Monday, March 20, 2023

President Debs

Let's try out a fun constitutional counterfactual. Suppose Eugene Debs had won the 1920 presidential election from prison. (He received 1,000,000 votes.) What would have be the appropriate resolution?

  1. The outgoing President (Woodrow Wilson) should have pardoned Debs so that he could serve.
  2. The presidential electors pledged to Debs should have voted for his running mate, Seymour Steadman, who was not in prison.
  3. Debs should have resigned after being sworn in.
  4. Debs should have pardoned himself after being sworn in.
  5. Debs should have just served as President from prison.

Note that today you could imagine a 25th Amendment solution to this problem. But that was not an option in 1920.

UPDATE: Warren Harding did pardon Debs in 1921. Wilson refused to do so.

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on March 20, 2023 at 03:16 PM | Permalink


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