Sharice Davids Calls for the 25th

Introduction: On January 6th, 2021, U. S. Representative Sharice Davids of Kansas posted the text below on twitter in support of calls to invoke the 25th Amendment and thus remove President Donald Trump of office.

Key Facts: On January 6th, 2021 Congress met for the purpose of verifying the certified votes of the 2021 Presidential election. Joe Biden had received the majority of certified votes, making him the presumed President elect, though Donald Trump had challenged the election in a number of court cases as well a variety of popular fora. He consistently lost the court challenges before election officials and courts, but successfully developed a significant following of his own base unwilling to accept the legitimacy of the election.

On January 6th, Congressmen from several states challenged the legitimacy of votes reported from their own states Outside, as they were expected to do, thus triggering a debate within Congress. Donald Trump spoke to a rally of his own supporters which he had encouraged to come to Washington DC on the day in question. Following his own speech, Trump supporters stormed the Congressional buildings and shut down Congress. five people were killed and process of confirming the votes was delayed for a time. This is a rather dry description of events, but it must be stressed that the riots included a number of disturbing events, and the rhetoric of Trump and his supporters leading up to the event contained many elements suggesting violence intent all along. Some have suggested that this riot would be better described as an insurrection, an attempted coup, or even domestic terrorism. At least some of the participants do appear to have come prepared to engage in acts which would normally be described as domestic terrorism. In the wake of all this, many have argued that Trump incited the riot himself, and that this is grounds for impeachment.

As a House Representative, Davids would be among those called upon to vote on a motion to impeach the President. She would have no such role in the decision to invoke the 25th Amendment.

The relevant portion of the 25th Amendment reads as follows:

“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

There is also a procedure by means of which a President may seek to resume office. The full text of the 25th Amendment can be found here.

Text: This example uses 2 separate tweets, one posted as an immediate subtweet of the other by the same author) as a single argument. Each tweet appears below as a separate paragraph.

“For the first time in history we have a President who should be impeached twice but because of the time constraints and inaction of Senate Republicans, I urge the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment now.

“We will have a new President on January 20th, but we cannot trust Donald Trump to uphold his oath of office over the next 14 days. Our democracy, safety, and security is at stake.”


Comments: The argument raises some practical questions about the wisdom of removing a President with less than 2 weeks remaining in his term and the most appropriate means of doing so. On course it also raises questions about whether Donald Trump deserves removal and/or whether his continued presence in office poses a threat to the nation.

As a political reality, it may be difficult to resolve those questions to the satisfaction of all interested parties. This is as true for any small group looking at an argument like this as an exercise in critical thinking as it is for the nation as a whole. My point at present is that the differences in political outlook could provide a sticking point her for using the argument as a tool with which to teach logic. I won’t pretend I am neutral on these questions myself, but I can envision contexts in which one might agree to disagree with others for purposes of keeping the conversation from breaking down along partisan lines. I can of course envision others in which I would happily accept such consequences. Simply put, the difference depends on whether my focus is on the politics or on the critical thinking.

Statements: The relevant statements have been produced below. Note that statements 2 and 3 are both derived from sentence fragments in the initial text. In both cases, I believe the text below reflects Davids’ intent, but she refers to each consideration without spelling it out. My efforts to flesh out the details could be mistaken. Statement 8 is an implied intermediate conclusion of the argument.

[1] For the first time in history we have a President who should be impeached twice.

but because of [the fact that]

[2] [There is not enough time to impeach the President before he leaves office.]

[3] [Senate Republicans will not act to impeach.]

[4] I urge the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment now.

[5] We will have a new President on January 20th

[6] we cannot trust Donald Trump to uphold his oath of office over the next 14 days.

[7] Our democracy, safety, and security is at stake.

[8] [Impeachment will not work.]

Diagram: I can think of 2 very different ways of diagramming this argument. One approach renders it in the form of a convergent argument containing one deontological case for the 25th and one consequentialist argument. The other makes the entire argument consequentialist in nature.

Both versions of the argument are sketched out in the illustration here.

Discussion: This argument raises the following themes: Convergent Arguments, Linked Arguments, Micro-Reasoning, Missing Assertions, Moral Reasoning.

Convergent Arguments / Linked Arguments: Statements 2 and 3 are best regarded as a convergent argument for the truth of statement 8, because either one would be sufficient in itself to make a case for it. Statement 1 plus 8 combined together to make the case for statement 4. Without each other, neither would support it. This combination of factors makes this kind of a good argument to illustrate the difference between convergent and Linked Arguments.

Micro-Reasoning: Although Davids uses a follow-up tweet to clarify some ambiguities in her first message, this is still an awful lot of information in a short space. That leaves a lot of room for ambiguity and increases the likelihood that analysis of this argument will go astray.

Missing Assertions: The whole point of this argument is that the 25th Amendment must be invoked because impeachment will not work. Davids produces reasons to believe impeachment will not work, and she draws conclusions from it, but she provides no specific statement clearly summarize this point which is clearly part of her reasoning. For this reason, the statement has been spelled out in order to place it in the relevant argument diagrams.

Moral Reasoning: One of the interesting questions about this argument is how we should interpret the meaning of ‘should’ in statement 1. It is possible to interpret this as a moral ‘ought’ in the sense that it would be the right thing to do regardless of the consequences. The deontological take on the word would mean that removal from office is an end in itself regardless of consequences. Alternatively, the word could be viewed as an expression of rational self-interest, as a description of a step needed to prevent the unfortunate consequences of leaving Trump in office. This consequentialist argument would be more susceptible to concerns about timing and the practical effects of pursuing either the 25th Amendment or impeachment.

At least some of the points Davids makes are clearly consequentialist in nature (statements 5, 6, and 7), but it is at least possible that she means to say that trump’s removal is a moral end in itself. Arguably, this would mean that impeachment was the best course of action regardless of the time frame, but it is at least possible that she regards removal (and not necessarily impeachment) as an end in itself.

Depending on how we interpret that first ‘should’ in Davids’ argument, we either get an argument which is entirely consequentialist (Version II of the diagram) or one in which Davids produces one argument based on deontological reasoning and one argument based on consequentialist reasoning (version I of the diagram).

Evaluation: I’m not going to give a complete evaluation of this argument. I will just call attention to a couple significant questions that would go into making that evaluation.

Questions about whether or not Donald Trump deserves impeachment would go directly to the truth value of statement one. Those about whether or not he poses a danger to the nation could be applied to the truth of statement 1 and statement 6. The big battle about Donald Trump’s responsibility for the riot goes to the truth of these two claims.

There are some specific details about the possible pace of impeachment and/or behind-the-scenes arrangements with interested parties (such as national security) that would affect the truth value of specific claims made in this argument and/or the cogency of inferences drawn within it, but I have no special insight into either of these matters.

Final thoughts: Honestly, I agree with Davids.

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