Fortunately, history offers a solution that could benefit everyone: political exile. The U.S. Constitution, of course, has no mechanism to impose such a ruling on a former president, but Trump himself might enjoy following a certain precedent.
In April 1814, Napoleon Bonaparte abdicated from the French throne. Despite losing a massive army in Russia a year and a half earlier, he had continued to fight valiantly against a grand Allied coalition, but was eventually pushed back to his home territory and forced to surrender. With the Treaty of Fontainebleau, Napoleon agreed to leave France and to renounce all claims his family had on the country.
It was humiliation, but not total. The treaty allowed Napoleon to retain his title of “emperor” and gave him a new principality: the Mediterranean island of Elba off the coast of Tuscany and not far from his home in Corsica – a pleasant place about the size of Martha’s vineyard. with a rugged coastline and a mild climate. Napoleon would have a spacious mansion, a 400-man honor guard and a large staff. As “Emperor of Elba” he would enjoy all things of sovereignty, including a crown and a flag. The British Navy would keep watch to make sure he wasn’t leaving. For someone whose aggressive wars had resulted in up to 4 million deaths across Europe, this was a mild sentence. Shortly after the treaty was signed, Napoleon set off for his new home. The British press mockingly asked if he would have enough “Elba space” there.
After this precedent, why not give Trump his own island empire and an accompanying imperial title? The chance to call yourself Emperor Donald I could satisfy even that titanic ego and make up for the humiliating loss of election to “Sleepy Joe”. Trump was able to build a palace and copy the decor from his penthouse in Trump Tower, which itself was inspired by Versailles. He could use Rudy Giuliani as Grand Chamberlain and William Barr as his Lord High Executioner. Ivanka and Don Jr. could argue who would inherit the crown. As an absolute monarch, Trump could ban abortion, immigration and taxes while making gun possession compulsory for all of his subjects. He could build a new Trump International Hotel, fly in supporters to stay, and then rally with them to his heart’s content.
The question, of course, is: which island? Trump himself would likely be happy to take over Martha’s vineyard, which would give him the opportunity to seize Barack Obama’s summer home. (He would also have Alan Dershowitz as a neighbor.) But the islanders cast more than three-quarters of their votes for Biden, so they’d probably object. Either of the Channel Islands could work, but California picked Biden by almost 2 to 1, and residents of Santa Barbara could struggle to spoil their ocean views with gigantic Trump Towers on the horizon.
Contemplate the charm of Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. It is currently uninhabited so there is no need to expel residents if you give it to Trump. True, it still has dangerous levels of radioactivity from the 23 nuclear tests that were carried out there from 1946 to 1958. But for Trump, who boasted of being a “perfect physical specimen” after surviving his battle with Covid-19, and who is legendary with contempt for scientists and their expertise, surely a little radioactive strontium and cesium would not be a problem . The danger of rising seas for the low-lying atoll would also not bother anyone who views global warming as a joke. Trump would, of course, have a hard time resisting rule over a place called “Bikini” and the tropical climate could remind him of Mar-a-Lago.
However, there is a potential problem as the story of Napoleon on Elba also reminds us. After less than a year in his miniature island kingdom, the former Emperor of the French became bored and restless. He also learned that the new French government came under the overwhelming King Louis XVIII. Had already become massively unpopular. In February 1815, Napoleon and a group of loyal supporters secretly embarked on a brig and sailed away from Elba to avoid British patrols. Two days later they landed on the south coast of France and marched north. The French flocked to them, King Louis fled to Belgium, and within a few weeks Napoleon had arrived in Paris declaring his empire restored. It would take a costly new military campaign and famous battle in June before the Allies defeated him a second time and brought the “Hundred Days” episode to an end. Napoleon would then leave for a second exile, this time as a prisoner in the British Army on the tiny, windswept island of Saint Helena deep in the South Atlantic, where he died six years later.
Donald Trump would also almost certainly try to come back to power at some point. There are already reports that he plans to run for president in 2024. Still, the Democrats may not have that much to worry about. If the historical parallel holds, Trump’s comeback, dramatic as it is, could quickly be followed by his Waterloo.