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Is the 14th Amendment the Ultimate Ace Up the Sleeve to Prevent Trump's Second Term?
An Analyzation of the 14th Amendment's Role in Presidential Eligibility
There seems to be a desperation to keep former President Donald J. Trump off the ballot in 2024. After a slew of indictments, the ace card appears to be attacking his eligibility for future public office. In a brazen move, some states seek to strike his name from the ballot using the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as a potential roadblock. This article will cut through the sensationalism and present five things you should know about excluding Trump from the 14th Amendment under the insurrection clause. Pundits and legal experts have diverse views on the matter, and even constitutional scholars can't find common ground. Before delving into the five essential facts, let's explore the history of the 14th Amendment.
A Brief Look at the 14th Amendment, Section 3
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment states:
“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”
In simpler terms, anyone who has taken an oath to support the Constitution and then engages in insurrection or rebellion against the U.S., or gives aid to its enemies, is barred from holding public office.
Understanding the context in which this clause was used is crucial.
Post-Civil War: Many former Confederate officials and military officers were barred from office after the Civil War due to this provision. However, Congress could (and did) grant individual exceptions through a two-thirds vote.
Late 20th Century: Section 3 was cited in discussions about whether individuals involved in specific actions - like advocating for the overthrow of the U.S. government - should be barred from office, but its direct application was rare.
January 6, 2021: When a dissenting crowd stormed the U.S. Capitol, there were discussions and debates about whether Section 3 could be applied to individuals who had taken part in, supported, or incited the insurrection, particularly if they had previously sworn an oath to the Constitution. Before the 2022 midterm elections, a group filed lawsuits to disqualify U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene and then-Rep. Madison Cawthorn, both from the Republican party, due to their support for the Jan. 6 protest. The judge in Marjorie Taylor-Greene's case sided with her, whereas Cawthorn's case became irrelevant when he lost in his primary. In a rare move, post-Jan 6th, a New Mexico judge disqualified Otero County commissioner Couy Griffin from office, citing the 14th Amendment's ban on individuals who participated in insurrection from holding a public position.
Five Essential Facts About Trump’s Potential Disqualification
Historical Precedent: Disqualifying a former U.S. president under the 14th Amendment would be a novel action. While the amendment has been invoked in the past, notably after the Civil War to prevent Confederate leaders from holding office, it hasn't been used in contemporary contexts like Trump's scenario.
Interpretation Challenges: The wording of the amendment is open to interpretation, leading to significant debate among legal scholars. Notably, the Founding Fathers omitted any direct mention of the president, fueling speculation that they intentionally excluded the highest office to exempt it from this clause. This ambiguity could likely result in legal challenges.
Definition of Insurrection: Determining if the events of January 6 fit the 14th Amendment's definition of "insurrection" is key. While many believe the events that transpired at the Capitol on January 6th could be defined as an insurrection, legally linking it to Trump's actions is tough. The media often calls it an insurrection, and the January 6th Commission said the same in their report. Early cases convicting participants aren't a promising sign. The central question remains: To what extent was Trump directly and personally involved?
Precedent: No former U.S. president has ever been disqualified from holding office under the 14th Amendment. Implementing it against Trump would be unprecedented. Beyond the legal aspects, there are vast political ramifications. Such a move would undoubtedly deepen the already significant divide in U.S. politics, with proponents viewing it as a safeguard for democracy and opponents seeing it as a partisan move against Trump. Frankly, U.S. politics are a powder keg and this could be the spark that ignites it.
Due Process: The 14th Amendment itself does not specify the process for determining if someone has engaged in insurrection and is thus ineligible to be on the ballot. Therefore, any attempt to disqualify Trump before his legal cases conclude would likely require some legal or legislative action. Several nonprofits, such as Free Speech For People and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), are actively advocating for states to support their stance against Trump. As the Republican presidential primaries approach, these organizations are gearing up to file lawsuits.
Let's break all of this down. The 14th Amendment was enacted a long time ago, right after the Civil War, to ensure people in power were loyal to the United States. Now, some people are looking at it as a way to possibly stop Trump from running for office again. However, this isn't a simple undertaking. The words in the 14th Amendment aren't crystal clear about situations like this, so there is a lot of back and forth about what it really means. It is better for America if this is sorted out now in the courts, and we are starting to see a flurry of legal actions brewing.
Going this route is a big deal; it's about the heart of how we do politics in America. The attempt to try to use the 14th Amendment against Trump has kicked up a massive debate. Some people will think it's protecting our country, while others will say it's just a move against Trump because of political differences. No matter where you stand, this is a big moment. It's not just about one election or one person; it's about how we, as a country, move forward and make decisions. Whatever happens next, we're going to be talking about it and feeling its effects for a long time to come.