The Controversial Plan to Disqualify Trump: Implications and Concerns

In recent weeks, a longshot legal bid to disqualify and remove Donald Trump from the 2024 US presidential ballot has gained traction. Prominent conservatives have joined liberal activists in embracing this effort, which invokes Section Three of the 14th Amendment to bar individuals who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding federal office. However, this approach has raised concerns about potentially infringing upon voters’ rights and the divisive impact it may have on an already polarized America.

The legal strategy to disqualify Trump from the ballot by invoking the 14th Amendment’s Section Three is a last-ditch effort against the ex-president, who still maintains significant support among his base. While this approach remains untested, its potential resolution ultimately lies in the hands of the conservative-leaning Supreme Court, which Trump played a significant role in shaping. This fact alone underscores the high-stakes nature of this legal challenge.

The path towards disqualification has already begun, with a watchdog group suing to block Trump from the Republican primary in Colorado. However, critics argue that stretching the interpretation of the law to disqualify a candidate from a primary election sets a dangerous precedent that infringes upon voters’ fundamental right to decide whether Trump should return to the White House.

The invocation of the 14th Amendment is historically significant. Ratified after the Civil War, it was intended to bar secessionists from rejoining government positions after southern states rejoined the Union. Although it has rarely been invoked in recent times, the Capitol riot in January 2021 and Trump’s subsequent efforts to overturn the 2020 election brought the 14th Amendment back into the spotlight. If successful, disqualification based on Section Three would forever bar Trump from holding federal office.

The driving force behind this legal strategy is the non-partisan advocacy group, Free Speech For People. They argue that the Capitol riot, which disrupted the peaceful transfer of power, represents a significant threat to democracy. They maintain that candidates who participated or assisted in the insurrection, such as Trump, should be disqualified under the 14th Amendment. Free Speech For People plans to seek disqualification in multiple states and petition top election officials to remove Trump from primary ballots.

Conservative legal scholars, including members of the influential Federalist Society, have expressed support for interpreting the 14th Amendment’s Section Three as a self-executing provision that immediately disqualifies individuals from office without requiring additional congressional action. This legal perspective maintains that any election official, state or federal, who deems Trump ineligible could trigger a state court review and eventually bring the matter before the Supreme Court. With Trump’s potential nomination and the impending general election, the case would be resolved quickly.

However, critics argue that this legal strategy is misguided and potentially damaging to American democracy. Some question the viability of the theory, while others argue that voters should have the final say in determining who assumes office. Liberal professor Noah Feldman emphasizes that voters should have the power to block a candidate they deem unfit, rather than relying on historical provisions to disqualify them.

Critics further argue that the strategy risks politicizing the judiciary and exacerbating partisan divisions. Republicans and Democrats alike have expressed concerns about the potential implications of disqualifying Trump, with some likening the approach to a “Soviet-style, banana republic argument.” Detractors worry that this strategy may further erode public trust in the electoral process and deepen the country’s already significant political divisions.

While the legal bid to disqualify Trump from the ballot continues to gain steam, concerns remain about the potential consequences of invoking the 14th Amendment’s Section Three. Balancing the preservation of democratic processes, safeguarding the right of voters, and addressing the actions of a former president who may run for re-election is an intricate challenge. Ultimately, the fate of this legal strategy lies with the Supreme Court, which may face a divisive decision that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on American politics and society.