Published January 2, 2024
Both might be disqualified as a threat to democracy. Leaving it up to the voters seems the only option.
Shenna Bellows, Maine’s secretary of state, has ordered Donald Trump’s name removed from the Republican primary ballot. Invoking Section 3 of the post-Civil War 14th Amendment, Ms. Bellows claims Mr. Trump engaged in insurrection against the U.S. when he did whatever he did, or didn’t do, on Jan. 6, three years ago this week. Recently, Colorado’s Supreme Court ordered Mr. Trump’s name deleted from that state’s Republican primary ballot for the same reason. Other states have been toying with the idea. It’s up to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether the disqualifications are constitutional.
The justices may decide the matter on narrow or legalistic grounds—by a close parsing of the 14th Amendment, and of the term “insurrection.” They must rule on whether Mr. Trump’s rhetoric, actions or failures to act on that day amounted to a violent uprising against the American government. Two powerful lines of argument clash:
1. In such a dispute, a democracy must revert to its essential idea: the sovereignty of the people. It isn’t for unelected judges, or provincial officials, to make such a decision. The people themselves, in their millions, must render their verdict in the voting booth.
Lance Morrow is the Henry Grunwald Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His work focuses on the moral and ethical dimensions of public events, including developments in regard to freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and political correctness on American campuses, with a view to the future consequences of such suppressions.