Maine has now become the second state in as many weeks, following a December 19 Colorado Supreme Court decision, to make the determination that President Donald Trump cannot appear on the ballot in the 2024 election.
In a unilateral decision, the unelected secretary of state and far-left activist, heretofore unknown Shenna Bellows, disqualified from her state’s ballot the leading presidential candidate and presumptive nominee for the GOP. Rejecting any pretense of acting in accordance with due process or the rule of law, Bellows reasoned that our “sacred” democracy would only be preserved if she took it upon herself to reject Trump’s primary petition. Those in Maine who otherwise sought to cast their ballot for the former president vying for a second term this year would, by implication, have unknowingly been co-conspirators in a grand anti-democratic plot but for Bellows’ brave intervention, so her December 28 opinion read. Even her fellow Maine Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden, thought her conclusions went a bit too far, criticizing the ruling as an affront to the democratic norms that ostensibly still undergird our nation’s elections.
While the Maine decision will be appealed through the state court system, the Colorado Supreme Court’s similar rejection of Trump from their ballot has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. It goes without saying that the Supreme Court must expeditiously intervene by granting the Colorado Republican Party’s petition for certiorari and issuing a broad ruling sufficient to clarify the scope of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. The Colorado Republican Party argued the high court should grant the petition on three grounds: that the president is not an “officer of the United States” as contemplated within the Amendment; Section 3 is not self-executing; and the Colorado Supreme Court violated its first amendment right of association, here being the right to choose political candidates for its ballot.
A textually honest reading of the Amendment would find favor with the Colorado Republican Party’s arguments, including that “officer of the United States” is a term of art, referring to officers appointed by and commissioned by the president; officers take an oath to support the Constitution (the term employed within Section 3); meanwhile, the President’s oath preserves, protects, and defends the Constitution. In addition, Section 5 of the Amendment tells us that the 14th Amendment is not self-executing (despite the number of times Bellows exalted the “authority” of her office, the Amendment’s Framers knew better than to leave such a weighty determination to an overzealous, politically motivated secretary of state). Other persuasive textual arguments can be made to reach this same conclusion. The president falls outside of the offices enumerated within the section (the Amendment’s Framers were not so blithe as to hide the highest office in the land—the Presidency—within the mousehole of “any office… under the United States), and the section itself is expressly limited to those holding office; it does not purport to circumscribe qualifications for a candidate running for or seeking office.
Still, these textual arguments contradicting the decisions in Colorado and Maine (and any other state that may follow) alone, though persuasive in a court of law, are gravely inadequate at this late hour. We are now three years into the manufactured narrative by the mainstream media—with help from intelligence agencies and the Washington establishment in general—that President Trump, by pursuing legal avenues to ensure the 2020 election’s legitimacy, somehow “engaged” in an “insurrection” on January 6 2021, while he was still the sitting President. The term “insurrection” has been thrown around by political pundits, in the halls of universities, and by elected officials so flagrantly for almost three years, purposefully laying the groundwork for the Colorado and Maine decisions, that it has all but lost its meaning.
Given the extent of the damage already done—resources and time drained, public opinion clouded, countless January 6 defendants still languishing in federal prison—clarification on these matters is urgent. The “insurrection” label calumniously attached to President Trump’s name must be put to rest once and for all. A truly objective legal analysis would render Section 3 of the 14th Amendment null as it relates to the events of January 6, 2021. How do we know? President Trump has never been charged criminally with insurrection, and he was indeed acquitted of that very impeachment charge by the Senate in February 2021. As a result, the matter is res judicata. Further, taking this latter argument to its logical conclusion can have significant implications as well. This argument is not unlike the one offered by Trump’s defense in Jack Smith’s D.C. indictment: there, his legal team offered that because he has already been acquitted for a charge arising out of the same course of conduct identified in the indictment, the impeachment and double jeopardy clauses should bar retrial.
Regardless, anything less than a complete and total exoneration of President Trump from these findings by hyper-partisan and unmistakably well-funded actors would only further serve to undermine confidence in our institutions. Unless and until the highest court puts an end to this question, secretaries of state will, either by their own authority or by citing the highest court within their states, continue along this path. The next election is fast approaching. If democracy is truly the highest virtue, from which all others are derived, the political process cannot be unduly burdened by the legal one: allow the voters alone, as unencumbered as possible, to decide who they want to be their next chief executive.
The establishment’s attempts to stop Trump by any means available—campaign wiretapping, two impeachments, administrative gridlock, nationwide injunctions, the raid at Mar-a-Lago, four criminal indictments, civil suits, and now the 14th Amendment ballot challenges—are so blatantly absurd and have only become increasingly so. Trump’s movement has truly been one for the decades. Indeed, since its inception, Trump’s MAGA movement has been uniquely unwavering in its quest to restore the people as sovereign in the face of these deeply entrenched, anti-democratic interests to which our government has been beholden. The question of whether America still lives by that promise will be answered through Trump’s 2024 candidacy and whether those interests will succeed in keeping him from ascending to power once again, against the wishes of the democratic electorate.