Opinion | The Case for Disqualifying Trump Is Strong

Enough. It’s time to apply the plain language of the Constitution to Trump’s actions and remove him from the ballot — without fear of the consequences. Republics are not maintained by cowardice.

To understand the necessity of removing Trump, let’s go first to the relevant language from the 14th Amendment and then to some basic rules of legal interpretation. Here’s the language:

“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.”

You don’t have to be a lawyer to comprehend those words. You simply need some basic familiarity with American civics, the English language and a couple of common-sense rules of thumb. First, when interpreting the Constitution, text is king. If the text is clear enough, there is no need for historical analysis. You don’t need to know a special “legal” version of the English language. Just apply the words on the page.

Second, it’s crucial to understand that many of the Constitution’s provisions are intentionally antidemocratic. The American republic is a democracy with guardrails. The Bill of Rights, for example, is a check on majoritarian tyranny. The American people can’t vote away your rights to speak, to exercise your religion or to due process. The Civil War Amendments, including the 14th Amendment, further expanded constitutional protections against majoritarian encroachment. Majorities can’t reimpose slavery, for example, nor can they take away your right to equal protection under the law.

So when a person critiques Section 3 as “undemocratic” or “undermining democracy,” your answer should be simple: Yes, it is undemocratic, exactly as it was intended to be. The amendments’ authors were worried that voters would send former Confederates right back into public office. If they had believed that the American electorate was wise enough not to vote for insurrectionists, they never would have drafted Section 3.

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