The question posed by today's BradCast: Donald Trump is arguably ineligible to serve as President of the United States, according to the "insurrection disqualification clause" of the U.S. Constitution (Section 3 of the 14th Amendment). And yet, he is also arguably the easiest GOP candidate for Joe Biden to defeat next year in a race that will, once again, be a proxy battle between democracy and autocracy. With that in mind, should the former President be barred from running nonetheless? [Audio link to full program follows this summary.]
As the New York Times detailed today, the stakes couldn't be higher. A team of former Trump White House officials has been constructing an agenda for whoever becomes the next Republican President that will involve a radical takeover of independent Executive Branch agencies and a consolidation of all "Unitary Executive" power in the Oval Office. (Here's a free gift link to read the NYT piece. You should be terrified by it.)
As the paper makes clear, no matter who the GOP nominee is next year, if they win, American democracy as we know it is in very very big trouble. With that in mind --- and the argument that Trump is likely to be the easiest for Biden to defeat --- are pro-democracy and good government advocates certain they want to disqualify Trump from the ballot next year?
We're joined today by ALEXANDRA FLORES-QUILTY, Campaign Director at the non-profit, non-partisan, pro-democracy good government group, Free Speech for People. Her organization, along with Mia Familia Vota, recently launched a campaign to argue that "Trump is Disqualified from the Ballot". They sent letters [PDF] to the top election officials in ten states, informing them of the need to bar him from the 2024 ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment which disqualifying those who, "having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States" from holding office if they subsequently "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same." Of course, that's exactly what a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate found that Trump did on January 6, 2021, as well as the bipartisan U.S. House Committee which also investigated the matter.
Recently, a spokesperson for Colorado's Democratic Sec. of State Jena Griswold declined to comment "at this time" on whether Trump will be allowed on next year's ballot. She has until January 5 to decide in the state. FSFP and MFV have also sent similar letters to chief election officials in California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania. They argue that those officials have the ability --- and responsibility --- to disqualify Trump, just as they do for any candidate who does not meet requirements (age, residency, etc.) for office.
"Secretaries of State have a duty to ensure that candidates who seek to appear on their state ballots meet the Constitutional qualifications for serving in public office. In fact," notes Flores-Quilty, "Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has actually confirmed that Secretaries of State may refuse ballot placement to candidates for President who do not meet the Constitutional requirements of the office. [See 2012's Hassan v. Colorado in which Gorsuch, while still a 10th Circuit Appeals Court judge, found that states may "exclude from the ballot candidates who are constitutionally prohibited from assuming office."]
Moreover, Flores-Quilty argues it "is not a requirement" for Trump to have been criminally charged and found guilty of "insurrection" to be disqualified under the clause, which dates back to the post-Civil War era, when the 14th Amendment was adopted. "There is clear precedent from when it was originally enacted that that was not a requirement. No criminal conviction is necessary in order to enforce this critical provision of the Constitution."
"It's really important that we're doing public education and creating a public mandate that Secretaries of State --- it's not only within their power but it's their responsibility --- ensure that somebody who has so clearly violated this provision of the Constitution is not allowed to appear on the ballot. Trump has been able to get away with breaking the law, time and time again. Impunity is emboldening. So the rules need to be enforced."
Okay, but is it politically smart for either Democrats or pro-democracy advocates at this precarious moment to press this point to disqualify Trump from the ballot and potentially pave the way for a Republican candidate who may be equally authoritarian, but more able to defeat Biden next year?
Flores-Quilty --- and a bunch of our callers today --- ring in with their answers to that critical question!
Also today: Ron DeSantis' floundering campaign fires at least 10 workers. Failed AZ Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake's attorneys (including Alan Dershowitz) sanctioned for $122,000 for bogus election fraud claims.
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)