An emergency Ask Me Anything.
We have an emergency that needs to be addressed.
Ten days later, the Secretary of State from Maine removed Trump from their ballot for the same reason.
This sent off a fury of questions that flooded my texts and social media accounts. Which means two people reached out to me to get my thoughts.
This brings us to an emergency Asked Me Anything, some three weeks later, where I was asked:
Has a former president ever been removed from the ballot?
Thanks to LV and Loopy for reaching out.
The shortest answer to this question is no. But I can’t end it there because this is a big deal that needs to be examined. It’s not just that Loopy and LV want me to provide a simple answer; they want me to explore what this all means and how we can resolve it.
It’s a burden I must take on.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is a pretty good one. It’s a top-ten amendment in any sense. Stuffed with many provisions, it was passed immediately after the Civil War to deal with traitors to heal the country that, by gunpoint, was told we would be united.
Right now, the Fourteenth Amendment is experiencing the spotlight due to Section 3, which was used as justification in these two states to remove President Trump from the 2024 primary ballot.
Here’s what Section 3 says:
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.
This thing has a billion commas, which, my friends, is not good.
Despite being two sentences and 109 words, it doesn’t specify what the country needed to do if the President of the United States did his best Jefferson Davis impression.
Sure, you can interpret the words to mean that since Trump engaged in insurrection or rebellion, he shouldn’t be able to hold office. Plenty of people have made that argument over the past year. The argument goes that being president is an officer of the United States. Of course. Makes sense.
But the section goes to great lengths, thanks again to commas, not to mention the presidency itself specifically. Remember one amendment earlier, where the law allows for slavery as punishment for a crime that person was convicted of.
I’m no lawyer; heck, I’m no historian; I’m just a guy who works in the nonprofit world married to a probable spy with a dog who wears a DO NOT PET leash.
I got issues.
But I have significant issues with the idea that any court, or any secretary of state, could remove a presidential candidate, let alone a former president, from the ballot simply because they think that person led an insurrection against the country because the Constitution says so.
Do I agree with the assessment that Trump did, in fact, engage in rebellion on January 6, 2021.? Yes, and I wrote about it a few years ago.
But here’s the thing: My conclusion doesn’t make it a fact, and therefore, Trump must face the consequences of the fact. And just because courts and elected officials who oversee the election process think Trump must face those consequences doesn’t make it right either.
Remember what the job of the Secretary of State is – it’s to ensure the person running for office is eligible. We spell it out in the Constitution – there are age requirements, birth requirements, all of that.
The Fourteenth Amendment spells out what to do with traitors. In fact, it went to great lengths (remember what the commas are for) to tell everyone that traitors can’t hold office at the federal or state level when it comes to giving aid or comfort to our enemies. After passing the Fourteenth Amendment, many former rebels asked for forgiveness from Section 3 because they knew they violated it. The section spells out, again, specifically, that the super majority of Congress can then remove such disability.
Do you need to be convicted of it? No. As I mentioned, Congress inserted the conviction idea into the Thirteenth Amendment, so it's not like they didn’t have that concept on their mind. But then again, it’s pretty easy to know that someone rebels against the country when they join an army and get all dressed up to shoot and kill Americans. We don’t need a court to come to that conclusion of fact.
But that’s not what Trump did. There’s a little more nuance to it.
The distinction between former United States Senator and Secretary of War Jefferson Davis and former President and D List Actor Donald Trump is subtle. But that subtlety is incredibly important.
On January 13, 2021, Trump was impeached for incitement of insurrection. This was after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told Vice President Mike Pence to invoke Section 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment and go full Air Force One, starring A-list actors Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman.
One month later, Trump was acquitted. Although seven Republicans voted to convict, it still fell short of the 67 votes needed to remove Trump from office and end his political career. So thanks, Senate Republicans, for this mess. Trump has since collected numerous indictments like commas in run-on sentences of Constitutional amendments. So, there is still a path to convict him of treason. Once that happens, then yes, let’s go all Section 3 on him.
Trump has spent many years yapping about election fraud. He did in the lead-up to the 2016 election; he did again in 2020, and he isn't stopping in 2024. The guy might be slowing down, but he ain’t going to come to a complete halt when it comes to his favorite talking point. Is talking about election fraud treason? To me, the Constitution says it is in the eye of the beholder.
Removing Trump from the ballot when no institution has convicted him of his actions only fuels the fire. It’s the reality. The legal challenges to Colorado and Maine will go all the way to the Supreme Court, and they aren’t going to rule against him. I would argue the Court must vote unanimously in his favor. This is about politics, and you stop politics by not giving people reasons to think there is some grand conspiracy against them. Also, you end political careers by voting people out.
It’s silly to vote for someone you think was wrongly removed. But people are stupid when it comes to voting. There will be plenty of people who will vote for Trump simply because there isn’t legal standing that prevents him from running, and people are out to get him.
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Okay, so we have established we are in uncharted water, and this is a political mess. But there is a possible way out. There is an interesting thought process that isn’t making more headlines. The idea is that Trump can’t run again due to the provisions of the Twenty-Second Amendment, which prevents the president from running for more than two terms.
If Trump thinks the 2020 election was stolen from him, turn the tables on him. If he’s concluded that he is the rightful president, he must abide by the Twenty-Second Amendment and not run again. On top of that, anyone who is the Secretary of State and thinks the election was stolen from Trump needs to act in accordance with the amendment.
Take Florida’s Secretary of State Cord Byrd. He has not acknowledged Biden’s victory. At least he hadn’t two years ago. I’m not sure. I don’t follow Cord’s life. But if he believes that Trump is the legitimate president, then someone needs to ask him why he would violate the Constitution by putting Trump on the Florida ballot in 2024.
Now, I’m not in favor of playing Constitutional games because I still believe Trump will be defeated at the ballot box. He needs to overcome about 3 million votes and take back about five states (I could be wrong), and I don’t think he can do that. He lost the past two popular votes and again in 2022 when his endorsed candidates also lost in the midterms. He doesn’t have the same crew as in 2016 and 2020. It’s like him, the My Pillow Guy, and Rudy. It is not exactly a murderer row of political powers.
Democrats need to take heed that taking Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment and stating it doesn’t say Trump needs to be convicted must also come to the reality that it also doesn’t name the president. It’s not a path to victory. Victory comes at the ballot box.
There you go, Loopy and LV. I hope this is helpful. What do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Is it okay? What about the Twenty-Second Amendment? Is that a better argument?
If you want to Ask Me Anything, email me at email@example.com or text me if you have my number. Everyone knows where they can find me. Thanks for your support by sending in questions and liking and sharing the content.
This is a birthday weekend for me. Sunday is the big day, and to prepare for it, Anonymous will have me help her take down all the Christmas decorations and shove them back into the attic. Happy birthday to me, friends!
Don't worry. I will have a Maundy Monday Newsletter for you on Monday, January 8—my gift to you for all the love and support.
I hope you have a good weekend.