Monday, June 24, 2024

Campaign flags seen Sept. 9. (Photo: Gilbert Mercier via Flickr)

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution simply states:

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.

Because of this amendment, liberal groups are agitating for state officials to disallow Donald Trump’s name from appearing on ballots in the election for the presidency of the United States.  They believe, as do I, that, at the very least, Trump has “given aid and comfort” to the insurrectionists of Jan. 6, 2021. Several legal scholars including William Baude, Michael Paulsen, Larry Tribe and Michael Luttig have argued that the 14th Amendment applies in Trump’s case and that he is disqualified from serving as president.

There are two points these partisans and scholars have overlooked. There is a distinction between running for office and serving in office – and there is nothing in the 14th Amendment that prohibits a person from running for office. A person may say to themselves: “Even if I win I cannot serve, so why would I bother to run, why would I bother putting my family through all that hassle?”

They might run in the hope that Congress will act on their behalf, because the second ignored point is at the end of the amendment: The prohibition from serving can be removed by a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress.

I wonder if it would be in the best interests of the country to vote now to allow Trump to serve (and run) as long as he disavows the big lie that he won the 2020 election. It would be good for the country if both parties ran on the same set of facts; it would be good for the country if we were to look forward and fight about policies rather than looking back to the past and the 2020 election. Down-ticket candidates could be offered the same deal.

Alternatively, Congress could do nothing now and reconsider its position after the 2024 election. If Trump loses, it need do nothing. If Trump wins by a landslide, Congress should remove the prohibition on his serving as president. If Trump wins by a narrow margin, Congress will have a difficult decision to make. It will have to choose between saving the country by ignoring the electors and voters versus giving the country over to Trump’s authoritarian populism. I hope it chooses to save the country’s democracy.

Martin G. Evans is a writer in Cambridge whose contributions on managerial and political issues have appeared in The Boston Globe, Cambridge Chronicle, MetroWest Daily News, Providence Journal, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail of Toronto, National Post of Toronto and the former Toronto Financial Post. He has taught at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, London Business School, George Mason University, Rutgers University and the Harvard School of Public Health.