Colorado’s top court read what the Constitution clearly says

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Shortly after the Colorado Supreme Court declared in an explosive ruling that Donald Trump can’t appear on the state’s 2024 ballot because he’s an insurrectionist, one of the former president’s flacks fumed in predictable fashion about “George Soros” and “Crooked Joe Biden” and a judicial plot that’s “un-American.” But the Trump campaign’s statement failed to mention the most important words of all:

The U.S. Constitution.

That was quite an omission, given what the document’s 14th Amendment clearly says (with my emphases): “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.”

The Colorado Supreme Court, unlike Team MAGA, apparently knows how to read plain text.

The judicial majority took the literal language of our core governing document and applied it to the obvious facts that were documented in a five-day trial in a lower state court.

Conclusion: “President Trump incited and encouraged the use of violence and lawless action to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power (on Jan. 6).”

Therefore: “A majority of the court holds that (he) is disqualified from holding the office of president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Because he is disqualified, it would be a wrongful act under the Election Code for the Colorado secretary of state to list him as a candidate…”

This ruling is indeed explosive – historic, unprecedented, all kinds of hyperbolic adjectives – and the Colorado judges darn well know it: “We do not reach these conclusions lightly.” However, “We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.”

Oh yeah, that “public reaction.” It’s already intense, in all the predictable ways, and even many of us who applaud the Colorado ruling are a bit discomfited to discover we have yet another bomb in our midst, saddling our fragile democracy with yet another stress test. MAGAts are accusing the court of interfering with the 2024 race and they insist voters should decide the next election – which is hilarious, because Trump’s insurrectionist acts were designed to overturn what the voters had already decided in 2020.

Meanwhile, similar boot-Trump-off-the-ballot bids are active in more than a dozen other states (a handful of citizens, mostly Republicans and independents, initiated the Colorado lawsuit), and the organizers in those states are likely to be emboldened by the Colorado ruling…but hang on, because, in all probability, we’ll soon get a bat-signal from the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’ll be fascinating to see how that gang behaves. States have the right to conduct their own elections, and conservatives supposedly believe in state’s rights. Indeed, the Colorado court’s majority opinion shrewdly quoted Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, who, as a lower-court federal judge in a different case, applauded “a state’s legitimate interest in protecting the integrity and practical functioning of the political process.” He wrote that a state’s legitimate interest “permits it to exclude from the ballot candidates who are constitutionally prohibited from assuming office.”

Let’s see if our highest court can find a way to steer around that.

David Frum, the sane conservative commentator, writes: “The U.S. Supreme Court now has the opportunity to offer Republicans an exit from their Trump predicament, in time to let some non-insurrectionist candidate win the Republican nomination and contest the presidency…back to a race where the Biden-Harris ticket faces more or less normal opponents, rather than an ex-president who openly yearns to be a dictator.”

But, unless we’re pleasantly shocked, we have to assume that the MAGA-influenced high court majority will act hypocritically and pound Colorado with a federal hammer. As in, each state has the right to ban or allow abortion as each state sees fit (because state’s rights), but no state has the right to run its own election as it sees fit (because federal power). I would love to be proven wrong.

Yeah, the Colorado ruling likely tees us up for yet more political turmoil. So what else is new. And the most dire predictions – violent street riots if Trump was ever indicted – never came true. Most importantly, the law is the law.

Where are we as a nation if the literal language in the Constitution is deemed to mean nothing?

Copyright 2023 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at [email protected]