Tuesday Talk*: If SCOTUS Tosses Trump, Then What?

There has been a great deal of discussion about whether Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment precludes Trump from being re-elected president. Issues swirl, from whether the president is an officer to why it was specifically omitted. Is he precluded from running or just serving? Must he be convicted or is it left up to the states to decide? There are “expert” opinions all over the place, meaning that the Supreme Court’s decision can legitimately go either way.

But what if the Court rules that a state can decide to reject Trump as a candidate and not put his name on the ballot?

The court will hear arguments this week that Trump is prohibited from running for office because he violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and supported an insurrection on Jan. 6. The conventional wisdom is that the court won’t disqualify Trump — that even if that’s what the law requires, it would be too explosive a move to oust the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination. In other words, if ever there were a case in which the Supreme Court might put a finger on the scales in favor of keeping the peace over following the law, this one might be it.

But what if the court shocks the country, and rules Trump is no longer eligible? What would it mean for the 2024 presidential race, for the Supreme Court, and for a society where political tensions are spiking? Is some kind of violence sure to follow, or could the decision nip it in the bud?

Whether people are ready to take arms in the event that Trump loses is a serious question. After all, it’s not as if some of his supporters are disinclined to engage in violence. Maybe the number of people ready to take to the mattresses is insignificant, given that Trump’s calls for protest at his arraignment in New York fizzled pathetically. But then, leaving their fearless leader off the ballot is a bit bigger a deal than a court case and, at least in the minds of those who believe he won and the election was stolen, a basic affront to his right to run and their right to vote for the candidate of their choice.

Is this the death of democracy, preventing citizens from electing Trump? Is this attack on democracy worth going to war over?

And if the threat of violence is real, and a ruling upholding a state’s right to exclude Trump from the ballot under Section 3, should that affect the Supreme Court’s decision? After all, the Court doesn’t exist in a vacuum, even if it is not supposed to consider the political ramifications of its rulings when deciding what the Constitution requires.

Much as a ruling against Trump would enhance the Court’s appearance of legitimacy with those who believe that it’s become Trump’s captive court filled by his partisan hacks to do his bidding, would it risk throwing the nation into a civil war by ruling against Trump? Should it?

Even though the Court could well rule in Trump’s favor this time, would it be the kiss of death to the Court’s legitimacy for those who believe that Trump has well earned being excluded under Section 3 for calling his supplicants to Washington on January 6th to prevent the election of Joe Biden?

*Tuesday Talk rules apply, within reason.

H/T Hal for sending this over.

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