Donald Trump and the insurrection fallout


INDIANAPOLIS — In 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, the 14th Amendment was enshrined in the United States Constitution. It was aimed at hundreds of thousands of officials of the Confederate states, who took up arms or publicly supported the rebellion.

Section 3 of this amendment reads: “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.”

After state high courts rejected 14th Amendment arguments in Michigan and Minnesota, the Colorado Supreme Court issued a thunderclap on Tuesday, ruling that Republican presidential frontrunner Donald J. Trump cannot appear on that state’s presidential primary ballot. It will likely to heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Said the majority in the 4-3 ruling, “President Trump did not merely incite the insurrection. Even when the siege on the Capitol was fully underway, he continued to support it. These actions constituted overt, voluntary, and direct participation in the insurrection. We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us. 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.”

Conservative commentator Jonathan V. Last writing for The Bulwark, put why this decision was made in these succinct terms: “Donald Trump falsely proclaimed that the presidential election was illegitimate. He attempted, through both legal and extra-legal means, to overturn the result of the election. Trump’s maneuverings in both the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense were so dangerous that 10 former secretaries of Defense penned an op-ed warning that it was not lawful to use the military in an election dispute. Trump then called thousands of people to Washington, assembled them into a crowd which he knew was armed, and personally directed them to march to the Capitol and ‘take back’ the country ‘with strength.’”

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said after Trump was acquitted in his second impeachment trial, “There’s no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it. We all were here. We saw what happened. It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election, from one administration to the next.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said President Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6 had been “atrocious and totally wrong,” saying he had “incited people” to attack the U.S. Capitol.

But in their followup actions and words, McConnell said he would “absolutely” vote for Trump in 2024 if he wins the GOP nomination. McCarthy ended up in Mar-a-Lago two weeks after the insurrection, throwing him a political lifeline that has resulted in Trump’s overwhelming frontrunner status for the nomination despite facing 91 criminal charges.

The Colorado ruling brought a stern response from U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, whose Indiana gubernatorial campaign was endorsed by the former president. “With the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision, the self-anointed ‘defenders of democracy’ have removed their political enemy from the ballot, stripping Colorado voters of their right to vote for the candidate of their choice and joining radical AGs and Biden DOJ in interfering in the 2024 election,” Braun said in a statement.

American and Indiana courts routinely rule on the validity of candidacies and whether people can remain on the ballot for a variety of reasons. For instance, a Marion County judge ruled earlier this month that an Indiana law keeping Republican Senate candidate John Rust off the primary ballot was invalid. That case will be decided by the Indiana Supreme Court in 2024.

Adam Serwer, writing in The Atlantic, observed, “There are a lot of practical reasons for opposing Trump’s disqualification. One is that it removes the choice of rejecting Trump from the electorate, which might seem undemocratic, even if it’s done with constitutional provisions adopted by the people’s chosen representatives. Another is that it could damage the legitimacy of democracy itself, by appearing to confirm Trump’s allegations that the political system is ‘rigged’ against him. Still another is that it could lead to unrest or political violence.”

In his 1796 farewell address, President George Washington warned of “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men (who) will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

We have never witnessed or experienced the stress tests now facing our democracy. Americans are in for a volatile 11 months heading into the November 2024 election. 


Brian Howey is senior writer and columnist for Howey Politics Indiana/State Affairs. Find Howey on Facebook and X @hwypol.