Oaths of office and the Trump Colorado ballot access case

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Back in the 1990s, when I was teaching political science at the US Air Force Academy, I was promoted to lieutenant colonel on the same day as another instructor. Now, if you have ever been to a military promotion ceremony, you will remember that there are parts of the ceremony that are traditional, such as putting your new rank on your shoulder in the case of officers, and arms for those enlisted personnel, by someone important to you. This is usually a spouse or a parent. Sometimes the work is divided, with one spouse doing one part while the other person does the other. In my case, my late first wife pressed the silver oak leaves on one side, and the general I became executive officer pressed the other.

The usual next step is to renew the oath to the US Constitution. But the other colleague and I who were promoting didn’t like that idea. We felt strongly when we first took the oath, when we took the oath as second lieutenants in 1980, that we were eager and proud. MEAN it was and it still is. It might be a strange fight for civilians, but maybe my fellow military readers will understand. We told our department head, a great and kind leader, about our views, and he understood, and on that promotion day, we stuck our ranks, then some short words from the chief and the general, then cake – not ” redo” of the oath happened.

I thought about this oath, and the sacred and powerful meaning of the oath, when I read a story in Colorado Politics about the state Supreme Court trying to resolve the case before them that could impeach former President Donald Trump. in Colorado. ballot, because he participated in the insurrection.

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This is an interesting legal question regarding a provision of the 14th Amendment, one of the three “Civil War” amendments (the 13th, which formally abolished slavery, the 14th which primarily gave citizenship to everyone born in the US, and the 15th, which gave Black Americans the right to vote). The 14th is worth reading, and please pay particular attention to Section 3 and Section 5.

Now, I should point out again that I’m not a lawyer, but I taught the Constitution at the Air Force Academy for 17 years, and in that time I think I’ve learned a thing or two about extraordinary document.

The question before the court is whether Trump’s actions in support of the January 6, 2021 uprising disqualify him from running for office again, based on his “participation in insurrection or rebellion against (United States), or given aid and comfort to its enemies.” I could go on about Trump cozying up to Russia and Putin, which certainly gives Putin some comfort, but that’s not the question here.

Trump also took the oath. In fact, the oath of office of the president is specific to the body of the Constitution, unlike the oath taken by everyone, from the vice president to the new privates in the army. Trump, however, raised his hand and said: “I solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” . ” Oaths and inciting an insurrection don’t sound much like defending the Constitution to me.

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And to those of you who might argue that Trump is not, in fact, involved in the uprising, I’ll just say that, however much. OTHERS ways that Trump has been involved, his direct and public pressure to get himself vice president effectively staged a coup by rejecting, without Constitutional authority whatsoever, the electoral votes in the states that Trump does not want to count, is to join in and of himself.

Happily, Mike Pence (who took the same oath I did) had a remarkable display of character by refusing to take any part in the plot. And when Trump’s people see Pence doing the right thing, what do they do? They chanted: “Hang Mike Pence” (and to my surprise, and completely unrelated in any way to this topic, I just learned that Pence is a year old. younger because of me. Wow, this is shocking…).

As I understand the Constitution, I’m prepared to predict that the court will allow Trump on the ballot, in part because in Section 5 the Founders seem to imply that any amendment provisions to be enacted, must have “appropriate legislation.” ” passed by congress. I doubt that technicality will get Trump on our state ballots.

But the basic question that must, I am sure, enter the minds of the members of the court, is whether a court should always Americans will reject anyone they want to serve as their president.

What limits should be placed on who the American people can choose as their candidate for the job that Alexander Hamilton called “chief justice?” The Constitution has only three specific limits on who can be president.

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As stated in Article 2, Section 1, you must be a “natural-born” US citizen (with “natural-born” being a little bit worth a whole column by itself), aged 35 , and lived in the US for 14 years. Those are relatively general and, strictly speaking, if those are the only limitations, a person in prison can, in theory, be elected president. Obviously the 14th Amendment changed that, but the broad principle from the Founders was that the people should be able to elect whomever they wanted, and (until the 22nd Amendment) always wanted. them. The election itself is the judgment of the people.

Even if the Colorado case could be decided on the technicalities mentioned above, the bigger question remains: what additional limits, if any, should be placed on who people want to vote for. I admit that, as much as I absolutely despise Trump and his minions, some day the tables will turn. CAN back, and do I want a, say, Trumpian president and the Supreme Court to rule that a Democrat that I support can be kept on a state ballot because, I don’t know, he has too many parking ticket?

We should always be careful what we wish for. In fact, I expect Trump to be crushed at the ballot box in the Centennial State, and likely across the country. But we must be sure that our judicial reasoning cannot be changed by passing on political complications.

I swore once and I meant it. Trump took the oath and left it. We’ll see what the courts have to say.