The most surprising thing about Thursday’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court was the almost complete lack of historical context in those arguments about whether an insurgent should remain on the ballot.
The fear that led Colorado to ban Trump from voting was that he would speak out and “suspend the Constitution” and “become a dictator on day one.” Neither were mentioned even once: the words “suspended” and “dictator” do not appear anywhere in the transcript.
And yet this is exactly what inspired Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, Senator Jacob Howard of Michigan, and Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York (and 12 others) to write and introduce the 14th Amendment into Congress.
As I have explained in detail, by the late 1830s the Confederate States were no longer democracies in any real sense The hidden history of American oligarchy The richest families in each of those states run them like dictatorial fiefdoms.
When their political or economic power was challenged, they were not at all reluctant to beat, jail, and even lynch poor or working-class whites: much like Russia today, Any disagreement was not tolerated. If anyone tried to mount a serious political challenge against one of the elite classes of the Old South during that era, they were often killed or burned to the ground.
That is, American Trump is promising to bring us back “again”.
Adding to this, Lincoln had made the terrible mistake of choosing Andrew Johnson, a slaveholder, as his second-term Vice President – a largely futile attempt to heal the nation – and when Lincoln was assassinated the following year and Johnson When he became President, Congress got scared. ,
On the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Roger Taney and Associate Justice Samuel Nelson were both in poor health; Tanny wrote to the infamous Dred Scott Nelson’s tuition through the decision (and he had previously owned enslaved people) and law school were paid for by his father by selling one of his family’s enslaved persons.
So Congress – fearing President Johnson was preparing to appoint another Federalist to the Court – passed legislation in 1866 reducing the size of the Supreme Court from ten to six members.
How concerned they were – and how extreme actions they were willing to take – to save the fragile democracy that Confederate oligarchs had recently tried to destroy.
Congress, especially the Radical Republican faction led by Stevens, then essentially went to war with President Johnson and those who supported him, who strongly opposed the ratification of the 14th Amendment.
The Radical Republicans’ landslide victory in the election of 1866 arguably saved the amendment’s day and helped save American democracy.
That virtually none of this history was mentioned by lawyers representing Colorado in arguments before the court on Thursday is sad; What is worse, the judges seemed so intent on finding technical reasons to ignore the plain language of Section 3 of the Amendment.
“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or an elector of the President and Vice-President, or hold any civil or military office under the United States or any State, before he has been sworn in as a member of Congress of, 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, against The same would be involved in rebellion or insurrection, or gave aid or comfort to his enemies. But Congress may remove such disability by two-thirds vote of each House.
The simple reality is that the future of American democracy is as at risk in this case as it was in 1866. This was completely lost in Thursday’s debate: it should have been central to them.
So, why did the “liberal” side of the court also join in on this charade? Was it because, as Mitt Romney said of his Republican Senate colleagues who failed to convict Trump in his second impeachment, they were afraid for their safety?
As Romney’s biographer, Atlantic writer Mackey Coppins, wrote:
“A Republican congressman told Romney that he wanted to vote for Trump’s second impeachment, but decided not to do so out of fear for his family’s safety. The congressman argued that Trump would be impeached by House Democrats with or without him — why put his wife and children at risk if it wouldn’t change the outcome?
“Later, during the Senate trial, Romney heard the same calculations while speaking with a small group of Republican colleagues. When a member of the leadership, a senator, said he was leaning toward voting to convict, others urged him to reconsider. You can’t do that, Romney recalled someone saying. Think about your personal safety, said another. Think about your children. “Ultimately the senator decided he was right.”
Were we seeing the results of Trump’s weak threats? After all, it was just a few weeks ago that Trump lawyer Alina Hubba said on Brett Kavanaugh’s Fox “News”:
“You know, people like Kavanaugh, who the president fought for, how the president got his way, will come forward.”
Nice little house and kids you have, Brett; If something happens to them then they should feel ashamed…
That’s how fascists and totalitarians seized and held power for all those millennia we call civilization: by creating terror. Just ask Ruby Freeman or Paul Pelosi. Or read Shakespeare or the Bible. Or talk to Alexei Navalny’s wife.
Did they never learn in American history class that there was a time, about a generation ago, when democracy in the South was replaced by a powerful oligarchy, and Trump is merely echoing the values and postures of that time?
Was the 14th Amendment written to protect or prevent us from exactly what we are in today?
Stevens, Howard, and Conkling went to their graves believing that they had secured America’s future. Sadly, Trump’s lawyers, Sam Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence “Sugar Baby” Thomas (among others) proved that they were wrong.
Thursday’s hearing was humiliating. Now that the Supreme Court has clearly failed in its responsibility, it is up to us to prevent this monster or anyone like him from ever setting foot in the corridors of American power again.
Make sure everyone you know is registered to vote and understands what is at stake this November.