Front Page Talking Points


Supreme Court soon considers whether the Constitution bars Trump from 2024 ballots


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Our nation's top court has a starring role in the presidential campaign. In three weeks, the justices hear arguments about whether Donald Trump can be on his party's March 5 primary ballots in two states. Colorado's Supreme Court and Maine's top election officials say the Constitution bars the ex-president from seeking re-election because he goaded Capitol crowds to attempt an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. "The U.S. Constitution does not tolerate an assault on the peaceful transfer of power," says Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows. Ballot access challenges aimed at Trump for the same reason are pending in nearly two dozen other states.

Trump has appealed Maine's decision and asked the Supreme Court to intervene on his behalf in the Colorado case. The justices this month agreed to hear arguments Feb. 8, "thrusting the justices into a pivotal role that could alter the course of this year's presidential election," The New York Times says, adding that the decision "will most likely also determine his eligibility to run in the general election and to hold office at all."

The case turns on the meaning of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868 after the Civil War, which disqualifies those who had taken an oath "to support the Constitution of the United States" from holding office if they then "shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof." Though it originally was aimed at keeping rebellious Confederate Army veterans out of government, Trump critics see it as relevant 156 years later. "We are now facing the very crisis the amendment was intended to combat," Times columnist David French wrote this month.

Trump and his supporters say the two states' disqualifications are partisan ploys that harm voters. They accuse Democrats of hypocrisy after campaigning as champions of democracy. "Apparently democracy is when judges tell people they're not allowed to vote for the candidate leading in the polls? This is disgraceful," says Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio. Even some Democrats fear the efforts could backfire by firing up Republican voters and undercutting their own party's voting rights message. California Gov. Gavin Newsom dismisses moves to bar Trump as a "political distraction." Political scientist Yascha Mounk of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who has written about threats to democracies, also voices concern: "Attempts to disqualify demagogues with deep popular support often backfire. The only way to neutralize the danger posed by authoritarian populists like Donald Trump is to beat them at the ballot box, as decisively as possible and as often as it takes."

Colorado justices say: "President Trump did not merely incite the insurrection. . . . [His] actions constituted overt, voluntary, and direct participation in the insurrection." – State supreme court majority in 4-3 ruling Dec. 9

Columnist says: "There is no world in which the [Supreme Court] justices are going to empower states to throw Trump off their ballots. . . . . The consequences of such a move would be dangerously destabilizing to the nation" – Ruth Marcus. The Washington Post

Democrat says: "There is no doubt that Donald Trump is a threat to our liberties and even to our democracy. But in California, we defeat candidates at the polls." – Gov. Gavin Newsom

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for, Copyright 2024

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Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.