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Trump and the Ballot

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
January 6, 2024

Natelson's Paranoia

Embarrassingly, the Independence Institute, which publishes my column, published Rob Natelson's article (originally published in the conspiracy mongering Epoch Times), "Why I Still Doubt the 2020 Election."

Most notable about Natelson's article is that it does not actually offer any reasons to doubt the 2020 election. To take one example, Natelson regards as "circumstantial evidence" that Trump may really have won the fact that "Biden garnered more votes than any other presidential candidate in history, despite his obvious political shortcomings and minimal campaigning." People couldn't possibly have been motivated to vote for Biden because Trump is a uniquely horrible and dangerous candidate who very clearly desires to be an authoritarian dictator. I voted for Biden over Trump, and I strongly dislike Biden.

In another Epoch Times article, Natelson calls the January 6 Capitol assault "very small potatoes" compared to the Civil War—as though that were the only relevant activity and as though it can't be an "insurrection" unless it's a full-scale war! As the DOJ reviews, the Capitol invaders assaulted some 140 police officers. Over a thousand people were criminally charged, "approximately 714 individuals have pleaded guilty to a variety of federal charges," "87 of those who have pleaded guilty to felonies have pleaded to federal charges of assaulting law enforcement officers," and "138 individuals have been found guilty at contested trials."

"Very small potatoes" indeed.

A Larger Pattern

Natelson is hardly the only Trumpist making light of the January 6 Capitol assault. Trump himself has promised to pardon those criminals. The Washington Post reviews:

Attempts to minimize, excuse or deny the violence of that day began with people returning home from the mob and intensified with family members of rioters, including the mother of a woman killed at the Capitol. Their cause became championed by pro-Trump writers Julie Kelly and Darren Beattie, and amplified by prominent right-wing media figures. The grass-roots and media pressure then spread from far-right lawmakers such as Reps. Paul A. Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene to take over the Republican mainstream.

"Serious Questions"

Reason's Jacob Sullum offers some very "serious questions" about the Fourteenth Amendment, at least the subhead says.

Sullum does offer pretty solid review of the various aspects of the debate. A sensible reader will conclude that the arguments for keeping Trump on the ballot pretend that the Fourteenth Amendment means something other than what it obviously says or that Trump did something other than what he obviously did.

The defense of Trump is at the level of Bill Clinton arguing over the meaning of the word "is" (only in a much more important context). Trump's defenders clearly are trying to obfuscate plain language and plain facts. "Did Trump 'engage in' an 'insurrection'?" Sullum asks. Is the president "an officer of the United States"? What if c-a-t really spelled dog?

Huemer Talks Sense

CU philosophy professor Michael Huemer has a good review of the relevant issues.

Regarding the insurrection, Huemer quotes the common-sense take of the Colorado Supreme Court:

Any definition of "insurrection" for purposes of Section Three would encompass a concerted and public use of force or threat of force by a group of people to hinder or prevent the U.S. government from taking the actions necessary to accomplish a peaceful transfer of power in this country.

Huemer also quotes from the 1860 Webster's dictionary, which distinguishes "insurrection" from "rebellion."

Huemer plainly summarizes Trump's actions:

There is no doubt about what Trump was up to: He was trying to stop the certification of the election results, so that he could overturn the election and cling to power. His remarks on Jan. 6 were just the latest part of an ongoing plan, which included pressuring election officials to falsify vote results, sending fake election certificates to Mike Pence, and pressuring Mike Pence to count the fake votes. See my earlier post on "Who Can Best Destroy America" and the January 6 Committee Report. The evidence is also summarized in the Colorado decision, pp. 106–116.

Huemer also addresses the question of whether Trump was an "officer" in the relevant sense (obviously) and whether "the law [is] self-executing." On this second point, Huemer points out that if the courts are helpless to act absent Congressional action, then that "implies that Congress could nullify the 14th Amendment by just not passing any laws" or by repealing existing laws. "This would imply, e.g., that we could have continued to have slaves" if Congress did not explicitly outlaw it, Huemer points out.

Huemer makes the obvious point that permitting Trump to become president again would be bad for democracy:

[W]hich is worse: Trump gets judicially disqualified and MAGA Republicans throw a fit, or Trump (with ˜50% probability) returns to the White House? The second one is worse for democracy. It establishes the precedent that one can openly thumb one’s nose at the law, try to pass off fraudulent election certificates, etc., and then be richly rewarded.

Furthermore, Trump himself will be completely unrestrained in his second term. We don't know specifically what he'll do, but he'll have no respect whatever for the Constitution, democracy, rule of law, or any other American ideals. He'll have learned that he can do anything he likes, break any law, and get away with it. He will do everything in his power to fill the government with yes-men who also have utter contempt for American ideals. This is much more dangerous to democracy.

French's Take

The religious-conservative writer David French is among those who has firmly resisted Trumpism. He reviews:

Since the rise of Trump, he and his movement have transgressed constitutional, legal and moral boundaries at will and then, when Americans attempt to impose consequences for those transgressions, Trump’s defenders and critics alike caution that the consequences will be dangerous or destabilizing.

French writes, "It's time to apply the plain language of the Constitution to Trump's actions and remove him from the ballot," rather than bow to the fear that Trump "might foment additional violence." French is right. Bluntly, if we allow ourselves to be cowed by threats of Trumpist domestic terrorism—of which January 6 was an example—we are only inviting more such violence.

Trumpist Threats

Jena Griswold writes: "Within three weeks of the lawsuit being filed [concerning Trump on the ballot], I received 64 death threats. I stopped counting after that. I will not be intimidated. Democracy and peace will triumph over tyranny and violence." That Griswold is legally the defendant in the case makes no difference to those dangerous morons.

Powell's Hope

I haven't read a single person who thinks the Supreme Court, which has agreed to take the ballot case, probably will uphold the Colorado decision. Trump probably will be the Republican nominee. Then we have to hope he's defeated at the ballot box.

Aaron Ross Powell hopes that Trump's chances are not as good as many fear or hope:

He's unpopular, the thick of his campaign (and the conspiratorial and culture war rhetoric that will inevitably be the center of it) will remind people why those don't like him, the economy is booming, and, anyway, he’ll probably have a felony conviction or two.

Trump of Cult

Kyle Clark comments:

The Colorado Republican Party, much like the Republican National Committee, no longer primarily exists to serve a political philosophy or a group of like-minded voters. The national and the state Republican parties each exist largely to serve the personal interests of one man, Donald Trump, and, in Colorado, Republican chairman Dave Williams. The Colorado GOP is used by and for Williams to boost his favorites within the party, to attack his enemies within the party, to stoke his grievances, to promote his election-rigging conspiracy theories, even to tell Republicans they need to convert to his religion. . . .

Williams and Trump share some, shall we say, authoritarian-curious tendencies. But while Trump seeks to return to the White House, Williams seems content to burn down what's left of the Colorado Republican Party so long as he can be king of the ashes. And most of Colorado's Republican leaders, from legislators to talk radio hosts, seem content to be ruled by this man.

Just so.

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