Trump is dangerously unfit for office. But leave him on the ballot so voters can give him a chance

(Godofredo A. Vsquez / Associated Press)

Trump is dangerously unfit for office. But leave him on the ballot so voters can give him a chance

California Politics, 2024 Elections

George Skelton

January 8, 2024

Even a despicable threat like Donald Trump deserves a fair chance. He should not be punished before he is convicted.

In America, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, right? At least that’s what was instilled in me growing up.

Many people, especially Democrats and left-wing voters, want to deny Trump access to presidential primaries under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

Section 3, written immediately after the Civil War, provides that no person shall hold any office, civil or military, under the United States or under any state who has taken an oath in support of the Constitution and is engaged in insurrection or rebellion, or in aid or has given comfort to the enemies.

That made perfect sense. If you fought to cripple the nation after promising to protect it, once you have failed you should no longer help run the country.

Now there is the movement to prevent former President Trump from running for the Oval Office again for allegedly inspiring armed thugs and lunatics to insurrection.


. After Trump’s pep talk, they stormed the country’s Capitol on January 6, 2021


and tried to prevent Congress from certifying President Biden’s election victory over the sore loser who lied about massive voter fraud.

Give credit to the governor. Gavin Newsom and Secretary of State Shirley Weber, California’s chief election official. These two liberal Democrats have not joined the chorus of denying Trump access to ballots. They don’t want anything to do with it.

There is no doubt that Donald Trump is a threat to our freedoms and even our democracy, but in California we are beating candidates we don’t like at the ballot box, Newsom said in his only public comment on the matter. Everything else is a political distraction.

Weber placed Trump in California’s March 5 Republican primary despite pressure from Democratic Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis to boot him.

“I must place the sanctity of this election above partisan politics,” Weber said in a statement.

While we can agree that the attack on the Capitol and the former president’s conduct were abhorrent, there are complex legal issues surrounding this issue.

She added that Trump’s behavior has been tainted and continues to sow public distrust in the government and the legitimacy of the election. So it is more important than ever to secure elections in a way that transcends political divisions.

In my opinion, the nation and certainly democracy would be a lot


better off if Trump were never allowed anywhere near power again. He is dangerously divisive, blatantly immoral and a terrible role model for the nation’s youth. At 77, the Republican frontrunner might even be slipping into his head as he laments becoming a dictator for a day, taking revenge on opponents and aping Hitler’s rhetoric.

Okay, but Trump was not convicted of insurrection. No prosecutor has even charged him with that, although he has been charged with nearly a hundred other crimes.

Where is the due process guaranteed by the Constitution? The right to a jury trial? To cross-examine prosecution witnesses? And what exactly is an uprising? We better have a solid definition before we deny someone public office for engaging in it.

But I ramble on like the non-lawyer layman that I am, considering that I suspect a similar attitude among many citizens.

I contacted some legal scholars and asked where I was off base. They were obliged.

They all told me that apparently it doesn’t take a conviction on a riot charge to kick Trump off the state ballot.

There is nothing in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment that requires a conviction, said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law.

“I don’t understand why Article 3 requires someone to be convicted,” said Jessica Levinson, an election law specialist at Loyola Law School.

Denying someone access to ballots is not a criminal penalty, said Richard Hasen, a professor of election law at UCLA said. It’s not going to jail. It is not a fine to pay. No justice is denied.

Running for office is not a right, the professors told me. It’s a privilege.

That said, Hasen added:


there is a fair trial.

The Colorado Supreme Court has removed Trump from the primary


he waged a rebellion. First there was a five-day administrative hearing that the court found was sufficient for a fair trial. Trump disagreed and appealed to the US Supreme Court, but Maine’s secretary of state removed Trump from the ballot on his own.

Trump deserves a fair trial, Hasen said.

There are two separate questions, the professor said. Did he participate in an uprising? How do we know?


Who gets to decide?

The US Senate should have resolved the Trump mess after the Capitol mob attack. The House of Representatives accused him of inciting an insurrection. But too many Republicans shied away from a Senate vote to convict. The vote was ten times less than the required two-thirds. A conviction would have barred Trump from ever holding office again.

Weber told me she had concluded it was beyond her authority to keep Trump off the ballot in California. And if she did, the secretary of state added, it would fuel those who already believe the election was rigged against Trump. It would only fuel the fire.

Does she personally believe Trump is an insurrectionist? Oh yes, she replied. He tells people to fight and suddenly they climb over the walls of the Capitol, break in and go after the vice president? Is this an uprising? Oh my God! ….

I hope and pray that the Supreme Court takes up the issue and gives us a proper definition of insurrection so that people know exactly what it is, and whatever the outcome, there is no confusion.

The court announced on Friday that it will hear the case soon.

Yes, the best solution for democracy would be for the Supreme Court to deny Trump the right to hold public office again. But that’s probably asking too much of this conservative group, which also includes three judges appointed by Trump.

Beyond that, we must trust that the democratic process will legitimately deny this man another hold on power. Let the voters find him guilty.


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