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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled correctly, but that doesn't mean Trump should be voted in

opinion-trump-ballot

In early March, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Trump v. Anderson  that states cannot enforce Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to remove former President Donald Trump from their primary ballots. This was a case that had potential to upend the 2024 presidential race. If the court had ruled alternatively, other states may have joined Colorado and Maine in rejecting Trump’s eligibility to run.

A group of Colorado voters had challenged this eligibility in September 2023, arguing that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — sometimes referred to as the “Insurrectionist Clause” — precluded Trump from running for office again, namely after his alleged role in fomenting an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. Although the justices differed in their reasoning and their interpretations of actors who can enforce Section 3, they arrived at an unanimous bottom line: states cannot utilize Section 3 to disqualify federal officeholders. Allowing it, the majority wrote, would result in a “patchwork” that would sever the link "between the National government and the people of the United States as a whole.”

As much as I reject the idea of another Trump term in the White House, I believe the U.S. Supreme Court was right to ensure he remains on ballots. Allowing state-by-state removal would diffuse disharmony through the country at a time when we need no more of it. During oral arguments for Trump v. Anderson, Justice Elena Kagan raised a key question, asking why one state “should decide who gets to be president of the United States.”

It’s a fair point. As the majority wrote, the executive branch serves the “united voice of the whole, not a portion, of the people.” A further fragmented nation serves no one — not even those of us who fear the ramifications of another four years of Trump.

Moreover, removing a presidential contender with as much popular support as Trump would be a disservice to the American people. If the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled alternatively, how many millions of Americans would cease believing in the legitimacy of our democracy? If Trump was not allowed to run, it would perpetuate the notion that the deck is indeed stacked against him. The integrity of democratic institutions inherently relies on the fact that they work for all of us. Manipulating them for political ends — however frightening the alternative — does more harm than good. More importantly, such acts erode the already diminished public faith in democracy and the electoral process.

I stand steadfast in this belief, but the irony that Trump is the candidate we must protect in the name of democracy is not lost on me. It frustrates me beyond measure that upholding democracy means disregarding the damage Trump did to ours — damage we are still working to repair. In this republic, no man is entitled to power simply because he craves it. I dread the generational implications of putting such a man in power again; the further desecration of democracy, defilement of the U.S. Constitution and erosion of the American experiment. For the future of our republic, I remain eternally grateful Trump wasn’t taken off the ballot. For the future of our republic, I am equally terrified he will end up in the Oval Office yet again.

Ever since Trump announced his second presidential campaign, those of us who fear his return have been on the lookout for some sort of magic trick that will save America from him. I hope desperately that a Constitutional genie in a bottle will appear and provide us with some niche legal provision we can use against Trump — without doing generations' worth of damage to our republic.

There is no trick and there is no genie. There is only us, and our political capital is something far more powerful than magic. Trump will be on the ballot come November, and we will be responsible for the outcome. If he is to be barred from the White House, it will be the people of this great nation who prohibit him.

@eva_eapen