As Donald Trump continues to hint at a potential 2024 comeback bid, debate rages over whether legal means exist to prevent him from holding office again following his contentious single term. Trump remains eligible under a straightforward reading of constitutional requirements.
However, his opponents question if provisions exist amid the vague impeachment language and 14th Amendment to formally disqualify and bar Trump from being elected president again. While congressional action could in theory achieve this, the path involves considerable complexity and ambiguity.
Examining the arguments around barring Trump from the ballot if he runs again sheds light on the instability around this democracy-testing scenario unique to America’s constitutional order and traditions.
The Fundamentals of Disqualification
The Constitution does not directly give Congress power to disqualify candidates from the presidency. But two mechanisms may allow it indirectly:
- Impeachment – The House can impeach and Senate can convict impeached officers, then disqualify them from future federal officeholding by a simple majority vote .
- 14th Amendment, Section 3 – Congress can enforce this section prohibiting those involved in insurrections from holding office with legislation by a two-thirds vote .
Either approach would require proactive steps by Congress to intentionally invoke the obscure provisions before they could be applicable.
The Case for Disqualifying Trump
Those arguing Trump can and should be barred through these means offer several justifications:
Insurrectionist Conduct on Jan. 6
- Trump urged supporters to protest the election, fomented lies about fraud, and brought the mob to D.C. that became a violent insurrection.
- Congress has power under 14th Amendment to exclude insurrectionist leaders. This applies to Trump per his own Vice President and some legal scholars .
Retribution for Trump’s Abuses
- Congress must deter future candidates from abusing office as Trump did by imposing disqualification.
- Dereliction of duty in pushing election lies and obstruction of the Mueller investigation constitute abuses of power warranting removal of future eligibility.
- Trump’s post-election conduct reveals danger to democracy should he regain power .
- Congress must defend the Republic from unstable and authoritarian figures by adding new guardrails like disqualification.
These rationales cast disqualification as necessary to remedy Trump’s past actions and prevent future anti-democratic threats.
The Case Against Disqualification
However, serious counter-arguments exist against attempts to bar Trump from running again:
Uncharted Territory Constitutionally
- The untested, obscure provisions being advocated offer dubious footing for such an extreme measure.
- It could set precedent for routine preemptive efforts to disqualify disfavored candidates, violating electoral principles .
Trump Not Convicted When President
- Constitutional law scholars argue disqualification can only follow a Senate conviction, which never happened with Trump’s impeachments when he was president .
- Some argue disqualification after leaving office requires an unlikely second impeachment and conviction .
Legally Questionable Grounds
- First Amendment concerns arise from penalizing speech and political stances .
- Attorneys argue the “insurrectionist” claim involves charges never levied, proven in court, or subject to due process.
These amount to plausible arguments that the law does not sufficiently support or define disqualification mechanisms as applicable to Trump post-presidency.
Senate Impeachment After Leaving Office?
Given the objections, some argue new impeachment after leaving office is the only viable path to justify disqualification :
- It moots concerns about punishing speech by focusing on Trump’s conduct in office around Jan. 6.
- Conviction first while out of office negates the procedural objections around post-hoc disqualification.
However, a new impeachment still faces criticisms of vindictiveness, further norm erosion, and dubious legality.
Practical and Political Barriers
Beyond legal disputes, huge practical barriers exist to accomplishing disqualification:
- Evidence collection – Building rigorous, bulletproof arguments around Trump’s offenses would require extensive investigation.
- House votes – Even if Democrats keep the House, some defections would likely prevent reaching a majority for impeachment.
- Senate trial – Holding a proceeding in the slower-moving Senate would occupy massive time and resources.
- Senate votes – At least 10 Republicans would need to join Democrats to convict, an unlikely number presuming most see more risk than reward.
- Public opinion – Polls show voters divided on barring Trump from office and concerned about overreach .
These factors make successful disqualification highly improbable absent major shifts in the political landscape before 2024.
Ramifications If Disqualification Succeeded
If Trump was ultimately disqualified, several consequences could result:
- Immediate litigation challenging the constitutionality and legality of the action.
- Strong backlash from Trump supporters accusing Congress of an illegal political vendetta.
- Violent protests possible from extremist elements of Trump’s base.
- Trump would still be eligible to run third party or as a write-in, potentially siphoning votes from GOP candidates. But he would be barred from participating in Republican primaries and debates.
- Disqualification could deter some authoritarian behavior from future presidents and candidates. But it could also encourage more partisan tit-for-tat.
So while disqualification might gratify Trump critics, it could fracture the country further and still fail to prevent Trump from being a disruptive electoral player.
The Constitution vaguely empowers Congress to punish civil officers through disqualification, but without defined limits. While those aiming to banish Trump from electoral politics propose novel applications of these powers, critics raise formidable legal and procedural objections.
Trump’s conduct shakes faith in his respect for democracy, but partisan efforts to preemptively bar candidates from elections could further destabilize electoral norms. Absent plainly criminal acts, the reprimand of voters for unwise choices may offer the cleaner remedy.
Whatever Trump’s fitness, hastily erected guardrails improperly tested under current laws may do greater long-term injury to the presidency than any single personality.
But the lack of consensus in interpreting or amending defective provisions continues driving the country into uncharted waters. Until fundamental reforms help antiquated text align better with modern parties, media, and democratic crises, the vulnerable loopholes in balancing power with responsibility will remain.
Hi y’all, I’m Caroline Webster, your proud Texan source for everything related to our 45th president, Donald Trump, and the GOP.
Along with my husband, Bill, I run Trump Scoop, born out of our ranch in the Lone Star State, offering insightful and unbiased commentary on conservative politics.
With a degree in Political Science and years immersed in local politics, my aim is to keep our readers informed and connected.
For me, it’s not just about delivering news—it’s about standing up for our values and the spirit of American patriotism.