Donald Trump, legal problems
Former President Donald Trump. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the Insurrection Clause applies to Donald Trump following his failed coup on January 6, 2021.

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Ultimately, it probably does not matter that Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled that Donald Trump is ineligible to appear on the state’s ballot in the upcoming presidential election because he incited an insurrection. If the former president were to become the Republican nominee, the Centennial State’s electoral votes won’t be the deciding factor. 

However, the decision has great symbolic value. First of all, it is rare for Trump to ever encounter consequences for his actions, no matter how egregious. Now, there is a measure of accountability for the former president trying to prevent the certification of his 2020 election loss. 

The response to the court’s 4-3 ruling also highlights blatant hypocrisy on the right. First of all, Republicans style themselves as the party of law and order and personal responsibility. But when it comes to Trump, they seem determined to let him get away with anything. Following the decision, there were plenty on the right who said that this represents the end of American democracy because judges should not decide who gets to appear on ballots. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), for example, tweeted that the ruling shows that “For Dems, ‘democracy’ means stopping the voters from voting for candidates you don’t like.” 

But in this case, it’s not judges who made the decision at all. It’s the Constitution of the United States and Trump himself. 

Section 3 of the Fourth Amendment is explicit:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

When Trump decided to stage his coup, according to the Constitution, he forfeited his right to run for office again. Not that he is a legal scholar, but once again, actions have consequences. 

It should also be noted that when Republicans decided not to convict Trump in his impeachment trial for the events of January 6, many of them explained that the judicial rather than legislative system should be the venue for determining his guilt or innocence. 

“We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation,” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said at the time, “and former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.”

Well, guess what. A court has now spoken on this matter. 

Finally, the US Constitution is not the condiments menu at a Five Guys. You don’t get to pick and choose which provisions you like. And just like a 33-year-old is currently ineligible to run for president, so is Trump based on the plain text of the 14th Amendment. Therefore, all of that hand-wringing on the MAGA right rings more than a bit hollow. 

We have said before that stopping Trump via the courts is not the best option when it comes to the preservation of US democracy. The ideal outcome would be for him to be soundly defeated at the ballot box next November. However, this is not about our preference or that of Trump or any other Republican — it’s simply a matter of the Constitution and the law. 


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a senior editor for Politics and director of the Mentor Apprentice Program at WhoWhatWhy. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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