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Disqualifying a presidential candidate

by Marc Racicot
| January 18, 2024 12:00 AM

There are four qualifications set forth in the U.S. Constitution that must be met before any “Person” can be placed on the ballot and run for the Office of President: 1) you must be a “natural born Citizen;” 2) you must have “attained the age of thirty-five years”; 3) you must have been “fourteen Years a Resident within the United States”; and 4) you cannot have violated the Disqualification Rule of the 14th Amendment, which entails having previously sworn an oath to support the Constitution and subsequently engaged in insurrection against it.

There’s nothing mysterious or unusual about meeting these eligibility requirements. They’re mandatory and cannot be waived nor ignored.

Throughout history, candidates, including presidential candidates, have been disqualified by elections officials because of their failure to meet pertinent qualifications allowing access to a primary election ballot.

In reference to the 2024 presidential election, it has been argued by some political soothsayers that because the disqualification requirements of the 14th Amendment have rarely been applied, we should just move on, turn a blind eye to the Constitution, ignore the Disqualification Rule, and quietly leave the voters to address, by their votes, the presidential qualification issues in the coming election.

The thing is, that’s simply not a constitutional or legal alternative. Not unless the American people are prepared to defy and thereby abrogate the Constitution.

The qualifications set forth in the Constitution are not options to be casually noted, arrogantly dismissed or discreetly avoided by self-serving strategists, sanctimonious candidates or timid election officials entrusted by the Montana Constitution to “insure the purity of elections and guard against abuses of the electoral process.”

None of them have the license of the American people to spurn a constitutional imperative that’s plain on its face: if you’ve taken an oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” and you thereafter betray its provisions by engagement in insurrection or rebellion, the 14th Amendment Disqualification Rule forever bars you from seeking that office again.

The fact that the Disqualification Rule has not been previously applied to a presidential candidate does not diminish the materiality or clarity of the Constitutional mandate.

If anything at all, the rarity of the application more profoundly reveals that the nation has, mercifully, had to suffer only one president who took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and then, as declared by three different tribunals, demonstratively engaged in insurrection against it.

Nor does the limited application of the rule make it more complex than what it is on its face. The words in Section 3 unambiguously mean what they say, and they say what they mean.

So, too, does the likely method of judicial analysis of the Constitution referred to as “Originalism,” which, to paraphrase Justice Amy Coney Barrett, interprets “the Constitution as a law,” and “its text as text.”

Originalism also makes clear that the text of the Constitution is interpreted “to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it.” In other words, the meaning of the words in the Constitution doesn’t “change over time,” nor is it the prerogative of a judge or justice, when interpreting the Constitution, “to update” the text or “infuse” his or her policy views into that text.

The point of the rule and its application to the 2024 presidential election are unmistakable: It would be sheer lunacy to allow a presidential candidate who once knowingly and purposely betrayed the Constitution, his country and his office the opportunity to engage in the same treacherous conduct a second time around.

So thought the framers of the 14th Amendment and the people of this country who approved it in 1868.

Marc Racicot is the former Montana Attorney General, Governor (1993-2001) and Chair of the Republican National Committee (2002-2003).

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