Why 14th Amendment bars Trump from office: A constitutional law scholar explains principle behind Colorado Supreme Court ruling (Mark A. Graber, 12/19/23, The Conversation)

The text of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment states, in full:

“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.”

To me as a scholar of constitutional law, each sentence and sentence fragment captures the commitment made by the nation in the wake of the Civil War to govern by constitutional politics. People seeking political and constitutional changes must play by the rules set out in the Constitution. In a democracy, people cannot substitute force, violence or intimidation for persuasion, coalition building and voting.

The first words of Section 3 describe various offices that people can only hold if they satisfy the constitutional rules for election or appointment. The Republicans who wrote the amendment repeatedly declared that Section 3 covered all offices established by the Constitution. That included the presidency, a point many participants in framing, ratifying and implementation debates over constitutional disqualification made explicitly, as documented in the records of debate in the 39th Congress, which wrote and passed the amendment.

Senators, representatives and presidential electors are spelled out because some doubt existed when the amendment was debated in 1866 as to whether they were officers of the United States, although they were frequently referred to as such in the course of congressional debates. […]

Shay’s Rebellion, the Whiskey Insurrection, Burr’s Rebellion, John Brown’s Raid and other events were insurrections, even when the goal was not overturning the government.

What these events had in common was that people were trying to prevent the enforcement of laws that were consequences of persuasion, coalition building and voting. Or they were trying to create new laws by force, violence and intimidation.

These words in the amendment declare that those who turn to bullets when ballots fail to provide their desired result cannot be trusted as democratic officials. When applied specifically to the events on Jan. 6, 2021, the amendment declares that those who turn to violence when voting goes against them cannot hold office in a democratic nation.