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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Other Papers Say: Court bolsters democracy

By The following editorial originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times:
Published: March 11, 2024, 6:01am

In ruling that Colorado — and other states — may not bar Donald Trump from the ballot, the Supreme Court has provided necessary clarity about the reach of a once-obscure section of the 14th Amendment aimed at preventing insurrectionists from holding public office.

At a time of paralyzing political polarization, it is notable that the court’s holding was supported by all nine justices. A unanimous decision on this highly partisan issue is welcome, though three Democratic appointees complained that the unsigned majority opinion went too far in saying that Congress must act to enforce the insurrection provision.

It is now clear that if Trump is to be prevented from returning to the White House, he must be rejected by the voters and denied a majority in the Electoral College. Whatever the legal merits of the court’s ruling, its chief consequence is to bolster democracy.

The Colorado Supreme Court effectively held that, under the Constitution, voters could be denied the right to decide whether Trump is suitable for a second term.

At oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Elena Kagan, a Barack Obama appointee, seemed to channel the concerns of several justices when she raised the question of “why a single state should decide who gets to be president of the United States.”

The majority opinion picks up on that concern. It says that “state-by-state resolution of the question whether Section 3 bars a particular candidate for president from serving would be quite unlikely to yield a uniform answer consistent with the basic principle that the president . . . represent(s) all the voters in the nation.”

All nine justices signed on to this worry about a “patchwork” result. But the three Democratic appointees and Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a Trump appointee, didn’t endorse another argument in the majority opinion: that Congress must act to authorize application of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to federal officeholders and candidates.

The court wouldn’t have to struggle with these issues if Trump, after inspiring a riot at the U.S. Capitol with his self-interested claims of election fraud, had slunk out of politics. Officials or aggrieved voters in Colorado, California and other states might not have contemplated it at all if Republican politicians and voters had seen Trump for what he is: a narcissist who nearly destroyed our democracy with his attempts to overthrow the results of the 2020 election.

That alone should disqualify him in voters’ eyes. His own statements since launching his reelection bid make clear that he would return chaos to the Oval Office, fray relations with U.S. allies and exacerbate racial and other divisions.

Neither the Supreme Court nor the Constitution will relieve voters of the responsibility to face facts about his obvious unfitness for another presidential term.