Written by Akshar Patel
Edited by Annika Lilja
On Tuesday, December 19, 2023, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in a landmark case that Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is unfit to be president based on the 14th Amendment. Due to this, Colorado’s ballot has an obligation not to include the former president on the state’s Republican primary ballot. The panel of judges specifically pointed out that Trump, in his role during the January 6th Capitol Attack, went against the “Insurrection Clause” of the amendment, which states,
“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.”
Written after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment’s Insurrection Clause was initially created to stop former Confederates from simply rerunning for office to take back power in their native southern states. However, it has never been used to disqualify a presidential candidate until now. This statement from the Colorado Supreme Court overturned a previous ruling from a lower court that stated the 14th Amendment’s position on presidents was unclear and thus he could not be fully banned.
Reactions to this ruling have been mixed. Many liberals have gone on to congratulate this verdict, claiming that Trump is being punished for his antidemocratic behavior and harmful rhetoric. If Trump were to be elected in 2024, they say, he would destroy the foundations of our republic. However, other liberals worry that Trump will only use this setback to sell the message that he is being targeted and boost himself in the polls, as he has done with his many other legal battles. Critics argue that claiming to protect democracy while not allowing a candidate to run is hypocritical. Additionally, conservatives have also expressed concerns about bias in the ruling, pointing out that all judges on the Colorado Supreme Court were appointed by Democrats.
Trump and his supporters, naturally, were furious at this ruling. On his social media platform Truth Social, the former president angrily wrote, “ELECTION INTERFERENCE!!!”, claiming that the Department of Justice and the Biden administration were plotting against him in a grand conspiracy to turn the United States into a “banana republic.” Already, Trump and his associates have made it known that they will appeal this case to the Supreme Court, which will likely rule in his favor due to its 6-3 conservative majority. Other candidates, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and GOP newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy have also thrown their support behind Trump as well. Some of Trump’s supporters, notably, have sent death threats and other harmful remarks toward the judges who ruled against the former president, as they have done to the judges in Trump’s previous trials.
If it is not struck down by the Federal Supreme Court, this landmark ruling sets a unique and potentially dangerous precedent that states can decide which candidates are allowed to appear on the ballot due to political reasons. This may lead other Democratic-led states to attempt to bar Trump from office, which would lead to a reaction in red states to do the same to Joe Biden and the Democrats. It is yet to be seen if Colorado can keep this ruling intact long enough for it to make a difference in next year’s election.
Cohen, Marshall. “Takeaways from Colorado’s Historic Ruling That Trump Is Ineligible for Office Based on 14th Amendment’s ‘Insurrectionist Ban.’” CNN, 20 Dec. 2023, www.cnn.com/2023/12/19/politics/takeaways-trump-colorado-supreme-court-14th-amendment-insurrection/index.html.
Riccardi, Nicholas. “Donald Trump Banned from Colorado Ballot in Historic Ruling by State’s Supreme Court.” AP News, The Associated Press, 19 Dec. 2023, apnews.com/article/trump-insurrection-14th-amendment-2024-colorado-d16dd8f354eeaf450558378c65fd79a2. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023.
Samuels, Brett. “Trump Rails against Colorado Ruling Removing Him from Ballot: ‘a Shame for Our Country.’” The Hill, Nexstar Media Inc., 20 Dec. 2023, thehill.com/homenews/campaign/4369301-trump-rails-against-colorado-ruling-shame-for-our-country/.
“The Constitution: Amendments 11-27.” National Archives, The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 6 Oct. 2016, www.archives.gov/founding-docs/amendments-11-27.
Woodward, Alex, et al. “Trump Ballot Ruling in Colorado Sparks Death Threats.” The Independent, 21 Dec. 2023, www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-news-today-colorado-president-latest-b2467635.html.
Zurcher, Anthony. “Trump’s Legal Defeat in Colorado May Turn into Political Gold.” BBC, 20 Dec. 2023, www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-67632728.