2024 will bring a reckoning between Trump perception and reality

by | Jan 4, 2024 | Politics/Government

photo from Indiana Capital Chronicle/Scott Olson/Getty Images

During my professional career, I’ve said it countless times and in countless ways: perception is reality. Oh, I wish I could take those moments back! Not just because of my awful tendency to weave profanity into my version of the cliché, but because the cliché itself has engulfed far too many of us.

In 2024, the battle between what is real and what is not will be epic.

Yes, yes, it’s a big election year, the latest in a streak of the-most-important-elections-of-our-lifetimes. And nothing strains the perception and reality continuum more than election season. This year, that is practically the entire game.

Let’s talk about the pesky Fourteenth Amendment and other inconvenient laws that will impact the presidential race. The never-ending legal saga of former President Donald Trump is ground zero of the perception versus reality war. His most recent problem of being removed from the ballot in Colorado and Maine has inspired debate and conversation that is straight out of the Twilight Zone.

Too many politicians from both parties are pandering to voters by taking the position that Trump’s quest to return to the White House should be decided solely by the election. Of course, we all agree with the authority of elections, even though Trump and his supporters didn’t agree with it in 2020. Many of them still don’t. But before voters get to decide in any year, candidates must be qualified to hold the office.

Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution establishes the qualifications to be president. We learned about these in elementary school: the person must by a natural born citizen, at least 35 years of age, and must have lived in the country for the previous 14 years. 

The Fourteenth Amendment, enacted after the Civil War, modified those qualifications to prevent those responsible for such a rebellion from infiltrating public office in the newly restored union. The plain, applicable language of Section 3 states: “No person shall…hold any office…(having) engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

The language is plain. It’s inconvenient for this moment, but it’s still plain and applicable. And the reality is that it is a legal matter, not a political one. There is no value for politicians to proclaim, “let the voters decide!” The constitution is not set aside by the whims of the moment. It never has been before, and there is no reason to do it now.

To Trump and his fans, good luck at the Supreme Court in January. 

The question of presidential immunity for Trump’s acts related to the insurrection will likely be decided this month too. The reality here is that over 700 people have been convicted of crimes related to January 6. There is a truckload of evidence implicating Trump’s criminal role in it. Too many Americans think this is also something to be decided by public sentiment. Nope. Not in the moment it’s not. The political process can lead to new laws in the future, but we don’t vote on the applicability of laws as they exist now, or in the past. 

Neither of these issues will be decided by public commentary or creative social media posts. They will be decided in court, as they should be, even though the legal questions really aren’t that complicated. 

For SCOTUS to interpret that the Fourteenth Amendment’s insurrection language doesn’t apply to Trump, it will have to strain a little. They could decide a conviction is necessary, or that he wasn’t technically “an officer” of the government when he was president. But it will require a decision that abandons the virtues of “textualism” this court holds so dear. 

On the question of presidential immunity, SCOTUS will need to do far more than strain to rule in Trump’s favor. It will have to create a fantasy land. As much as this court has rattled my faith in it with its recent decisions, this just won’t happen. Trump will go to trial in all of his criminal cases. It’s also a fantasy to believe he will escape being convicted in all four cases. 

This unprecedented legal saga will end badly for Trump in 2024, not because people of my ilk are rooting for it, but because the criminality and the law are both so clear. There isn’t a reality-based escape route for him.

America is either a nation of laws or it isn’t. It’s often inconvenient and imperfect, but our laws have served us better than any one person ever could. That’s reality. 

The perception of many is that Trump is something other than the obvious. When reality ultimately prevails, I hope we will all be prepared for it. 

7 Comments

  1. Max W. Hittle, Jr.

    This is by far the best analysis I’ve read on the applicability of Article XIV, Section 14. At the end of the inquiry NO CONVICTION is required. Your point is well taken that the “originalists “ must now adhere to their principles.

    Well done, and thank you.

    Reply
  2. Mr. Hittle Max W.

    Sorry- should have been Section 3.

    Reply
  3. RK Jones

    Even if the Supremes come through and do the right thing, I’m afraid 30% of our population will stick to their mantra; If I can’t find evidence supporting my conspiracy theory, the media must be conspiring against my quest for the truth!
    God help us!

    Reply
  4. Bill Bailey

    As much as I agree with your position and hope, I anticipate that SCOTUS will find no conviction equals freedom to run. And I can see they’re rational.

    Reply
  5. Joe Castelo

    I have submitted man comments in reply to misguided Washington Post articles on these subjects. Yours are the first beams of logic I have seen on the topic. My assessments are based upon basics I learned in undergrad Constitutional Law class. To sit: There is no such thing as sovereign immunity. A sitting POTUS can be charged with crimes and civilly sued. While procedural prosecution might be delayed until out of office. States CAN prosecute them like any other citizen. States control presidential elections. I.E. How electors are chosen. Originally they were chosen by state legislatures. Political parties and state statutes recognizing them have no federal constitutional standing. SCOTUS , ergo, has no jurisdiction in these matter. Section 3 of the the 14th amendment does not need adjudication. It was, and still be applied, by presumption of guilt of insurrection. As it was to thousands in the 1860s. Proof of innocence burden upon the accused. With only redress being the mercy of Congress by a super majority. If justice and the Constitution is served. Trump can never be POTUS again. And he CAN go to prison.

    Reply
    • Michael Leppert

      Thank you!

      Reply
  6. Carol Neaville Wright

    Thanks for educating those of us who are ordinary citizens and not Attorney ‘s. It is our TASK to make sure these GOP candidates in all 52 states are LOSERS at the Balott Box in 2024.Get off your couch and ORGANIZE NOW!!
    Volunteer your time, talent,and money to Democratic candidates at the local, state, and federal level. They are the only ones who will protect our individual rights and our endangered. Step up today and become part of the change in our America.
    DO NOT ALLOW 45 and the Wanna-a-be Dick-Taters win.

    Reply

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