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The Constitution is not optional — Trump is disqualified

Former president Donald Trump at a rally in Dayton, Ohio, on Nov. 7, 2022.MADDIE MCGARVEY/NYT

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bars from public office any person who took an oath to support the Constitution and then engaged in insurrection against the Constitution. The Globe editorial board (“Challenges to Trump’s eligibility are murky at best. But there is a clear way to stop him.” Nov. 27) criticizes efforts to enforce this unequivocal constitutional command against Donald Trump as “legal maneuvers,” insisting that Trump should be defeated at the ballot box instead. But enforcement of the Constitution is not optional; there is no exception for provisions that are controversial in some circles or procedurally challenging to enforce. Were it otherwise, we would never have achieved constitutional protections for people of color, women, LGBTQ people, or other marginalized groups.

Trump was already defeated once at the ballot box, but he and his defenders refused to accept the result, resorting to violence and other unlawful means to overturn the 2020 election. Why would he do anything differently if he is defeated again at the ballot box? What if this time he succeeds in defying the will of the people?


Finally, the board offers no argument that Section 3 does not disqualify Trump, except for referencing a “theory” that the “presidency is exempt from the disqualification clause.” Aside from the absurdity of the argument that Section 3 applies to every state and federal officer, from local meat inspector to governor to Supreme Court Justice, except for the president, the Constitution refers to the presidency as an “office” 25 times, and historical evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that the Framers of Section 3 understood it to apply to presidents. The notion that Trump could evade the command of Section 3 on such a preposterous argument and return to the presidency despite engaging in insurrection would be allowing a “legal maneuver” (to borrow the board’s phrase) to subvert the Constitution and further erode the integrity of and respect for our constitutional democracy.

Ben Clements


Chairman and senior legal adviser

Free Speech for People


The writer is the chairman and senior legal adviser of Free Speech For People, one of the organizations leading the effort to enforce Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.