The 14th Amendment authorizes the federal government to punish states that violated or abridged their citizens’ right to vote by proportionally reducing the states’ representation in Congress, and mandates that anyone who “engaged in insurrection” against the United States could not hold civil, military or elected office (without the approval of two-thirds of the House and Senate).
The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, also part of the Bill of Rights, reads as follows:
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Excuse my lack of legal expertise, but it seems these amendments, passed in 1868 and 1870 respectively, accomplished several things to protect our democracy which are still in place. First, they would seem to make the voter suppression laws enacted by 19 GOP-dominated state legislatures illegal and unconstitutional. If that is true, then why is the Department of Justice (DOJ), formed in 1870 to fight voter suppression and the newly formed Ku Klux Klan, not actively pursuing injunctions against these states to stop enactment of these scurrilous laws until their legality can be more thoroughly questioned in court? Why indeed! This would perhaps delay the implementation of these laws until after the 2022 election thus making that election more fair and free to all instead of it now seriously more favoring a GOP strategy resulting in a return to GOP majorities in both houses of Congress.
But Attorney General Merrick Garland, to date, has taken action only against Texas, and no other state. President Joe Biden has also been lax in more actively pushing for the passage of two federal voting rights bills that will help the DOJ to make its case against these GOP state legislatures that are trying to bring back a time that existed before the Civil War when Black folks were denied the same rights as White folks. Mr. Biden, who I think has done a great job otherwise, needs to borrow a page from Lyndon Johnson’s play book when a President could get what he wanted by making quid pro quo deals and twisting arms when appropriate. Even Sen. Mitch McConnell changed the filibuster to get his ultra-conservative Trump Supreme Court in place. Certainly President Biden can do the same to save our democracy from a Republican avalanche of illegal Trump Big Lie-inspired voter suppression laws.
If both he and Garland don’t do what needs to be done, then they are helping the GOP take several giant steps backwards (and certainly not bothering to say, “May I?”) in the fight to make equal all citizens of this country, regardless of race, creed, religion, or political persuasion. It takes us back to when Reconstruction, which did bring equality to all, was abandoned by another President who, after Lincoln’s murder by a Southern white supremacist, paved the way for racists and their allies to rise again, and continue rising again for another 150 years.
That lands us right here in 2022, believe it or not, still fighting for a basic right of democracy: one citizen–regardless of race or creed–one vote, allowing that this nation “shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” as our beloved President Lincoln so eloquently put it.
The Republican Party, which once was the party of Lincoln, is now steeped in the lies of Donald Trump and his cronies. They are saturated with the idea that an endorsement from Trump will gain them election. But that endorsement may well be a figurative deal with the devil, and we all know where those deals often lead. So the answer to all this is that a coalition of voters needs to see the danger and rise up as Lincoln arose during a time of great risk to himself and country. That coalition needs to lean on their current legislators and push to end the filibuster and get those voting rights bills passed so Garland and Biden can do their work to save this democracy. That coalition needs to vote for Democrats at every level in 2022 and show the Trump GOP they cannot bully this country into submission and authoritarianism.
It would also seem to me that the 14th Amendment would effectively block Donald Trump from ever again running for any public office in America. He instigated an insurrection against our government, as the House Commission will soon show with undeniable evidence (and which I saw, along with many of us on TV, as vividly as some of us saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald in a Texas police basement in 1963 on national TV!). This probably won’t lock Teflon Don up, but, according to this Amendment to our Constitution, should conclusively prevent him from ever seeking public office again. I realize the amendment was aimed at Southern secessionists at the time, but it does not limit it to them, opening it up to any future insurrectionists like Trump.
That, dear readers, is all I have to say on these matters…at least for now. Thanks for your attention.