Aziz Huq Asks What Happens After a SCOTUS Ruling on the Colorado Ballot Case

Supreme Court Shocker? Here’s What Happens if Trump Gets Kicked Off the Ballot

There’s no way the Supreme Court is going to kick Donald Trump off the ballot. … Right?

The court will hear arguments this week that Trump is prohibited from running for office because he violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and supported an insurrection on Jan. 6. The conventional wisdom is that the court won’t disqualify Trump — that even if that’s what the law requires, it would be too explosive a move to oust the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination. In other words, if ever there were a case in which the Supreme Court might put a finger on the scales in favor of keeping the peace over following the law, this one might be it.

But what if the court shocks the country, and rules Trump is no longer eligible? What would it mean for the 2024 presidential race, for the Supreme Court, and for a society where political tensions are spiking? Is some kind of violence sure to follow, or could the decision nip it in the bud?

We asked some of the smartest political analysts, legal scholars and security experts out there on what would happen next in such an extraordinary circumstance. Here’s what they said.


‘The beginning of a further bloody unraveling’


Aziz Huq teaches law at the University of Chicago and is the author of The Collapse of Constitutional Remedies.

If the Supreme Court follows the overwhelming facts and the law, it will find Donald Trump is disqualified from the presidency. I don’t expect the court to rule that way, but if it did, would the matter be settled? Hardly. Formally, the decision binds only the parties — Trump and the Colorado state litigants. What of the balance of the country? I would anticipate that such a decision would trigger serial, overlapping waves of resistance.

First, it is not clear to me that legislators and officials in Republican states would honor that decision in preparing general election ballots for November. As the ongoing tussle between the federal government and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over the border illustrates, it is no longer a given that state officials aligned with the Trump side of the Republican Party will heed federal law — especially when it would come at a great cost to their own electoral prospects. Nullification, once a fanciful idea, is in the air again.

Second, state legislators might instruct their slate of Electoral College electors to vote for Trump regardless of whether he’s kept off the ballot all the way through November. It’s not hard to imagine the arguments that could be offered to justify this — that Trump was unjustly disqualified, that fixing this would simply be restoration, not retribution; and so forth.

Now imagine the Electoral College votes go to Congress. Even though majorities voted to impeach and convict Trump on an insurrection charge (albeit not the two-thirds of senators needed for conviction), it is not hard to imagine lawmakers trying to overturn the “injustice” of disqualification — something the Electoral College Reform Act doesn’t preclude.

Finally, what of rank-and-file Trump voters? Are they going to peaceably accept that result, or see it as another manifestation of the “deep state?” I suspect that a Supreme Court ruling disqualifying him from office would elevate the violent rhetoric and acts of some.

A win for the Colorado plaintiffs, in other words, would not be the end; it could instead be the beginning of a further bloody unraveling of democratic norms.

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