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One way to conduct a coup is to control who can run for elected office. Examples of this abound in autocracies and police states, with the most recent being China’s coup in Hong Kong. America’s progressive left is attempting the same in this country, by targeting popular Republicans to make them ineligible for election.
Let’s start with the law and its origins. As a rule, the Constitution prevents Congress from prohibiting a person who meets the basic requirements of Article I § 2 (age, citizenship, residency) from competing in a federal election or being seated in government should they win. The sole exception, established after the Civil War in the 14th Amendment, § 3, is for those people who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” our nation.
The background to this is colorful. In British-American legal history, this issue arose under King George III in the 1760s. To simplify a complex story: John Wilkes, an immensely popular firebrand, was a vocal critic of King George. The King conspired with Parliament to ensure that Wilkes, even if elected, would not be seated in the House of Commons. In 1768, the House of Commons went so far as to pass a law preventing Wilkes from even standing for election.
Wilkes was a consequential figure in our history and a favored household name among our Founders. Because they were familiar with his travails, Wilkes’s actions and the actions King George and Parliament took against him gave rise to two clauses in the U.S. Constitution and two clauses in the Bill of Rights.
As to the latter, when our Founders drafted the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of the press and the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of general warrants owed much to Wilkes. In the body of the Constitution, the protection given representatives for speech on the floor of Congress owes much to Wilkes. And lastly, the fact that Congress cannot normally control who can run for election and then be seated in Congress owes almost entirely to John Wilkes.
In 1782, Wilkes convinced Parliament to expunge the law prohibiting him from standing for election. Five years later, as recounted in the 1969 Supreme Court case of Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, James Madison adopted Wilkes’s arguments before Parliament to argue at our Constitutional Convention against giving Congress unlimited discretion to exclude people elected to that body. To do so, he said, would be to vest
an improper & dangerous power in the Legislature. The qualifications of electors and elected were fundamental articles in a Republican Govt. and ought to be fixed by the Constitution. If the Legislature could regulate those of either, it can by degrees subvert the Constitution. A Republic may be converted into an aristocracy or oligarchy as well by limiting the number capable of being elected, as the number authorised to elect. . . . It was a power also, which might be made subservient to the views of one faction against another. Qualifications founded on artificial distinctions may be devised, by the stronger in order to keep out partizans of (a weaker) faction.’
The only exception to this power written into our constitutional law came with the passage of the 14th Amendment on the heels of the Civil War after 1,500,000 Americans were killed or wounded and one of John Wilkes’s distant relatives assassinated a president. That limited exception is that people who have committed rebellion or insurrection against the U.S. may be excluded from running for office or excluded from office if they win an election.
The progressive left is going all out to paint conservatives as “domestic terrorists” and to claim that the January 6 riot—a riot of a few hours by people with no weapons and carried out virtually without violence (and that may have been part of an FBI entrapment scheme)—is tantamount to our Civil War of 1861-1865. This is so far beyond ludicrous it is stunning. Yet progressives fully embrace this tactic as their only hope to stop a popular vote that promises to be a wave election in 2022 and an Electoral College vote that might return Trump to power in 2024.
The despicable Marc Elias, the man who paid for the Steele Dossier, stated in a series of tweets last month:
Before the midterm election, we will have a serious discussion about whether individual Republican House Members are disqualified by Section 3 of the 14th Amendment from serving in Congress.
We may even see litigation.
I am making clear that members of Congress who engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States are not eligible to serve in Congress.
And miracle dictu, we already have our first lawsuit trying to keep a Republican off the 2022 ballot. On Monday, two far-left groups, one of which is associated with Bernie Sanders, filed a lawsuit “in North Carolina before the state board of elections to challenge the candidacy of Rep. Madison Cawthorn.” They claim that Cawthorn committed the crime of insurrection by challenging the election results and speaking at the peaceful January 6 rally.
This attempted coup by lawfare is not aimed merely at Republican congresspeople. It is very much aimed at Donald Trump and the presidency as well. As Liz Cheney, a “Republican” house member sitting on the left’s kangaroo “January 6 Committee,” recently stated during a CBS interview:
I’m very focused right now…on the work of the select committee…. I can tell you that the single most important thing, though, is to ensure that Donald Trump is not the Republican nominee and that he certainly is not anywhere close to the Oval Office ever again.
There is no other way to describe this tactic than as an attempted coup using our courts, carried out by a deeply disingenuous group of people motivated solely by an unquenchable thirst for power. This is a deeply cynical attack on our Republic and our democratic traditions. Indeed, if the progressives succeed in their lawfare, they will have managed a coup, obscenely relying on the Constitution to, de facto, end our experiment as a constitutional republic.
Henry Ford boasted in his 1922 autobiography that he once stated, “Any customer can have a car painted any color he wants so long as it is black.” One hundred years later, the progressive left has taken that concept for its own. Between the effort to federalize election laws and its attempted coup through disqualifying Republicans, the progressive left is essentially saying to the electorate, “American citizens can vote for any candidate they like, so long as the candidate is a Democrat.”
ThinkCivics News publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of ThinkCivics News or ThinkCivics Media.
This article was originally published by the American Thinker. Read the full article.
American Thinker is a daily internet publication devoted to the thoughtful exploration of issues of importance to Americans. Contributors are accomplished in fields beyond journalism and animated to write for the general public out of concern for the complex and morally significant questions on the national agenda.