Face it, Our Laws are Anemic

Is the U.S. Constitution powerless to protect us from a presidential candidate with four criminal indictments? If so, why?

Face it, Our Laws are Anemic
Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Is the U.S. Constitution powerless to protect us from a presidential candidate with four criminal indictments? If so, why?

“He (Donald Trump) cannot again be entrusted with public office. He led an insurrection! He refused to concede the results of the 2020 election, claiming it was stolen, even when many in his inner circle, including his own attorney general, told him it was not…he then pushed state officials to change vote counts, hatched a plot to name fake electors, tried to pressure his vice president into refusing to certify the Electoral College votes, had his allies seek access to voting-machine data, and summoned his supporters to attack the Capitol on January 6th to disrupt the formal recognition of the presidential election results. And then he waited HOURS, reportedly watching the violence on TV, before telling his supporters to go home — despite pleas from his staff, Republican lawmakers, and even Fox News.
If this isn’t the behavior of an insurrectionist, I don’t know what is.”
-Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary. Professor and political commentator

I’ll start with motorcycles and bring it round to my frustration with our legal system in this current dilemma.  (I’m out of my depth here and willingly defer to my motorcycling colleague and friend Jim Moore as to the logic of this analogy), but I’ll go with it for now. Lane splitting is allowed in California, but not in all states. This is a law I seriously don’t understand. I went to the site of California Highway Patrol to figure out why motorcyclists can drive between rows of moving cars. 

“Effective January 1, 2017, section 21658.1 was added to the California Vehicle Code and defines lane splitting. The following is section 21658.1 in its entirety:

21658.1 (a) For the purposes of this section, “lane splitting” means driving a motorcycle, as defined in Section 400, that has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.

(b) The Department of the California Highway Patrol may develop educational guidelines relating to lane splitting in a manner that would ensure the safety of the motorcyclist and the drivers and passengers of the surrounding vehicles.”

And CHP also offers this disclaimer: 


Lane splitting can be dangerous and extreme caution should be exercised. It should not be performed by inexperienced riders. The risk of death or serious injury during a lane splitting collision increases as speed and speed differential increases. These general safety tips are provided to assist you in the practice; however, they are not guaranteed to keep you safe. Every rider has the ultimate responsibility for their own decision-making and safety.

They go on to offer safety tips but, in my opinion, when a motorcycle appears from my blind spot out of nowhere next to me on the freeway while I’m driving 65 mph, I’m stunned, caught off guard and hoping like hell, I don’t run over it and its driver. I’m not sure safety tips are much help. So, why allow lane splitting?

Images of a scattered motorcycle driver lived in my head for a long time from my early days as a newbie TV reporter. I was sent to automobile accidents because they’re easy to write and make for good training. One of those accidents was like a horrible movie scene but all too real. The motorcycle driver didn’t stand a chance against a big rig. For this reason, and a couple of, “oh-shit-moments” of my own on the freeway, I don’t get the logic of allowed lane splitting. 

There are any number of state and federal laws that don’t seem sensible but are passed. In other instances of absurdity, laws don’t exist or aren’t given the proper muscle to be effective.  Eyes today are on Section 3, the Disqualification Clause of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It states: 

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability. 

The disqualification clause, as it’s called, was written after the Civil War to stop high-ranking Confederate traitors who were clinging to slavery from returning to public office. The problem is that the amendment doesn’t specify who’s supposed to be enforcing it, so the responsibility has fallen to different bodies. Congress has taken votes to prevent elected members from being seated. Two of the cases demonstrate the inconsistency in the clause. Nearly 100 years ago, the law was successfully used against antiwar lawmaker Victor Berger (not an insurrectionist, he was convicted of espionage), but when it was applied against former Confederate Zebulon Vance, he was allowed back into office when the political climate changed in his favor. Berger eventually was, also. 

You have to wonder; is the law half-assed or are those who are bound to interpret and enforce it playing political footsie with it?

While we wait for the results of dozens of efforts to keep Trump’s name off of 2024 ballots, the question is could the disqualification clause prevent Donald Trump from running for president in 2024?

Legal scholars say yes. . . but.

But since this mechanism has never been used against a president, there are questions. The disqualification clause applies to current and former federal officials, state officials, and military officials. However, legal scholars are divided on whether it applies to the presidency. 

My question is why the hell not? Why would we allow an election denier and government saboteur on the ballot to run for the highest office in the land? That’s like handing the keys to your home to a thief before a night out, saying, “Don’t take anything, we’ll be back soon.”  Very much like that. 

A Colorado district judge recently ruled that former President Donald Trump “engaged in an insurrection” on January 6, 2021 but said the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban” doesn’t apply to presidents. Judges in Minnesota and Michigan also refused to remove Trump from Republican primary ballots. 

Cases filed to keep Trump off ballots have been dismissed in New Hampshire, and Florida. Cases have been withdrawn in Idaho, Utah, Oklahoma, Maine, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Cases are pending in New York, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, Kansas, Wisconsin, Vermont, Massachusetts, Virginia, South Carolina, West Virginia, Delaware, Connecticut, and New Jersey. 

Trump is facing 91 felony counts across two state courts and two different federal districts. A civil suit in New York could essentially shut down his business empire. Fraud, election subversion, removing and secreting federal classified documents, hush money, sexual assault . . . famed Hollywood director Martin Scorsese couldn’t find better material for a movie about a gangster’s paradise. Trump enjoys unearned privilege even with mounting cases against him. 

There are so many cases and so many common themes of delaying tactics, public lies to ramp up his base for violence against judges, attorneys, and their staff, we have to wonder why we are being forced to tolerate a human with a lack of regard for the law, the rights of others, and basic decency. Shouldn’t our laws address the character of a person who wants to hold the keys to the world’s most powerful nation?

I’ve seen people scrutinize prom dates more thoroughly than these Trump supporters are doing with their party’s frontrunner. Cult mentality aside, our laws should take over the reins where common sense has left the building. 

If people refuse to wake up or they share Trump’s value system, the U.S. Constitution should fly in and save us from the obvious; just as haters gonna hate, criminals gonna crime.  It’s like the fable of the scorpion and the fox. 

Photo by McGill Library on Unsplash

A fox and a scorpion both need to cross a river. The scorpion asks the fox for a ride on its back because it can’t swim. The fox refuses saying, “no you’ll sting me”. The scorpion insists he wouldn’t because it would damage/drown them both. The fox agrees and allows the scorpion to ride on its back. Halfway across the river the scorpion stings the fox. As the poison takes effect on the fox and it starts to sink it asks the scorpion, “Why? Why did you sting me, now we are both going to die?” The scorpion replies, “I couldn’t help myself, it’s in my nature”.

Wake the hell up lawmakers and judges, these behaviors are in Trump’s nature, and we need you to find or create a law to fix that. 

Myra Jolivet is a storyteller. First a TV news anchor and reporter. Then came PR work and consulting. That's where she is today - banging her head against the wall - trying to help CEOs and political candidates tell their stories well. Myra writes a series of murder mysteries She was a kid with an imaginary friend. That says it all.