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OPINION | BRADLEY GITZ: The absurd parade

by Bradley Gitz | September 18, 2023 at 3:11 a.m.

Some observations on (mostly) unrelated topics:

The idea that Donald Trump is an "insurrectionist" who should be banned from ballots under provisions of the 14th Amendment constitutes additional evidence that our 45th president makes otherwise intelligent people stupid.

More to the point, it is difficult to recall a case wherein there was so much huffing and puffing while ignoring an obvious fact that made all the huffing and puffing irrelevant from the start, which is that Trump hasn't been charged with, let alone convicted of "insurrection."

Probably not for want of trying, but none of the indictments currently lodged against him are for the crime of insurrection, almost certainly because the prosecutors in question felt that there was insufficient evidence of any violations of the pertinent statutes to pass muster in a court of law.

Sorry, but we don't remove candidates from presidential ballots just because a few law professors declare Trump an insurrectionist and patch that to a novel theory related to a constitutional amendment; their opinion, like all others, has no legal significance absent actual legal proceedings (and therefore no greater weight than other opinions, most of which probably disagree with theirs).

The rule of law vanishes if a law review article with a central thesis that others find sufficiently persuasive magically becomes writ of law, as if the formal legal and political processes that produce genuine law simply disappear, displaced by congenial opinion.

Trump isn't disqualified from running for president under the 14th Amendment, but those taking such claims seriously should henceforth be disqualified from participating in serious public discourse.

Additional evidence that hyperpartisanship makes us stupid was also demonstrated by the "executive order" issued by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to suspend, on the basis of alleged "public health" emergency, her state's concealed and open-carry gun laws.

That Grisham has no legal authority as governor to issue such a suspension, and that it clearly violates both the broader Second Amendment and the more specific Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen apparently doesn't matter to those who applauded her "bold" action and hate guns so much they are willing to dispense with the Constitution to get rid of them.

As both Grisham and those praising her should have been farsighted enough to realize, once we accept the principle that elected officials can simply declare an emergency for this or that and suspend constitutional rights accordingly, there can be no end to it (and thus no secure constitutional rights), there being an endless array of potential pretexts for doing so dependent only upon one's ideological orientation and agenda.

In short, there would be no need for laws, legislatures, courts or constitutions in the kind of illiberal world that Grisham's behavior threatens to take us to.

Although many would apparently prefer otherwise, there is no fine print in the Constitution which reads "Only matters when it doesn't matter, and can therefore be suspended when it comes to pandemics, climate change, guns, etc."

The prospect of another Donald Trump versus Joe Biden election would create opportunity for a competitive third-party movement if not for the likelihood that the same hyperpartisanship that has created those ugly choices and thus that opportunity also forecloses it. Just as extreme tribalism has undermined the American political center (around which a plurality of Americans has historically hovered, and to which a third party would therefore appeal), extreme tribalism encourages each tribe to fight against the creation of a third option for fear that it will siphon off enough votes to allow the other tribe to prevail.

The more defective one's products the more necessary it is to limit alternatives to them in the marketplace. We must pick, apparently, "one of the above," however much we despise each, because the equivalent of "none of the above" won't be on the ballot.

Democrats are, predictably, responding to criticism of Vice President Kamala Harris by accusing her critics of racism (and sexism).

More precisely, they are suggesting that it is racist (and sexist) to claim a vote for Joe Biden next fall amounts to a vote for President Harris, even though that claim is almost certainly true and the Republican candidate most forcefully making it is Nikki Haley, an Indian American woman.

But lest we forget, race was the reason Harris got the VP slot in the first place, and race is now the reason that she can't be ousted from it by a party obsessed with race.

That Harris currently has the lowest approval rating ever recorded for a vice president also suggests, following Democrat logic, that a nation that twice elected a Black president with room to spare has suddenly and rather inexplicably become a nation of racists.

Democrats look at Harris and see nothing but race; everyone else looks at Harris and sees nothing but incompetence regardless of race.

Which leads us back to the noxious Democratic strategy: Select someone on the basis of race, and when that doesn't work out, as so often the case where merit is discarded, call anyone who points this out a racist. That's so much easier than admitting that we shouldn't ever make decisions based on race.

Because that's the very definition of racism.

Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.

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