YARBROUGH COLUMN: Voters, not the courts, should decide presidential choices

Published 3:04 pm Monday, January 15, 2024

In case you haven’t noticed, there is an election scheduled for this November to choose the Leader of the Free World. As of this writing, the choice is between two candidates that a majority of the American people don’t particularly care for. According to the latest Gallup Poll, Pres. Joe Biden is viewed favorably by 41% of U.S. adults. Former Pres. Donald Trump’s favorable rating is 42%.

Maybe that is because one gives new meaning to the term uninspiring and seems more interested in transgender issues than in keeping our borders secure. The other is a narcissistic, mean-spirited misogynist. And these are our choices? Alas, they are very likely to be and I oppose any effort to deny us the right to pick between them.

So, too, does one of the most prominent conservative voices in the country, Yuval Levin. Mr. Levin is the director of Social, Cultural and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor to National Review, the iconic conservative publication founded by William F. Buckley. In other words, he is a thoughtful, articulate conservative. These days, that sounds like a political oxymoron.

As one who leans conservative in my own political views, I wonder what has happened to compassionate conservativism as evidenced by Ronald Reagan – who in two presidential elections never had to claim a stolen election because he won by margins Trump and his loyalists can’t even comprehend – and our own late U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. They didn’t see the need to threaten, bully, demean or divide.

Unfortunately, the term conservative has been hijacked by right-wing extremists just as left wingnuts couch their liberal agenda as progressive. (I find nothing progressive about socialism.) I put no stock in the babble on either side. However, I do listen to Yuval Levin.

In a recent piece in National Review, Mr. Levin states, “After courts in Georgia, North Carolina, Minnesota and elsewhere dismissed or rejected claims pursuing his (Trump’s) removal from the ballot on the basis of the 14th Amendment’s bar on individuals who ‘have engaged in insurrection’ against the Constitution, the Supreme Court of Colorado affirmed such a claim, and the U.S. Supreme Court is now likely to review that decision within weeks.

“The attempt to remove Donald Trump from the ballot by recourse to the 14th Amendment,” Levin writes, “is the latest such assault because it amounts to an abuse of the Constitution in search of a shortcut to defeating him. I think the Colorado court was wrong and that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn it on the legal merits. But perhaps no less important, I think the pursuit of such a strategy against Trump is wrong, and that citizens who worry about the health of our constitutional order in an era when it has been under profound stress should reject and recoil from that strategy, regardless of what they think of Donald Trump.”

And what does this eminent conservative scholar think of Donald Trump? Not much. “He was an unfit president, lacked the character necessary for the job, operated without even a basic sense of (let alone any respect for) our system of government, and repeatedly put that system under intense stress in the service of his thuggish narcissism and pathetic self-pity. His ultimate betrayal of the constitutional order — his refusal to accept the legitimacy of his election defeat in 2020 and his effort to prevent the certification of his opponent’s victory — was the most serious dereliction of the presidential office in the history of our country, and it rendered Trump one of the very worst of our presidents. 

It’s an utter disgrace that any American voter, let alone one of our major political parties, is even thinking about sending him back to the White House.”

But, as Yuval Levin says, that should be our choice to make. Not the courts, egged on by those using the14th Amendment as a vehicle to try and disqualify Donald Trump from running. I agree with Yuval Levin. Quit using the United States Constitution as a political tool and let the voters have the final word.

Nov. 5, 2024 – Election Day – is a long way off. A lot can happen between now and then but, assuming the Supreme Court gives the 14th Amendment argument the judicial heave-ho, it looks as though we will be choosing between duly nominated Joe Biden and Donald Trump. 

If that’s the case, so be it. The bigger issue is why we can’t find any better candidates than these two.