Lessons from Latin America: How barring Trump from the ballot could backfire 

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on both sides of the argument this week. serious consequences For the 2024 presidential election and the future of American democracy.

Late last year, the Colorado Supreme Court and Maine’s Secretary of State barred Donald Trump from participating in those states’ primary voting. Both judgments point to Article 14, Article 3 of the amendment, disqualification A person who participated in an insurrection or insurrection against the United States while in office. They believe the former president is responsible for events at the U.S. Capitol in 2021, often referred to as “bad actors.” January 6th Rebellion.

Several They have celebrated the decision as a victory to protect American democracy by preventing an authoritarian candidate from becoming president and destroying democracy from within. others They were extremely anti-democratic and accused them of depriving Americans of their right to vote for the candidate of their choice. Perhaps the first camp sees this move as an inoculation against tyranny, but experience from other electoral situations suggests that this strategy can backfire.

The appeal of Colorado’s ruling has now reached the Supreme Court, where arguments will begin Thursday. Although unprecedented in U.S. history, three Latin American experiences demonstrate the fallacy of running a highly popular candidate for president. These are examples that judges should keep in mind as they consider this monumental case.


The first example is from Argentina, where a military coup forced President Juan Domingo Peron into exile in 1955. Libertadora Revolution, or a liberatory revolution — as a necessary step to achieving and preserving true democracy in Argentina. Because of Peron’s ambiguous attitude toward democracy, his semi-fascist disregard for minority rights, and the opposition’s concerns that democratic change of power could not be achieved under Peron, the military overthrew the president and It banned all images and symbols and reinstated a new civilian government. Through the 1958 election.

The political system that emerged in Argentina in the aftermath of the coup was democratic in many respects, except that Peron was prohibited from running for president. However, to the chagrin of Perón’s detractors, broad segments of the Argentine public remained loyal to Perón and his project. Social polarization has increased, as has political instability.

Argentine political scientist Guillermo O’Donnell characterized the country’s xenophobic democratic experiment as “a futile game in which no one wins.” Indeed, realizing that democracy could not be sustained without Peron, Peron was allowed to participate in his 1973 presidential election, which he won resoundingly.


The second example is more recent and involves the current president of Mexico. In 2005, then-President Vicente Fox tried to ban his political opponent, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), from running for president. AMLO is the mayor of Mexico City and an early leader in the 2006 presidential election polls. The Attorney General’s Office charged AMLO with abuse of power. reportedly It ignored a court order in 2001 to halt construction of an access road to private property. Popular protests continued until the Fox administration retreated and the attorney general resigned.

Amuro lost Although he won by a narrow margin of 0.56 percent of the vote in 2006, this legalistic maneuver lends credence to his claims that the incumbent created an uneven playing field from the start. The credibility of Mexico’s elections, which had been meticulously and gradually built up since reforms adopted in the mid-1990s, suffered a major blow overnight and has only worsened ever since. AMLO remains very popular; reached the president In 2018.


A third example comes from Brazil, where the country’s Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva could not stand in that year’s elections because of a corruption conviction. Despite evidence that the charges were politically motivated, Lula was sent to prison. His imprisonment has further polarized Brazilian society, undermined faith in the country’s democracy and boosted his popularity, with opinion polls predicting he would win if allowed to run. If Lula is unable to participate in the election, his rival Jair Bolsonaro will become president, but his appeal has not diminished.What happened to the Brazilian Supreme Court? Threw away Lula, who was convicted on jurisdictional grounds and had his political rights restored, returned to the presidency in 2023 at the age of 77.

Admittedly, there are limits to the similarities in these comparisons. The United States had a much more established democratic system than Brazil or Mexico at the time, and the military did not exercise veto power over candidates as it did in Argentina. But historical examples can help us understand what would happen in the United States under a similar scenario of extreme political polarization, where popular candidates are prevented from seeking the presidency.

There are three important lessons to be learned from these examples of shutting down candidates in the name of protecting democracy.

First, banning popular candidates from running is unlikely to prevent them from becoming president. Even if such efforts were successful in his one election, his martyrdom would make him even more popular, and his popularity is unlikely to wane beyond an election cycle, and could last even longer, as in Argentina and Brazil. there is.

Second, barring candidates tends to further undermine confidence in elections. As the experiences of Brazil and Mexico show, trust in elections is easy to destroy but very difficult to rebuild.

Third, eliminating candidates is unlikely to bring stability to the political system. As the experiences of Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico suggest, doing so could further polarize society rather than lower the political temperature.

This should give pause to those trying to “save democracy” by excluding certain candidates from voting. While this strategy may seem well-intentioned, it is at best a temporary band-aid, and at worst, it fuels polarization and its consequences. Ultimately, a strategy of using undemocratic means in the name of democracy is likely to make the goal of preventing a candidate from taking office even more elusive.

Gustavo Flores Macias is a professor of government and public policy at Cornell University.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



Sign up to stay informed to breaking news