Soon after Donald Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," the White House condemned his proposal, urging Americans to reject "religious tests on who we admit into this country." On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest went one step further by stating that Trump's Muslim comments disqualified him from becoming president. While there is no question that Trump's bigoted views and proposed policies should disqualify him from presidency, has he violated any election official rules which actually would disqualify him? Unfortunately, there aren't any clear-cut regulations that can get him kicked out of the race. But that doesn't mean Trump will get off scot-free.
At a press briefing from the White House, Earnest addressed Trump's proposed Muslim ban, offering some of his harshest criticism to date. He told reporters:
The fact is what Donald Trump said yesterday disqualifies him from serving as president.
He then extended this disqualification to anyone who agreed with Trump's views, saying:
For Republican candidates for president to stand by their pledge to support Mr. Trump, that in and of itself is disqualifying. The question now is about the rest of the Republican Party and whether or not they're going to be dragged into the dustbin of history with him. And right now the current trajectory is not very good.
Earnest also pointed out that a president's job, first and foremost, is to "preserve, protect and defend" the U.S. Constitution, and in this respect, Trump fails to measure up.
Under U.S. law, anyone is eligible to become president of the country if he or she is a natural-born U.S. citizen, at least 35 years old, and has been a permanent resident of the U.S. for at least 14 years. However, even if you meet all of these qualifications, you can still be disqualified if, after taking an oath to uphold the Constitution, you later rebel against it. For many, that is exactly what Trump is doing.In President Obama's Oval Office statement, he reminded Americans what our country stands for:
We were founded upon a belief in human dignity — that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law.
Years ago, in 2010, Obama asserted this same sentiment, telling the crowd at a White House Ramadan dinner:
This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are.
In fact, a quick flip through any U.S. history book will tell you that among America's first settlers were pilgrims in search of religious freedom. American religious freedom — which Republicans like Mike Huckabee have steadfastly championed — was never supposed to be exclusive of certain faiths, and it is one of the fundamental pillars on which the country stands. It also happens to be protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
In other words, one's religious practice is a Constitutionally protected right. Though Trump's proposed ban primarily pertains to non-citizens, he has previously proposed the creation of tracking systems for Muslim-Americans, and therefore displayed an utter disregard for this crucial right. One could argue that his disregard qualifies as rebelling against America, which could therefore disqualify him from being eligible for presidency.
While it remains to be seen whether Trump's blatantly un-American proposal will end his campaign, he could certainly see more likely consequences in the meantime. Trump could continue to lose support from influential backers, like how conservative commentator Erick Erickson uninvited Trump from speaking at his RedState event after the candidate made sexist remarks about Megyn Kelly. In addition, the Republican National Convention could also punish him by establishing new guidelines which would prevent him from attending official debates (though that's not likely, given the ratings he brings in).
But perhaps the most rewarding turn of events won't be Trump getting disqualified, but watching an entire country uniting across partisan lines to defy his brand of bigotry and xenophobia. Maybe Trump will make American great again.