Our country is a Constitutional Republic, but there are many people that wish to “fundamentally transform” it into more of a Democracy – and they will stop at nothing, even engage in very un-democratic tactics, to achieve it.
The “Our Democracy” crowd in America is obsessed with “insurrection” and the mainstream media sure has played their part in trumpeting their politically-motivated diatribes. The events of January 6, 2021 were many things, but an “insurrection” was not one of them. In some regards, the events of January 6th were an attempt to dispute the proper Constitutional process given the uncertainty over the 2020 election results and claims of illegal processes in the States. In this case, the supposed “insurrectionists” were actually trying to ensure the proper process was upheld, or at least, a possible Constitutional process given consideration. In other regards, the event was a mass protest that simply got out of control (both organically and possibly encouraged by actors of many motives). Whatever the case, there was no real threat to the Republic that day in the form of an “insurrection” anymore than there has been in previous violent incidents during government proceedings and even transitions of power.
Now a real threat to democracy in our Republic and in the State of Michigan comes in the form of a weaponized political lawsuit against Michigan Governor candidate Ryan D. Kelley. The complainant in the suit is attempting to keep Mr. Kelley off the November ballot because of his alleged role in the January 6th “insurrection” in Washington. Click this link for an article with the basic details. The complaint, filed by Oakland County, MI resident Lee Estes, states,
“This is an action to prevent Ryan Kelley (“Kelley” or the “Insurrectionist”) from
appearing on the November 8, 2022 general election ballot as a candidate for Governor because he has “engaged in insurrection” in violation of § 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment and therefore is ineligible to serve as a candidate for Governor for the State of Michigan. He is a clear and present danger to democracy in Michigan.”
The Kelley campaign has called the action “laughable,” and it is insofar as it reflects the pettiness and desperation of his opponents. But it is also extremely dangerous to free expression, protest rights, and our system of democratic choice in itself. Imagine the chilling effect this type of lawsuit may have on future First Amendment activity in this country if this type of action (and the January 6th hype in general) are accepted as the norm in response to any unruly activity related to the political process. It takes away power from the People (to speak, to protest, to run for office, etc.) and places it in the hands of any faction with the right connections and resources necessary to threaten or coerce people away from any potentially troublesome situation through accusations of “guilt by association” or “guilt by proximate location.”
Regarding his actions at the Capitol on January 6th, Ryan Kelley was not charged with violating 18 U.S. Code Section 2383 – Rebellion or Insurrection, or any other felony. There is not even any official designation of the events of January 6th as being an “insurrection.” A few of the thousands of people involved with the event have been charged with “seditious conspiracy,” but have not yet faced trial or been convicted. The label of “insurrection” exists only in the minds of people that want it to be so. Ryan Kelley was charged with misdemeanors (his arrest and the charges in themselves likely politically motivated). He has not been convicted of those misdemeanors. It would be a great injustice and affront to the Rule of Law and Due Process to keep Mr. Kelley off the ballot based on labels that amount to no more than opinion, unproven charges, no convictions, and the clearly biased political motivations of the plaintiff and his backers. Furthermore, it would be an injustice to Michigan citizens that plan to choose Mr. Kelley as their candidate for Governor of the State of Michigan.
18 U.S. Code § 2383 – Rebellion or insurrection – Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States. (June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 808; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(L), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)
It should be uncontroversial to say that the vast majority of the people at the Capitol on January 6th were there for First Amendment purposes. Even the most ardent “insurrection” proclaimers ought to recognize that most of the crowd remained outside and was not involved in the “seditious conspiracy” of those that have been charged. Ryan Kelley was allegedly among the people that were in the somewhat unruly crowd outside the Capitol. His misdemeanor charges reflect this. There has been no evidence presented in the case against him that he even entered the Capitol. To include Mr. Kelley, and the thousands of others that protested outside, as part of the same “seditious conspiracy” as those few that allegedly planned to do so, is a stretch to say the least. Mr. Estes, complaint, based off Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, takes too many liberties with assuming the truth of his own preconceived conclusions about that day. Article 3 of the 14th Amendment 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.”
For context, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was primarily enacted concerning those that engaged in rebellion against the United States during the Civil War. It is true that Section 3 still applies today, however it is foolish to equate the January 6th event with such insurrection and rebellion in an official complaint. It is even more irresponsible to try to cite this Section in a complaint against an individual not charged with a serious crime or heavy involvement in the event and never even convicted of any crime. People are still innocent until proven guilty in America.
In order to serve as a member of the Allendale Township, Ottawa County Planning Commission, Mr. Kelley did take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States in 2019. The plaintiff in this case likely saw this as an “in” to derail Mr. Kelley’s popular campaign for Governor (given the text of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment). There is no reason to seriously suspect Mr. Kelley has broken this oath. On the contrary, his steadfast activism supporting Constitutional rights and American values, his opposition to the unconstitutional actions of current Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer during her COVID response, and his tireless campaign to make the State of Michigan better as Governor suggest he is a patriot of the highest order. This complaint should fail in its intended purpose. The takeaway is that his Democrat opponents consider him a threat to Whitmer’s reelection worthy of such an effort. Vote Ryan Kelley for Governor in the August 2nd, 2022 Republican primary and in the November 8, 2022 general election.