The student news site of Aspen High School


The student news site of Aspen High School


The student news site of Aspen High School


Yes, a US Citizen with a felony conviction can run for President – but should they be able to?

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The US Presidents’ official Seal verifies that Presidential correspondence is correctly identified and treated with proper alacrity.

In 1920 Presidential Candidate Eugene V. Debs wanted to hit the campaign trail to rally supporters behind his Socialist agenda. The only problem? Getting out of prison. Debs had disobeyed the Sedition Act of 1918, resulting in a ten-year prison sentence. His party used this imprisonment – which Debs saw as a politically motivated act – to their advantage, and Convict No. 9653 headed the 1920 Socialist Party ticket. His imprisonment “only enhanced Debs’ status with his followers[,]” says Brandeis’s Thomas Doherty. Still today, a T-Shirt parading Debs’s conviction is available on Amazon.

Deb’s popularity has increased in modern times as the embattled Former President Donald Trump faces 88 criminal charges – many of which can carry a felony conviction. Even though the Former President may not be able to vote if convicted, he will still be allowed to run for President – and a conviction might actually help Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Mr. Trump stated that Black people saw how he was unfairly discriminated against in the criminal justice system and related to his struggle. His mugshot taken on August 24th, 2023 is the reason “why the Black people are so much on my side now,” said Mr. Trump at a South Carolina campaign event. Even if Black people are ‘on his side’, the former President has still made countless racist and discriminatory comments toward people of color, such as drawing upon a stereotypical line of thinking in a conversation with a Black reporter and racist, antisemitic comments about money. Many believe that these comments, along with Trump’s actual leadership during his four years of the presidency, should disqualify him from the 2024 race – but there is a much more fundamental problem with Mr. Trump, or any criminal, running for a leadership position.

The justice system of the United States is meant to be rehabilitative, says the American Psychological Association (APA). Currently, “rehabilitation has taken a back seat” to punishment in justice, an APA psychologist said in an article. However, even if the system was rehabilitative, any convicted criminal who has not yet served a sentence should not be allowed to hold an office where they can have power over others. Committing a crime, even an innocuous or so-called ‘victimless’ one, shows an innate lack of care for the value of human life.

Stealing a package of gum from a convenience store may not bring down a corporate empire, but it still shows disregard for the laws of the United States and for the emotional damages it may cause. The same people who disregard these laws should not be in a position to make or enforce them.

Mr. Trump often argues that the charges against him amount to nothing more than a ‘witch hunt’ motivated by political partisanship. However, the charges against Mr. Trump are not political – i.e. business fraud and conspiracy to impersonate a public officer. These charges are the opposite of political extremism charges such as those on which Alexei Navalny was convicted. The four cases and respective charges brought against the former President are occasionally politically related, such as the insurrection he fueled on January 6th. Mr. Trump does not deny that his supporters attacked the Capitol building – he only denies his specific part in it. The embattled former President is further charged with genuine criminal offenses – such as paying hush money to an adult film star and illegal retention of classified government documents.

Even if these charges were political, the United States is a democracy that has not had political prisoners since WWII. On the other hand, Russia’s dictator Vladimir Putin (who Mr. Trump vehemently supports) holds several political prisoners such as the late Alexei Navalny. While Mr. Trump’s claims about political persecution might be invalid in a democracy, they do hold some merit – as the former President aims to turn the United States into an authoritarian state where he would undoubtedly detain political opposition. Mr. Trump has admitted this himself in a now famous quote, vowing to be a dictator of the US only on “day one”.

Mr. Trump’s attempt to subvert the peaceful transfer of power, unprecedented leadership in 2016-2020, and vow to be a dictator on the first day of his presidency may not convince Americans of his inability to lead – but if convicted, this inability would be undeniable. As President of the United States of America, Mr. Trump would have near-complete control over the American Nuclear Arsenal, a lattice of missiles capable of wiping out the entire human population. The same man who has proven that he has a lack of care for human life – with his abhorrent treatment of women, various (alleged) crimes and agreement to allow Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” would be able to, within five minutes, kill nearly eight billion people.

Any person with a criminal record who has not yet been completely rehabilitated by the criminal justice system should be barred from political office – not just Mr. Trump. The 2024 election will prove to be a test of propaganda, the American system, and most of all the decision-making capabilities of the American people. If convicted, Mr. Trump may not be able to vote for President – and, if the President cannot vote, surely, they should not be allowed to run for office.

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