Donald Trump’s post-election maneuvers have, at a minimum, rocked Americans faith in their democracy. And rumors abound that the president will seek the position again in 2024, potentially announcing his run during Biden’s inauguration. That possibility requires a proportionate response. Newspapers are teeming with discussions about the wisdom of pursuing criminal prosecutions of Trump after 20 January. But criminal prosecutions are not the only, or even the best mechanism for responding to the Trumpian challenge to self-government. In a society fully committed to democracy, Congress would use this lame-duck period to impeach, convict and disqualify Donald Trump from pursuing public office in the future, as the constitution allows.

This might seem undemocratic. It is not. Joseph Goebbels famously said: “It will always be one of the best jokes of democracy that it gives its deadly enemies the means to destroy it.” But Goebbels was wrong. Well-designed democracies need not turn the other cheek when confronted by aspiring autocrats…

Many democracies block those who attack self-government from holding office. In France, citizens who undermine the vote can be barred for up to three years by the constitutional court. Delaying or obstructing the Canadian elections can result in the temporary loss of one’s ability to contend for a seat in parliament. And while it has never been deployed, Germany’s constitution (Grundgesetz) gives its high court the power to deny a person liberty to pursue office when she or he attempts to undermine Germany’s constitutional order.