A judicial insurrection against democracy
The Colorado ruling forbidding Trump from standing for election is a grotesque assault on democratic rights.
We didn’t need further proof that Trump Derangement Syndrome poses a graver threat to American democracy than Donald Trump himself, but we have it. The decision of the Colorado Supreme Court to disqualify Trump from holding office is the anti-Trumpists’ most egregious assault on democracy yet. It shows once again how willing they are to use the tactics of the banana republic, the sly schemes of a tinpot state, to take down a politician they love to loathe. ‘We are defending democracy’, they say, as they beat it to a pulp.
The Colorado justices – every one of whom was appointed by a Democratic governor – ruled four to three that Trump is ‘disqualified from holding the office of president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment’. The 14th is a post-Civil War amendment that forbids ‘insurrectionists’ from holding office. It was designed to keep unrepentant Confederates, men who had dragged the republic to war, away from seats of power. Trump’s supposed stirring-up of the boneheads and blowhards who stormed the Capitol on 6 January 2021 was an insurrection too, the justices decreed, and thus his name must be scrubbed from ballot papers across the state of Colorado.
First things first. The idea that the idiots who ran riot at the Capitol on 6 January are in any way comparable to a Confederacy of seven slave states that illegally broke from the American republic is unhinged. It is a testament to the historical illiteracy of the Democratic establishment that it would even hint at a likeness between men who caused a war that killed hundreds of thousands and Trumpists taking selfies in Congress during a conflagration that led to five deaths (three from natural causes). Not content with hysterically referring to 6 January as a domestic 9/11, now they’re implying it was a Civil War-level rupture. And this is leaving to one side the contested idea that Trump incited 6 January.
This is the first time a presidential candidate has been deemed unfit for election under the constitutional ban on insurrectionists. The impact of the ruling will be dire. If it holds – and it very well might not – it means Trump will be absent from presidential primary ballots in Colorado, meaning no one in the state could vote for him to be the GOP’s 2024 candidate. Hard luck Coloradans who want Trump back in the White House – your democratic right to elect him has been stolen from you by judges. Beyond the primaries, the court ruling would ‘probably also affect Trump’s status for the 5 November General Election’, says the Guardian. That is, if the ruling holds, Trump could be blocked from standing in Colorado even if he is freely selected as the Republicans’ presidential candidate in other states.
There’s a dark irony here. The Dem-leaning justices cite an amendment that was designed to keep breakaway Confederates from power, and yet they themselves behave like breakaways, like arrogant rebels against the rest of the US. They’re potentially breaking Colorado from the republic, making it a special, Trump-free territory, a state that might forbid Trump from standing for the presidency even if the rest of the country gives him the green light to do so. They’re making Colorado a confederacy of one, a confederacy of Trump-loathers.
Who are the real insurrectionists here? Trump for his ‘Stop the Steal’ idiocy and his ill-advised comments as things got heated at the Capitol on 6 January? Or the justices of Colorado who have unilaterally ruled that one man is forbidden from exercising his democratic right to stand for election, and millions are denied their democratic right to vote for him? This feels like a judicial insurrection. Sure, it’s more polite than the rough mobbing the world witnessed in January 2021, but it surely strikes at the heart of democracy more fiercely than that chaotic event did.
The ruling feels like a threat to the foundational principles of America. A man is branded an insurrectionist despite never having been found guilty of such a grave offence. Due process be damned. People in Colorado are denied a right enjoyed by people in all the other states: to vote for Trump as the GOP candidate. Equality be damned. And there might even be a situation where, in November next year, Coloradans are prevented from voting for one of the candidates in the presidential contest. Democracy be damned. I find the Colorado justices more menacing than that bloke in a horned headdress who wandered around the Capitol.
To see how sinister the ruling is, consider the following stipulation in the judgement. It says that not only should Trump’s name be absent from presidential primary ballots in the state, but also that the electoral authorities must not ‘count any write-in votes cast for him’. So officials would have to invalidate the votes of potentially tens of thousands of people who might decide to put Trump’s name on their ballots despite his unpersoning by the court. And thus the very scenario that Trump fantasised had taken place after the presidential election of 2020 – the industrial-scale destruction of votes for him – might actually occur in this breakaway state.
The ruling might collapse. There’s the distinct possibility the US Supreme Court will void it. Trump has until 4 January to appeal. And yet, even if it falls, the ruling reminds us of the tyrannical instincts of the anti-Trump elites. It reminds us there is almost nothing they won’t do to try to eliminate the threat posed by Trump and his followers to their political and cultural supremacy. From Russiagate to his arrest over the Stormy Daniels affair, from prosecuting him for holding on to secret documents to the desperate legal efforts to keep him off ballots, they’re hell-bent on depriving the American people of the fundamental democratic right to say: ‘We want Trump.’ We are destroying democracy to save it – that’s the doublethink cry of these despotic agitators against a second Trump presidency.
Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy
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