Trump loves when people are disqualified from ballots—until it’s him

There’s a famous scene in “Casablanca” where Captain Renault, acting on orders from the Nazis, closes Rick’s Cafe. “I’m shocked, shocked to find out that gambling is going on in here,” Renault tells Rick. The croupier steps up to hand Renault a wad of cash and says, “Your winnings, sir,” to which Renault replies, “Oh, thank you very much.”

It’s classic hypocrisy, but at least the film ends with Rick and Louis walking off into the fog to fight the fascists. 

Now consider the sheer hypocrisy of Donald Trump. The former president was shocked when the Colorado Supreme Court and Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows ordered Trump off the primary ballot in those states based on the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which bars those who have “engaged in insurrection” from running for office. These disqualification cases are likely to end up being decided by the conservative-majority Supreme Court.

Immediately after the Colorado Supreme Court issued its ruling on Dec. 19, Trump had a meltdown on his Truth Social platform. “What a shame for our country!!!” Trump wrote. “A sad day for America!!!” 

Salon reported that just hours after the Colorado ruling, Trump fired off over 25 posts on his social media platform expressing his outrage.

He began posting a flurry of video clips and quotes related to his thoughts about the Colorado decision. Mediaite reported that he quoted Fox News host Laura Ingraham, writing, “Tonight, America is seeing the ultimate—in ELECTION INTERFERENCE.” One quoted video clip read, “They don’t want the voters to decide this…there is obviously this deep fear of Donald Trump potentially winning the White House back…”

Another, from conservative commentator Greg Jarrett, said, “This is ELECTION RIGGING…This is an effort, make no mistake, to deprive American voters of their right to make the decision as to who should be president. It is anti-democratic. It’s the equivalent of rigging the ballot box.” Trump also pulled a quote from far-right journalist Charlie Hurt, who was quoted to have said, “Democrats in Colorado are so afraid of allowing American voters to vote and pick the next president they are willing to do extra-judicial things, in order to thwart the people’s choice from being on the ballot. To them, preserving democracy requires destroying democracy.”

Of course, Trump is being completely hypocritical when he says the voters should decide who should be president. That’s because he has a long history of calling for his political opponents to be removed from the ballot.

Washington Post senior political reporter Aaron Blake wrote a piece earlier this month headlined, “A Trump refrain: Disqualification for thee, but not for me.”

But there’s another way to look at this. And that’s that Trump is yet again suffering under a standard he himself attempted to set for America’s political system.

Trump on Tuesday night derided the ruling as “eliminating the rights of Colorado voters to vote for the candidate of their choice.” But not only did Trump try to overturn the will of voters after the 2020 election, he has on myriad occasions pushed the idea that candidates should be disqualified irrespective of the voters’ will.

That was basically the thrust of Trump’s rise to political prominence. He built a base in the early 2010s with the ugly and false “birther” campaign, whose entire premise was that Barack Obama wasn’t eligible to be president. 

In April 2011, when he was considering a 2012 presidential run, “Today” show host Meredith Vieira questioned Trump over his claims that Barack Obama’s birth certificate was forged. He replied, “You are not allowed to be president if you’re not born in this country.”

Then in January 2016, just before the Iowa caucuses, Trump said Canada-born Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas could be vulnerable if he became the Republican presidential nominee.

The Washington Post quoted Trump as saying:

“Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: ‘Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?’ That’d be a big problem,” Trump said when asked about the topic. “It’d be a very precarious one for Republicans because he’d be running and the courts may take a long time to make a decision. You don’t want to be running and have that kind of thing over your head.”

Trump added: “I’d hate to see something like that get in his way. But a lot of people are talking about it and I know that even some states are looking at it very strongly, the fact that he was born in Canada and he has had a double passport.”

After Cruz narrowly won the Iowa caucuses, Trump tweeted, “The state of Iowa should disqualify Ted Cruz from the most recent election on the basis that he cheated — a total fraud!.”

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And there were all the times during the 2016 presidential election campaign that Trump declared Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be allowed to run because of her private email server.

In October 2015, CNN reported that Trump told a rally audience in Georgia that he doesn’t know why Hillary Clinton is even in the race for the White House.

“Honestly, she shouldn’t be allowed to run,” Trump said to cheers at a large campaign rally in Norcross, Georgia. “If that were a Republican that did what she did with the emails they would have been in jail 12 months ago. Clink!”

He added, “It’s a very unfair system.”

“It’s crooked — she’s — she’s guilty of a very, very serious crime. She should not be allowed to run,” he said. “She should never have been allowed to run for the presidency based on what she did with e-mails and so many other things.”

Back then, Time magazine noted that the Founding Fathers set forth minimal rules as to who should be eligible to run for president: The candidate must be a natural born citizen, be at least 35 years old, and must have spent 14 years as a resident within the United States.

Time wrote:

It’s pretty clear from the records of debate at the constitutional convention as well as the Federalist Papers that the men writing the Constitution didn’t actually want many limits on who could run for president.

And just three years after the Civil War ended, the 14th Amendment was adopted, which introduced a new requirement barring insurrectionists from running for office. It was the “radical Republicans,” a faction within the party who were strongly anti-slavery and pro-civil rights, that pushed through passage of the amendment.

Earlier this year, two conservative law professors and Federalist Society members, William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, wrote a lengthy law review article making the case as to why Trump should be disqualified from the ballot under the 14th Amendment.

The advocacy group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, which has been supporting lawsuits in various states to remove Trump from the ballot, wrote: 

Enforcing the 14th Amendment to disqualify Trump is not a partisan issue, and abiding by the Constitution shouldn’t be one. As Baude and Paulsen point out in their paper, Section 3 is a simple, binding part of the Constitution, just like other qualifications for office, and the fact that enforcement may be complicated doesn’t relieve anyone of the obligation to follow it. As conservative legal scholars Baude and Paulsen wrote, “The Constitution is not optional and Section Three is not an optional part of the Constitution.” This principle transcends the ideological spectrum.

Burke concluded his Washington Post story by noting that “it’s worth emphasizing that Trump’s supposedly principled response (to the Colorado court’s ruling) is undermined by his past words.”

Burke wrote:

After all, long before Trump derided the idea that a presidential candidate and former president like him could be indicted, he called for the prosecutions of both his 2016 and 2020 opponents, as well as former president Obama.

If the whole 14th Amendment exercise is the political farce that Trump says it is, he certainly played a role in writing the script.

And does anyone have any doubt about what Trump might do to his political opponents if he wins a second term?

The Guardian wrote:

Scholars and ex-justice officials see increasing evidence that if they achieved power again Trump and his Maga allies plan to tighten his control at key agencies and install trusted loyalists in top posts at the DoJ and the FBI, permitting Trump more leeway to exact revenge on foes, and shrinking agencies Trump sees as harboring “deep state” critics.

Ominously, Trump has threatened to tap a special prosecutor to “go after” Biden and his family.  

Trump’s angry mindset was revealed on Veterans Day when he denigrated foes as “vermin” who needed to be “rooted out”, echoing fascist rhetoric from Italy and Germany in the 1930s.

“I’m hard-pressed to find any candidates anywhere who are so open that they would use the power of the state to go after critics and enemies,” said Steven Levitsky, a Harvard government professor and co-author of How Democracies Die.

Trump only has to look to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime for a road map as to what to do.

Russian authorities have banned candidate Yekaterina Duntsova from this year’s presidential ballot. The former regional legislator and TV journalist is an outspoken opponent of the war in Ukraine and has promoted a version of a “humane” Russia “that’s peaceful, friendly and ready to cooperate with everyone on the principle of respect,” The Associated Press reported.

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