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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Maine’s Removal of Trump from Ballot Helps Case for Biden

Stephen Collinson notes in “Risks of US electoral chaos deepen after Trump is barred from another state ballot” at CNN Politics:

Maine’s decision only deepened the unprecedented legal and political tangle surrounding the 2024 campaign – all of which stems from Trump’s refusal to accept defeat and his historic challenge to the fabled US transfer of power. After all, two states have now found that a former president engaged in an insurrection against the US government – an unheard of state of affairs at any other moment in history.

The controversy, however, also raises new questions over whether efforts to make Trump pay for January 6 are justified on the grounds of protecting America’s democracy from a uniquely pernicious challenge or could backfire politically against President Joe Biden and Democrats next fall. The multiple criminal charges Trump is facing have tended to hike his popularity among base voters even if his wild anti-democratic conduct in 2020 could be a major general election liability.

So the political risk is that cascading disqualifications of Trump from various state ballots will “energize” his supporters, making it more likely that they will turn out in greater numbers. But that value added for his campaign could be offset to some extent by energizing turnout of Americans who are disgusted by Trump’s glaring disrespect for free and fair elections.

The moral risk in giving Trump a free ride on state ballots, despite compelling evidence that he has in fact participated in attempting to invalidate free elections with force is further deterioration in American democracy. It is hard to understand how any reasonable and honest person can say that he is innocent of inciting insurrection. As Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows explained her decision,

“I do not reach this conclusion lightly,” Bellows said. “Democracy is sacred … I am mindful that no Secretary of State has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment. I am also mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.”

Colllinson adds that “Bellows wrote that the challengers presented compelling evidence that the January 6 insurrection “occurred at the behest of” Trump – and that the US Constitution “does not tolerate an assault on the foundations of our government.” The case would be stronger after Trump is found guilty. But time is running out as his legal team seizes every opportunity to stall adjudication of his 91 indictments, which is sadly a real possibility in our glacially-paced legal system. Trump’s campaign is a dumpster fire. But it is a slow-burning one, thanks to the legal stalling.

Meanwhile the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that Trump gets to stay on the GOP primary ballot, despite new evidence of Trump trying to prevent certification of Biden’s Michigan victory.  As William Brangham reports at pbsnews.org:

A report from Michigan further peels back the curtain on Trump’s efforts to nullify the results of the 2020 election. The Detroit News listened to a partial recording of Trump and RNC chair Ronna McDaniel reportedly pressuring the Republican chair and another member of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers not to certify the results there despite no evidence of fraud. William Brangham reports.

Hey, when are Americans going to get to hear that recording?

Cody Williams and Nicholas Riccardi of A.P. report that “The Michigan and Colorado cases are among dozens hoping to keep Trump’s name off state ballots.” Yes, dozens. Consider for a moment the level of denial required among Trump supporters to believe that they are all wrong.

Even so, prospects for the disqualifications being upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court are not good, owing in no small part to Republicans having packed the High Court.

But Democrats at least have a potent talking point to raise during the next ten months in reminding swing voters that Democracy is very much on the 2024 ballot. They should use it again and again.

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