Democrats Move to Protect Democracy from Itself – JONATHAN TURLEY

Below is my column in the Hill on efforts to bar or limit voting in the primary and general presidential elections. What is so striking is how these distinctly anti-democratic actions are being taken in the name of democracy.

Here is the column:

Across news sites, Democrats are warning of the imminent death of democracy. Hillary Clinton has warned that a Trump victory would be the end of democracy. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow is warning of “executions.” Even actors like Robert DeNiro are predicting that this may be our very last democratic election.

Yet these harbingers of tyranny are increasingly pursuing the very course that will make their predictions come true. The Democratic Party is actively seeking to deny voters choices in this election, supposedly to save democracy.

Henry Ford once promised customers any color so long as it is black. Democrats are adopting the same approach to the election: You can have any candidate on the ballot, as long as it’s Joe Biden.

This week, the Executive Committee of the Florida Democratic Democracy told voters that they would not be allowed to vote against Biden. Even though he has opponents in the primary, the party leadership has ordered that only Biden will appear on the primary ballot.

And if you want to register your discontent with Biden with a write-in vote, forget about it. Under Florida law, if the party approves only one name, there will be no primary ballots at all. The party just called the election for Biden before a single vote has been cast.

This is not unprecedented. It happened with Barack Obama in 2012 and, on the Republican side, with George W. Bush in 2004. It was wrong then, and it is wrong now.

As Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) noted, “Americans would expect the absence of democracy in Tehran, not Tallahassee. Our mission as Democrats is to defeat authoritarians, not become them.”

In Iran, the mullahs routinely bar opposition candidates from ballots as “Guardians” of the ballots.

There is good reason for the Biden White House to want the election called before it is held. A CNN poll found that two out of three Democrats believe that the party should nominate someone else. A Wall Street Journal poll that found 73 percent of voters say Biden is “too old to run for president.”

The party leadership is solving that problem by depriving Democratic voters of a choice.

In other states, Democratic politicians and lawyers are pursuing a different strategy: “You can have any candidate, as long as it isn’t Trump.”

They are seeking to bar Trump from ballots under a novel theory about the 14th Amendment. In states from Colorado to Michigan, Democratic operatives are arguing that Trump must be taken off the ballots because he gave “aid and comfort” to an “insurrection or rebellion.” Other Democrats have called for more than 120 other Republicans to be stripped from the ballots under the same claim tied to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

This effort is being supported by academics such as Laurence Tribe, who previously called for Trump to be charged with the attempted murder of former Vice President Mike Pence.

In a recent filing supporting this effort, figures as prominent as media lawyer Floyd Abrams and Berkeley Dean Erwin Chemerinsky have told the Colorado Supreme Court that preventing voters from being able to cast their votes for Trump is just a way of “fostering democracy.” So long as courts believe that a candidate’s speech is “capable of triggering disqualification,” that speech is unprotected in their view.

I have long criticized this theory as legally and historically unfounded. It is also an extremely dangerous theory that would allow majorities in different states to ban opposing candidates in tit-for-tat actions.

So far, these efforts around the country have met with defeat in court after court, but the effort continues, and with the support of many in the media.

Some national polls show Trump as the most popular candidate for the 2024 election, while a few show Biden slightly ahead. Yet, despite 74 million voters supporting Trump in the last election, these Democrats are insisting that voters should not be allowed to vote for him, in the name of democracy.

In fairness to Democratic partisans like Clinton and Maddow, they could well be right. The 2024 election could well prove the end to democracy — if these efforts succeeded in purging ballots of opposing candidates.

It is all part of an electoral variation on the Vietnam War claim that it is sometimes necessary to destroy a village in order to save it.

Democrats claim to be right and to have the best of motivations, which is why they feel justified in saving democracy by denying it to the voters. After all, it is all about motivation where any means are justified. They are trying to save democracy by limiting it.

Thus, it is an assault on democracy for Republican lawyers to challenge elections based on alleged problems with voting machines, but it is protecting democracy for former Clinton general counsel (and founder of the “Democracy Docket”) Marc Elias to claim that a machine could flip the results in favor of the GOP.

In Tehran, a popular joke emerged after the “Guardian Council” approved only one candidate, Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi, to appear on a ballot. Democracy, the joke went, was safe, because the Guardians would allow Raisi to run against six other spellings of his own name.

The American election guardians in Florida did one better. They have arranged for there to be no ballot at all. Who needs the pretense of a primary when you can simply dictate the result?

Yet, rest assured, you may be able to cast a vote for an approved slate of candidates of healthy choices. Consider it a type of “Big Gulp” election, where you are protected against your own bad choices like a sugary drink at 7-11.

Actor Seth Rogen has pledged to “vote for whoever is the Democrat. That’s all I need to know.” If these efforts are successful, many voters could be left with that single liberating choice.

Jonathan Turley is the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at the George Washington University Law School.

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