Independent presidential candidate Cornel West weighed in on this week’s ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court ruling that Trump is ineligible to appear on the state’s 2024 ballots by urging caution, not celebration, and suggesting the decision could lead to adverse electoral consequences in the future.
West issued a statement on Wednesday about the surprise ruling one day earlier and suggested it may not be as advantageous to Democrats, who welcomed the decision, as it may seem to be.
“We must be very careful in celebrating this decision by the CO Supreme Court,” West said in part of a statement posted to his social media channels.
In case you missed it, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump can’t appear on state ballots for the 2024 election because the 14th Amendment precludes anyone who participated in an insurrection from doing so. The Colorado Supreme Court pointed to Trump’s documented behavior before and during the infamous Capitol riots on Jan. 6, 2021, as the U.S. Senate was certifying Joe Biden’s presidency. Notably, Trump encouraged his supporters to “fight like hell” or else, he warned, “you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Such actions encouraging violence prevent Trump from being on the ballot, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded.
But West – who’s shown in the latest national poll garnering 3% of the vote in a close contest that gives the edge to Trump over Biden – suggested that ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court may have been a grave political misstep.
“It’s true that brother Trump is a bonafide gangster and neofascist who must be held accountable,” West continued. “At the same time, we don’t want the courts deciding the outcome of elections – this power must reside with and for the people.”
West went on to suggest that it would be foolhardy to base a political strategy on hopes that other states will follow suit and disqualify Trump from the ballot to clear the way for President Joe Biden’s reelection.
“The Democrats should not rely on the courts as a mechanism to circumvent Brother Biden’s anemic poll numbers,” West added.
The same poll referenced above showed 58% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s presidency and a separate poll found that 63% think America is on the wrong track.
West concluded his statement by saying: “We want truth justice and love in American politics!” and punctuated the social media post with the hashtags “#TruthJusticeLove” and “#Colorado.”
We must be very careful in celebrating this decision by the CO Supreme Court. It’s true that brother Trump is a bonafide gangster and neofascist who must be held accountable. At the same time, we don’t want the courts deciding the outcome of elections – this power must reside…
— Cornel West (@CornelWest) December 20, 2023
West’s reaction differs from other critics of Trump who have maintained that Colorado is simply upholding the 14th amendment of the Constitution.
Chris Coons, a Democratic U.S. Senator from Delaware, said Wednesday on CNN that the decision by the Colorado Supreme Court was the result of “a plain reading of the text of the 14th amendment.”
Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips, on the other hand, said on Wednesday that he thought it was “wrong” to disqualify Trump from the ballot without the former president being convicted in any of the four current indictments he faces stemming from allegations he tried to overturn the 2020 election through lies and inciting violence.
Phillips called on the U.S. Supreme Court to step in.
Do I believe Trump is guilty of inspiring an insurrection and doing nothing to stop it? I was there. Absolutely.
Do I believe it’s wrong to ban him from the ballot in Colorado without a conviction? Absolutely.
Do I believe the SCOTUS must opine immediately? Absolutely.
— Dean Phillips (@deanbphillips) December 20, 2023
The Colorado Supreme Court took deliberate steps to incorporate U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch’s own words in its majority opinion.
Gorsuch, a Denver native who was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in his hometown when Trump nominated him for the U.S. Supreme Court, previously authored the majority opinion in a 2012 case that deferred to the state’s right to decide a candidate’s eligibility to appear on the ballot.
In its decision Tuesday, the Colorado Supreme Court wrote that it is “a state’s legitimate interest in protecting the integrity and practical functioning of the political process” that “permits it to exclude from the ballot candidates who are constitutionally prohibited from assuming office.”
The court also added:
“We conclude that they [state courts] do, provided their legislatures have established such authority by statute. Analyzing the relevant provisions of the Election Code, we then conclude that the General Assembly has given Colorado courts the authority to assess presidential qualifications and, therefore, that the Electors have stated a proper claim under sections 1-4-1204 and 1-1-113.”
“We conclude that certifying an unqualified candidate to the presidential primary ballot constitutes a ‘wrongful act.’ Were we to adopt President Trump’s view, Colorado could not exclude from the ballot even candidates who plainly do not satisfy the age, residency, and citizenship requirements of the Presidential Qualifications Clause of Article II.”
Multiple similar challenges to keeping Trump off the ballot in other states have already been rejected, making Colorado the lone state to disqualify the former president.
If Colorado’s decision is upheld, Trump would not be listed as a candidate on the primary and general election ballots, possibly affecting his presumptive presidential nomination by the Republican Party.
If the decision is overturned, it’ll be because of a “hypocritical” U.S. Supreme Court, writer, attorney and cultural critic Elie Mystal has said.
— All In with Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) December 20, 2023
West, for his part, has stayed on-brand during this campaign season and has established himself as the presidential candidate who is the most vocal about the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
“Gaza, we are with you,” West said Tuesday night during a rally in Dearborn, Michigan. “We will not allow this catastrophe to have the last word, not just here in Dearborn but all around the world.”
And last week, West, 70, ramped up the speculatory rhetoric about Biden’s political future as a presidential candidate.
He told POLITICO in an interview that he believes Biden, who will be 82 on Election Day, won’t make it to Election Day and will end up dropping out of the race.
“I’m not even sure whether I’ll be running against Biden,” West said before predicting Biden would “ have an LBJ moment” – a reference to former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s decision to not seek reelection; a decision that was made just about eight months before Election Day in 1968.
West said he was “open to those possibilities” of Biden dropping out.
“He’s running out of gas,” West added.
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