Missouri GOP Official Threatens To Remove Biden From 2024 Ballot

Joe Biden

President Joe Biden

Joe Biden

After decisions in two states ruled that Donald Trump was disqualified from the presidential ballot because he “engaged in insurrection” on January 6, 2021, right-wing influencers called for Republican officials to retaliate in kind by dropping President Joe Biden from the ballot. It took only days for them to find someone willing to play the part: Jay Ashcroft, Missouri’s secretary of state and a candidate for governor.

Ashcroft said last week that he would enforce “the new legal standard” against Biden in his state if the Supreme Court sustains Trump’s removal in Colorado. He probably won’t be the last to make such a pitch given the incentives GOP officeholders have to follow the lead of the party’s media propagandists.

Colorado’s Supreme Court generated a legal firestorm when it ruled in December that Trump is ineligible for office under the 14th Amendment’s ban on officials who “engaged in insurrection,” for his “overt, voluntary, and direct participation” in the storming of the U.S. Capitol by his supporters. Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows subsequently removed Trump from the primary ballot on similar grounds. Trump has appealed both decisions, and the Supreme Court said Friday it would review the Colorado ruling.

Prominent conservative legal scholars have argued in favor of Trump’s removal on 14th Amendment grounds. As conservative former federal Judge J. Michael Luttig wrote with liberal Harvard Law professor Lawrence Tribe, “any disinterested observer who witnessed that bloody assault on the temple of our democracy, and anyone who learns about the many failed schemes to bloodlessly overturn the election before that” would agree that January 6 was “an insurrection for which Trump bore responsibility.”

But Trumpist propagandists have spent the last three years crafting a bogus alternate narrative of January 6 in which the rioters were victims of a government conspiracy and the then-president who incited them based on lies did nothing wrong. And so they’ve responded to the rulings in Colorado and Maine by urging Republican officials to bump Biden from the ballot in retaliation.

“Due process is not taken into account any more in America in 2023 and certainly going into 2024, so Republicans should say Joe Biden is off the ballot in all the Republican-controlled-AG states because of his links, clearly, to bribery schemes,” Donald Trump Jr. offered on his Triggered podcast on December 28, 2023. “There's far more evidence of that than an actual insurrection.”

“I want to see a secretary of state in the next couple of days just put out the press release,” Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk said Wednesday. “Joe Biden's not going to be on the primary ballot. He's not going to be on the general election ballot.”

Like Trump Jr., Kirk made clear that any explanation for why a secretary of state would do such a thing would be a pretext, saying, “Shot across the bow. Power dynamics. Fight power with power.”

“We need a red state secretary of state to kick Biden off the ballot now,” Daily Wire podcaster Michael Knowles added Friday morning. “And they can come up with some explanation. It will probably be a more credible explanation than the one that the Democrats have come up with for kicking Donald Trump off the ballot.”

Knowles went on to say that a GOP secretary of state could cite a 2020 tweet by Vice President Kamala Harris’ campaign asking supporters to donate to a Minnesota bail fund to “help post bail for those protesting on the ground” there following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer.

“Certainly we can say Kamala Harris led an insurrection. She personally fundraised for rioters and criminals who were insurrecting against cities around the country during the George Floyd riots,” he explained. “So OK. Make it Kamala Harris, and then Kamala can't appear on the ticket, and you don't even need to go after Joe Biden.”

The incentive structure on the right is such that once major players like Kirk and Knowles start creating a demand for action, Republican officials will supply it. Ashcroft, who is seeking a promotion to governor but faces a competitive GOP primary against candidates including the state’s lieutenant governor, answered the call later on Friday.

“What has happened in Colorado & Maine is disgraceful & undermines our republic,” the Missouri secretary of state wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “While I expect the Supreme Court to overturn this, if not, Secretaries of State will step in & ensure the new legal standard for @realDonaldTrump applies equally to @JoeBiden!”

He subsequently used the story to direct people to his campaign website, saying on X, “Its time to stand and be counted. The future depends on it.”

It can be difficult to tell whether GOP officials are acting in response to right-wing media figures or if they’re converging on the same idea independently because they’re all swimming in the same milieu of Republican base voters. But notably, when Ashcroft discussed the potential rationale he would use to remove Biden from the ballot in an interview with NBC News, it sounded an awful lot like Knowles’ idea from earlier in the day:

Asked how he would disqualify Biden from the ballot for insurrection, Ashcroft said that he's “let an invasion unstopped into our country from the border.” Vice President Kamala Harris, he added, “supported people that were rebelling against the U.S. government during the riots in 2020,” referring to racial justice protests in the wake of George Floyd's murder.

“If this is the standard, does that suddenly mean she's not allowed to run? None of us can say, because there is no standard,” he said.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

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