Columnists, Jon Caldara, National, Politics, Uncategorized

Caldara: Colorado high court winging it on insurrection

(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)

Yes, it was an insurrection. Let’s call it what it was — an insurrection designed to prevent duly elected lawmakers from moving forward with the people’s will.

Thousands stormed the Capitol. Doors were ripped from hinges. Law enforcement was overwhelmed. Despite the optics of spontaneousness, the event was planned well in advance.

And though, at the end of all the madness, elected officials completed the job for which they gathered, those who stormed the Capitol were hellbent on stopping them via raw intimidation, and nearly succeeded. It was appalling, frightening and a danger to democracy.

I am of course talking about what happened in late February of 2011 in Madison, Wis., as tens and tens of thousands of organized protesters captured the state Capitol in a prearranged attempt to stop a proposed law that would limit public union dominance.

It happened nine years before the Jan. 6, 2021, events at the U.S. Capitol, yet no one has described it as an insurrection. How is taking over one Capitol for a matter of hours an insurrection, yet taking over another for days somehow isn’t?

This question comes into focus as the Colorado Supreme Court mulls the fate of a lawsuit to prevent former President Donald Trump access to the state ballot by employing the 14th Amendment.

If Trump is disqualified from running for public office for taking part in an insurrection, then what of the thousands who took part in the Wisconsin occupation? Shouldn’t they also be banned from public office?

They created a system of support around the Madison insurrection that was remarkably intertwined and coordinated.

Faculty members from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine put up a “medical” station to provide falsified sick notes for public employees to abandon their jobs without consequence. That unethical and illegal action shut down school districts around the state as teachers got paid to intimidate legislators instead of teaching children.

Live ammunition was found on the grounds outside the Wisconsin State Capitol. Lawmakers fled the state in hopes of stopping the vote due to a lack of a quorum.

Protesters took control of public spaces at the Capitol, put up an “information center,” created a sleeping area, brought in food supplies and erected medical aid stations.

This was a huge operation requiring the vast coordination and support of many people in and out of public office. All of whom still seem able to run for public office today.

But Trump can’t?

The Colorado Supreme Court justices struggled with the definition of “insurrection.”

They pointed questions at Trump’s campaign attorney Scott Gessler. Their questions seemed to flip the notion of innocent-until-proven-guilty on its head as they demanded Gessler tell them why Jan. 6, 2021 was not an insurrection.

His response was on target. He basically said people can’t describe an insurrection but claim to know it after they’ve seen it. That’s many people’s weak definition of pornography.

Is that how our system of law should work?

One justice asked, “Why isn’t it enough that a violent mob breached the Capitol when Congress was performing a core constitutional function? In some ways that seems like a poster child for insurrection.”

By that reasoning the 2011 mob in Wisconsin was a poster-child and absolutely an insurrection.

But the “I don’t know what the definition is, but I know when I see it” logic came through loud and clear when another justice opined, “One of the things we need to figure out is whether what happened on January 6th constituted an insurrection. We don’t need to come up with a definition for all times and all circumstances.”

So, it looks like the rule of law is, well, whatever they want it to be at any time.

There is something terrifying about Supreme Court justices being so blatant about their power to bend laws to fit their views.

Jefferson Davis led armies against the United States government during the civil war. I’m comfortable calling him an insurrectionist.

Trump’s reckless and narcissistic behavior on Jan. 6, 2021 isn’t even close. And I say this as someone who found his actions and inactions reprehensible, sickening and unforgivable.

But if the courts decide it was insurrection, the door opens for them to bar any number of people from running for office, like those in Wisconsin for example.

Isn’t that a threat to democracy?

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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