Legal Law

Times Editorial Board Member Paints Opponents to Trump’s Disqualification as Modern Day Confederates – JONATHAN TURLEY

“Why are you standing with confederates who betrayed this country?” Those words from New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay on MSNBC captured the unhinged coverage of the Colorado Supreme Court’s disqualification of Donald Trump from the 2024 election. While the underlying theory under the 14th Amendment had been previously rejected by jurists in various states (including many Democrats), Gay had a simple take for viewers: anyone raising democratic or constitutional objections are modern day confederates.

Gay was asked on MSNBC’s Morning Joe how she would respond to many of us who have questioned the constitutional basis for using the 14th Amendment to bar Trump from ballots.

Gay responded:

“Why are you standing with confederates who betrayed this country? This is what they’re standing with. It’s the spirit of those confederates rather than the Americans who came together after a long and brutal Civil War that was fought to keep the Union together and clearly saw a threat in ex-confederates running for office. So much so they amended the Constitution to prevent those traitors from running for office.”

It is that simple for the editors of the New York Times: either you support this previously rejected theory to prevent voters from casting their ballots for a candidate or you are a confederate. So those three Democratic appointees on the Colorado Supreme Court were just more confederate fellow travelers.

Gay knows that other states and courts have rejected this theory. She knows that even the majority said that the precedent for the decision was “sparce” and that this was “uncharted territory.” Yet, if you reach the opposing view of most judges who have looked at this question, you are standing not with the Constitution but the confederacy.

The obvious attempt is to intimidate and ostracize those who may have qualms over barring citizens from voting for candidates. It is akin to being called a racist on campus if you oppose diversity policies or standards on academic grounds.

It is only the latest example of how the left is engaging in McCarthy-like tactics to portray advocates for free speech or other constitutional protections as enemies of the state.  Back in the day, it was the Democrats who were denounced for raising such legal objections. Now,  Democratic members and pundits attack witnesses as “Putin lovers” or supporters of “insurrectionists” in opposing censorship. Or confederates for objecting to ballot cleansing.

Indeed the rhetoric used by Gay is strikingly familiar to the defense for censorship on the left. She added on MSNBC that the Colorado decision “should send a message that our electoral system can be used for nefarious purposes against democracy itself. It’s clear. It’s clear as day.”

Thus, it is up to society to protect citizens from the “nefarious” uses of free speech or free elections by cleansing ballots and social media.

Of course, others simply used the opinion to vent on an almost schoolyard level. Rick Wilson of The Lincoln Project, taunted the former president and said that the court “called you out for what you are. You’re a filthy insurrectionist. You’re a losing loser who loses.” That is still weirdly preferable to labeling anyone raising constitutional concerns as standing with “confederate traitors.” Yet, it is remarkable how these critics who have long objected to Trump rhetoric have adopted the same personal and reckless rhetoric.

Gay’s interview should be chilling for anyone who cares about both law and journalism. It shows the righteous rage that fuels the intolerance in our country. It also shows the potential for this insidious theory as more Democratic politicians, like those in California, who are calling for their own officials to find ways to block Trump from ballots.

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