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Just when you think you’ve seen it all in California, there’s another surprise coming out of Sacramento. This one not only displays unprecedented overreach, but also an absolute disregard for the United States Constitution. The California state Senate approved a bill earlier this month to require candidates appearing on the 2020 presidential primary ballot — including President Trump — to release five years' worth of income tax returns.
A timely and conveniently biased bill, which if it becomes law, means that Trump’s name may not appear on the California primary ballot during the upcoming presidential election cycle. And an especially egregious bill since the United States Constitution clearly states that there are only three requirements for holding the presidency.
Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution says to serve as president, one must:
be a natural-born U.S. citizen of the United States;
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be at least thirty-five years old;
be a resident in the United States for at least fourteen years.
These requirements have been in place since George Washington became president, but all of a sudden a small group of legislators in the Golden State have found a way to try and thwart the democratic process for voters in their state to ensure their team wins. (As if the overwhelming Democratic voter registration, the dubious practice of ballot harvesting and the fact that California hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since George H.W. Bush in 1988 doesn’t give them enough confidence that whoever the Democratic candidate is, will likely carry California and its 55 electoral votes.) I guess they don’t feel they can leave anything to chance.
Although presidential candidates traditionally release their tax returns, President Trump has not done so, stating he is currently under audit. Tradition, however, is far different than a Constitutional requirement. And if California, or any other state, starts to add non-Constitutional requirements for office holders, there’s no telling where that would end. Could they require a candidate to be of a certain gender, or race, sexual orientation, or even size or shape or set an arbitrary limit on a candidate’s age? Sounds discriminatory to me. Preposterous? Not exactly. In fact, the state’s legislature passed a similar bill in 2017, but then-Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, who did not release his own tax returns, vetoed the bill.
If this bill passes now, it sets an extremely dangerous precedent by which the rights of the voter are hijacked. In essence the legislature could determine their preferred candidate and ensure that the selection criteria for inclusion on the ballot excludes everyone except that person. Sound crazy? Well California is just crazy enough to do that. And has already started down that path.
True representative government hasn’t existed in California for quite a while. The jungle primary system, whereby voters can select any candidate, regardless of party, allows the top two to advance to the general election. This provides a pathway for two Democrats to advance from the primary to the general election, in essence giving conservative voters in California the choice between two candidates, neither of which truly represent them.
What if Texas, or all those flyover states they mock and despise, decide to set their own criteria for presidential candidate ballot qualification and tip the scales in their own political favor to ensure their state stays red?
The practice of ballot harvesting, illegal in several states, but recently passed in California, allows for individuals to go door to door and collect ballots from voters and submit them in bulk. In California now there’s no limit on the number of ballots that one individual can turn in, nor are they subject to the same verification process as other ballots. We saw six Congressional incumbents in California lose their seats days, some even weeks, after the midterm elections due to this practice which is a breeding ground for fraud.
In addition, the process of ballot initiatives is becoming more uncertain due to some confusing and conflicting rulings coming out of the California courts. California allows for citizen-led signature gathering efforts to qualify a measure for inclusion on the ballot, but those rules now seem increasingly subjective, not objective, often leaving citizen groups who have legally followed the prescribed process being disqualified for no legal reason. The Cal-3 initiative was the most recent victim of the court’s partisan and authoritarian ruling.
California courts are now unafraid to legislate political advantage rather than just apply and interpret laws. They have a partisan agenda and are bold in advancing it, knowing there is little or no recourse for doing so.
The rest of the nation should watch this bill closely because California is often the testing ground for the left to see how far they can go in usurping power from the people and transferring it to the courts and to progressives in office. If it gets any traction on the left coast it may seep eastward.
And for those on the left, perhaps they should consider the potential boomerang effect of such action. What if Texas, or all those flyover states they mock and despise, decide to set their own criteria for presidential candidate ballot qualification and tip the scales in their own political favor to ensure their state stays red?
We are either states – and a nation – of law and order, or we aren’t. We adhere to the Constitution, or we don’t. Tragically, it appears as if the leaders of California have made it their intention to pursue lawlessness.
Voters in California should be both embarrassed about this political theater, and outraged that time is being spent on foolish partisan hackery. California has enormous problems – from immigration to homelessness to poverty to infrastructure to education to cost of living to housing to oppressive taxes and onerous regulations which are driving their own tax base out of the state – just to name a few. The California legislature should be focused on these issues, not on a ridiculous power play that provides no benefit to citizens of the state.
Although this California bill will likely never advance, it’s a tipping of the cards of the left showing the game they’re playing – and we know they won’t give up until they win one way or another. Of course the losers in this, or any political stunt, are the voters of California. When democracy is thrown aside, the Constitution might as well be shredded. Regardless of your voting preference for 2020, it would be an affront to us all if the rulers in California pre-determine our choice. Once again, the tarnish of the once-Golden State is being exposed, which should grieve and worry us all.