Donald Trump’s biggest obstacle to win the presidency right now isn’t Nikki Haley or Joe Biden. It’s a little-known 91-year-old former Republican legislator from Colorado.
Norma Anderson — the Anderson in the Trump v. Anderson case that the Supreme Court will hear on Thursday — is taking on Trump over whether he is eligible to serve as president after his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.
Anderson, a lifelong Republican who rose through the state party to become one of the top GOP lawmakers in Colorado, said she immediately agreed to participate when recruited by an attorney working with the liberal government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
“When asked, and when duty calls, you do it,” she told POLITICO. “My reason for doing it is saving democracy. Because Donald Trump will destroy our democracy.”
The case rests on an interpretation of a clause in the 14th Amendment that says those who “engaged in” an insurrection against the United States after taking an oath to “support” the Constitution are ineligible to hold future office.
Anderson was a Republican long before Trump. She recently reminisced to the Colorado Sun about being “on the Dewey side” in childhood games where the teams were FDR vs. Dewey. She served as a state lawmaker for nearly two decades, eventually rising to be majority leader in both chambers before leaving office in 2006.
But like others, Anderson has grappled with Trump’s remaking of the Republican Party.
She said she briefly left the GOP because of him. But she decided to rejoin the party, calling herself an “old-fashioned Republican” who believes in democracy and pro-business policies.
“They’re not going to chase me out,” she said. “I will be a Republican when I die. I was born one, I will die one.”
Others who joined Anderson as challengers to Trump include a conservative columnist for the Denver Post and former Rep. Claudine Schneider (R-R.I.), who moved to Colorado after leaving Congress. They scored a historic win in December, when the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump had indeed engaged in insurrection and was thus ineligible to run for office again. (That decision was paused by the state justices to give the nation’s top court the ability to weigh in.)
Anderson is part of a small group of former Republican elected officials who have pushed to use the courts to disqualify Trump from the ballot. A dozen former Republican members of Congress and three former Republican governors filed briefs with the Supreme Court urging the justices to side with Anderson and keep Trump off the ballot — with almost no current or former Democratic officials weighing in publicly in legal filings.
“It shouldn’t be about party. It should be about the Constitution, and that’s why you see so many Republicans supporting it,” Anderson said of the other conservatives who filed briefs. “Because they care about the Constitution.”
But for current Republican officeholders, there was no real divide: Much of the Republican Party — including nearly 200 members of Congress, the three federal party committees and dozens of state parties — joined briefs backing Trump.
Anderson said that it was those Republicans — not her — who have strayed from the GOP. “The problem with our current congressmen is that they’re representing Trump instead of the people that elected them,” she said.
Anderson said that she has not faced any physical threats, like other officials or judges involved in the 14th Amendment cases, and brushed off political blowback she has received. (“The Republican Party called me a RINO, but I couldn’t care less,” she said.) She, instead, is more concerned about the long-term view of the country.
“I was born four months before FDR was elected, so I’ve lived through the Great Depression. I’ve lived through World War Two, I’ve lived through two other wars, I’ve lived through good times, bad times,” she said. “So I think I understand our democracy.”
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