Deny the Election-Deniers Any Victory — and Stop Our Anti-Democratic Slide (Midterm Alert)
First in a special series, Midterm Alerts
Republicans would like us to believe that the coming midterm elections are strictly about inflation and crime. Well, they are, but not strictly. There is instead another overarching issue that Republicans would like us to ignore.
But, yes, the latest inflation figures confirm we are enduring a 40-year high, which voters experience most keenly when paying for groceries to feed their families and shelling out for gas to drive to work. But to vote for a party that always favors the rich with debt-inflating tax cuts; that slashes social programs that help struggling families; and that would never hike taxes on the energy companies now making record profits off all that cash you are shelling out at the pump — it makes no economic sense. Dear Voter: Remember, President Joe Biden just signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which will cut costs in your healthcare, energy, taxes.
And crime? It is laughable — if not downright blasphemous — that a party that defends the mob action of the January 6 insurrection as “legitimate political discourse” and dismisses the violence committed by their foot-soldiers against Capitol police — resulting ultimately in the deaths of five (5) officers, with former Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi targeted for assassination(!) — is now banging the drum loudly for “law and order” in defense of “the thin blue line.” Talk of stolen valor! The Republican Party has forfeited any claim to its traditional law-and-order mantle and, in awful fact, instead is assiduously endeavoring to achieve the exact opposite: to defy the law, to create disorder.
In effect, Republicans aim to dismantle American democracy and convert America into a police state — and not the kind of police state protecting you and your freedoms (see: their punitive abortion proposals). This anti-democratic program of the GOP must be kept top of mind, forget the barrage of campaign ads trying to redirect our attention elsewhere.
If this sounds extreme — another commentary decrying America’s slide into fascism — I mean it that way. For how else to read present extreme reality?
Fully 70% of all Republicans continue to believe former president Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen. That is a very big chunk of the American electorate embracing un-truth. This, despite 60-some court cases and a blizzard of evidence and witnesses, most Republican, testifying to the contrary, presented by the House January 6 Committee. Trump’s central role in fomenting the insurrection, and his machinations to alter the electoral count certifying his opponent’s victory, were clearly established in the Committee’s hearings. Yet they did not alter — at all — Republican belief in a stolen win.
Moreover, and more ominously: A majority of Republican candidates running for federal and statewide office in this midterm election are election-deniers. Of 591 candidates analyzed by The Washington Post, 291 of them — or 51% — either reject the 2020 election result or refuse to acknowledge Mr. Biden’s victory. Moreover, most of these deniers are expected to win. As the Post writes: “Although some are running in heavily Democratic areas and are expected to lose, most of the election-deniers nominated are likely to win: Of the nearly 300 on the ballot, 171 are running for safely Republican seats. Another 48 will appear on the ballot in tightly contested races.” In every area of the country, except the states of Rhode Island and North Dakota, Republicans are fielding election-deniers.
The distressing news for any small-d democrat doesn’t stop there.
The proportion of election-deniers running for Congress is even higher (as distinct from statewide office). As the Post writes: “Among 419 Republican nominees for the U.S. House, 230, or 55 percent, are election deniers.” Again, most are expected to win. “[T]he vast majority of those, 147, are running in safely Republican districts, with another 29 in competitive races.” Moreover: These incoming denialists will join “scores of election deniers [already] in the House; 139 of them voted against the electoral college count after [italics mine) the violence of Jan. 6. 2021 had finally abated.” With 33 denialists running for open seats in safe GOP districts, “that number” — of denialists in the Congress of the United States of America — “will almost certainly rise after November.” (No wonder this Post article riveted politicos; so did a similar analysis in The New York Times.)
The perilous implications for American democracy are clear and they are lasting. If the U.S. House is retaken by Republicans in November, as is predicted, “election-deniers would hold enormous sway over the choice of the nation’s next speaker, who in turn could preside over the House in a future contested presidential election,” per the Post. At the statewide level, the offices in play — governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general — oversee all elections, also the selection of electors, in their states.
Meaning: Expect, starting with these midterms. for Republicans to dispute or deny election results, at the national and statewide levels — not as a rare exception, but as a matter of course. It is a matter of course that already GOP candidates refuse to say they will abide by the final result if they lose. (Interesting how Republicans accept the results if they win.) In our polarized electorate, landslide victories will be rare. Far more likely going forward (if “forward” is possible) is the fiercely contested result — with recounts demanded (and rejected), lawsuits flying. Violence, in this tinderbox, is very possible.
With this prospect, the body politic will be well and truly infected (to use a term from the COVID pandemic). American democracy will be severely, if not mortally, wounded. Because: If all trust is leached from the very mechanism by which American citizens express their choice of leadership — the election process — democracy shudders to a halt. It is heartbreaking to see that this destruction is caused by our own hand, like a suicide.
Which is why these midterm elections are so important: to halt — and maybe even reverse — the slide to anti-democracy, to times much darker and even more chaotic.
Just weeks ago, in August, polls showed “threat to democracy” was voters’ key campaign issue — and, in truth, it still is: Our democracy does hang in the balance. This finding still holds, despite The New York Times’ recent headline, “Voters See Democracy in Peril, but Saving It Isn’t a Priority.” Yes, inflation is now a major issue, as Republicans claim. But Democrats are on it, while also defending democracy. To allay the pain at the gas-pump, President Biden is tapping U.S. emergency oil reserves, to up supply, thus cut cost. No, this isn’t an election gambit, but a step Mr. Biden took last spring as ballast against destabilized world energy markets caused by Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. And, the I.R.S. has announced new tax rates, allowing taxpayers to keep more of their after-tax money. Also, women must remember Republicans’ threat, if they retake Congress, to enact a federal abortion ban.
It’s too late to puzzle out how Republicans, who once touted personal responsibility, could succumb, en masse, to the blatant lying and conning ways of the former president. And those Republican leaders who know the Big Lie of a stolen election truly to be the big democracy-destroying lie it is, but cynically recite it to regain power: Someday they must reckon with their Faustian bargain. As I wrote earlier, Republicans seem not to understand this battle’s existential stakes: They think they wage mere political battle, albeit at the hardball level. But Democrats understand this battle is existential; thus they know election-denying, anti-democratic Republicans must be defeated November 8.
In volatile times, every election is claimed “the most important in our lifetime.” But this midterm really is, because it is the gateway election, the hinge election — to either darker times or to a last chance to repair. I am reluctant to use the firecracker term “fascism,” but contested elections are a page — a key and elementary page — out of the fascist playbook, along with violence, jailed opposition, stifled media, and citizens stripped of all rights.
We wouldn’t actually vote our way to fascism, would we? Would we…?