These pro Trump candidates are attacking American democracy

These pro Trump candidates are attacking American democracy

More than half of Republican nominees for Congress or for key state positions in the midterm elections dispute or question the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election results, a high number that raised fears of new challenges during the Nov. 8 midterm elections and of the 2024 presidential elections Ultimately, the question arises as to the solidity of the American democratic system.

On January 6, 2021, supporters of Donald Trump attacked the Capitol to prevent the formalization of Joe Biden’s presidential victory. For several hours, the whole world watched this deadly day live until darkness fell. The tension was still high two weeks later, during the inauguration of the Democratic president, but with the feeling that the worst – analyzed in retrospect as an attempted coup – was over. “Democracy trembled, but it won,” we repeated in Washington.

The November 8 midterm election campaign dampened that optimism. The country is still divided. With rare exceptions, members of the Republican Party have sided with his “Maga” faction (“Make America Great Again,” Donald Trump’s slogan that has become the emblem of the American far right). Despite the billionaire’s ban from social networks, the spread of “fake news” hasn’t stopped. Republican congressional candidates shared more links to unreliable news sources on Facebook this year than they did in 2020, according to New York University’s Center for Social Media and Politics.

Most notably, the “big lie” (the “big lie” that is that the 2020 election was stolen) has taken root in people’s minds. Donald Trump, who does not rule out running again in 2024, continues to propagate it. About 70% of his Republican supporters believe him. And it’s become commonplace among Republican candidates for the midterms, politicians legitimized by their election to the primary. These people, candidates and supporters alike, are now referred to in the United States as “election deniers,” “those who deny the election.”

On the way to victory

According to a Washington Post census, the majority of Republican candidates for Congress or for key positions in their respective states dispute or question the legitimacy of the 2020 results. The newspaper put the number at 291 out of 569 candidates, or 51 percent. The New York Times conducted a study that has even more dramatic results.

For some Republicans running in key states, like Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, that can be detrimental. This ardent supporter of Donald Trump did not hesitate to charter support buses to the Capitol on January 6, 2021. He does not acknowledge Joe Biden’s victory and even hinted that if he were elected governor, he would not confirm the eventual victory of a Democrat in 2024. In this indecisive state, Donald Trump’s 2016 and Joe Biden’s 2020 was won, such extreme positions deterred many moderate voters. As a result, Doug Mastriano is trailing his Democratic rival Josh Shapiro in the polls.

However, according to calculations by the Washington Post, most of this year’s controversial “election money” is on the way to victory. And some are potential stars. “In Arizona, gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, a former television host, is more sympathetic to voters than Doug Mastriano is in Pennsylvania. She has a chance to win,” notes J. Miles Coleman, political mapmaker and co-editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball newsletter, the University of Virginia’s election prediction tool. The same is true in Wisconsin for the very extreme Ron Johnson, the Senate nominee. “He’s a favorite and could be re-elected.”

Challenge in sight on November 8th

Lisa Bryant, director of political science at California State University in Fresno and election expert, tries to keep a cool head: “I’ll give you my optimistic view of things. It may be that a one-off is that in office Elected officials understand how elections really work, with precise rules to be followed, and realize they have been believing in a myth based on misinformation. However, the scientist admits that there is a pessimistic reading of the situation.

Many experts are concerned about the consequences of the existence of this “electoral money” on the already weakened health of American democracy. In the short term, this month of November, we can expect several challenges to the results from the losers. The Washington Post has interviewed Republican candidates in close races for governor or senator. A dozen of them refused to say whether they would accept the polls’ verdict. This climate of distrust is reinforced by an army of supporters, trained by pro-Trump networks like the Conservative Partnership Institute, who are preparing to oversee the conduct of the election. Polling station officials fear intimidation.

In the medium term, the massive arrival of this “election money” in Congress starting next January will be tantamount to two turbulent years in Washington. If the House of Representatives moves to the Republican side with a strong “Maga” presence, then the question of leadership arises. Who becomes the “speaker”, boss of the majority? This person will head the chamber in 2024, the year of the next presidential election, where a new challenge to the result cannot be ruled out.

Chaos in 2024?

Indeed, this year 2024 promises its dose of chaos. If the race is tight in some federal states, what is the point of the “election money” that will have been elected in 2022? The secretaries of state – a government function in the various American states, not to be confused with the post of head of federal diplomacy – will have control over the organization of the election and any recounts. The governors may or may not confirm the verdict of the ballot box. “In Arizona, Republican Kari Lake made denial of Joe Biden’s 2020 victory a big part of her campaign. If a Democrat won the Arizona presidency, would she endorse the result?” asks J. Miles Coleman.

Those who hold the majority in local parliaments may be tempted to implement the scenario Donald Trump longs for in 2020: reject the popular vote if it doesn’t suit them and create their own electoral roll for the president. In Georgia, Arizona and Michigan, three states where the 2020 vote was hotly contested, the share of this “election money” on the lists is particularly large, the Washington Post points out.

Pippa Norris, associate professor of comparative politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and founder of the Electoral Integrity Project, does not hide her concern: “The only reason the 2020 presidential election worked is because Republican officials took responsibility and that have obeyed the law – for example in Georgia. They announced the results and the judiciary supported them. If “electoral funds” make secretaries of state responsible for elections and exercise their power in a partisan way, then we will end up with disputed results. In this case, it is one or two key states, and no one will agree on the results of the vote, which we will do on January 6th 2021, so for the next two election cycles we have a fundamental problem that keeps me up at night. (…) I have the impression that we are heading straight for the iceberg on the Titanic f. Everyone sees this iceberg. Everyone knows what’s going to happen, but there’s no turning back.”

In the long term, the country’s democratic foundations are at stake: if the elections are constantly contested or influenced by a party that does not accept political changes, then confidence in the legitimacy of the system is shaken. And if the world’s most powerful democracy falters, the others are likely to suffer, too.