The January 6th insurrection may have failed to achieve its goals on the day its right-wing participants stormed the U.S. Capital, but the movement was alive well before the 6th, and it continues to live on to this day.
The hard truth of the matter is: the belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen is still commonplace, and continues to be held by large swaths of the American public. To put numbers to this claim, an early September poll conducted by CNN found that 36% of Americans still believe that Joe Biden did not legitimately win the office of the presidency. Furthermore, a PRRI poll published on November 1st found that 68% of Republicans and 82% of Fox News viewers continue to believe the election was stolen.
If for some reason one was under the impression that these beliefs are harmless, I would kindly point out that the same PRRI poll mentioned above found that a worrying 39% of individuals who believe the election was stolen also believe that violence may be necessary to save the country. That is to say, 39% of 82% of the viewers of the country’s most popular news network are contemplating the use of violence in response to the results of the election. That is a truly frightening reality, and should be treated as the ongoing threat to American Democracy that it is.
These beliefs are not simply being held, either. They are being acted on, and the mass of stolen election conspiracists are making dangerous and tactical political moves. Across the country, several right-wing election conspiracists are beginning to run for political office, with a specific emphasis on offices that play critical roles in the overseeing and execution of our elections.
In Arizona, Mark Finchem (a republican representing district 11 within Arizona’s House of Representatives) announced his decision to run for the office of Secretary of State in the 2022 midterm elections. Arizona is one of 38 states in which the Secretary of State is the top official responsible for overseeing elections, and Finchem is a major proponent of the stolen election conspiracy. Finchem was even present at the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally that immediately preceded the January 6th storming of the Capital.
In Georgia, a virtually identical situation has emerged. Congressman Jody Hice(R), who represents Georgia’s 10th congressional district, has announced he will be running against republican incumbent Brad Raffensperger for the office of Georgia’s Secretary of State in 2022. Hice also is a major proponent of the stolen election conspiracy, and if elected vows to “renew the integrity of the election process”.
Many more similar stories can be found across the U.S., and tend to be most prominent in the states that were highly contested swing states in the 2020 election. When Reuters reached out to 15 Republican candidates for Secretary of State, 10 out of the 15 declared that the 2020 election was stolen.
Obviously, this is a major problem. If elected, these conspiracists could push through policy that could cause major and irreparable damage to democratic institutions across the United States. This is also not even to mention the plethora of more politically acceptable measures (such as SB 202 in Georgia) that these candidates support. Such bills would restrict voter access in smaller ways, and provide more plausible deniability to their often undemocratic proponents to hide behind.
All this is to say, the ‘stop the steal’ movement is alive and well among the United States population. It continues to be bought into by citizens and perpetuated by ghoulish political figures and reckless media platforms. Furthermore, as demonstrated by the willingness for violence among constituents, and the worrying political moves of high profile conspiracists, the desire and attempts to seize power by this group has not ceased. This problem isn’t going to go away on it’s on, and this ongoing slow burn of an insurrection will continue to be an existential threat to our democracy until it is properly addressed.
Speaking of the threat being properly addressed, up to present day, so far 702 individuals have been charged with crimes in the capital insurrection attempt. However, I argue there is an overwhelming flaw in this list of charged individuals: the absence of those who instigated the event. Charging the individuals who were on foot at the Capital is missing the forest for the trees.
The storming of the Capital would not have happened at all without the months-long campaign by former President Trump and other GOP officials to paint election results as untrustworthy. The people who were there in person that day would not have conjured their plans without the influence of these officials and representatives who dangerously and knowingly misled them about the integrity of the election. To this day, there are still current members of congress who actively push this conspiracy that has already resulted in a deadly storming of the United States Capital. It really is no wonder then how the insurrection lives on.