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.
Andy, great post! I personally believe that January 6th was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history and the fact that some are not treating it as such is beyond comprehension to me. I think some would like to dismiss the insurrection as simply an outlier event, but as you correctly point out, the fact that 39% of the people who think the election was stolen think that violence is necessary to address this is, “a truly frightening reality, and should be treated as the ongoing threat to American Democracy that it is.” In your post you say that across the country election conspiracists are running for offices that directly oversee elections. This is incredibly concerning because if Finchem and Hice were to win their races, they would be some of the most powerful leaders within their states and state parties. I think this points to the broader existential issue for the Republican Party. Most top republicans assert that the election was not stolen, but 68% of republicans and an increasing majority of republican office-holders believe the opposite. The GOP must decide if it will excuse election conspiracy rhetoric, or if it will engage in a more concerted effort to convince its base that the election was in fact not stolen. As you say in your post, Trump and leaders like Finchem and Hice knowingly mislead their base for their own political benefit. It will be interesting to see in 2022 if the GOP establishment seeks to distance itself from all of this or if they will allow it to continue because it drives angry and mislead voters to the polls.
Hi, Andy! This may be a bit off-topic from your post but it reminded me of an interesting episode of This American Life. It followed Michigan State Senator Ed McBroom in his crusade to get to the bottom of any possible foul play in the 2020 presidential election, after which he launched an exhaustive investigation and campaign to inform citizens that there was no conclusive evidence that Joe Biden fraudulently won the state of Michigan. Much like the CNN poll you mentioned in your post, he found there are many people he would need to convince and his holistic approach of answering any question constituents may have has had a low rate of success. The “Stop the Steal” propaganda is alive and well, with nearly all of his conversations resulting in the voter saying they need to consult their own research and emailing him to let him know that they are more convinced of the conspiracy than ever. There is a mounting effort to vote him out, likely to replace him with a candidate like Hice or Franchem. Your point about failing to hold politicians accountable who emboldened not only the misinformation that led to the insurrection but emboldened potential violence for months and years prior is one I agree with wholeheartedly. I don’t believe individuals who physically participated that day are mindless pawns, but the mass gaslighting we saw from people high in the party left little option but for supporters to feel that the safety and sovereignty of the nation was at stake. That lie continues to be perpetuated, and I wonder if you see the insurrection as the first fallen marker in an agenda, especially as we see even more radical candidates join the system from local to national levels.
Hi Andy, great post. This is a topic I love, as it really was an eye opener as an American citizen. Jan. 6 is typically something Americans would see on the news of another country, and discuss the horrors amongst friends and family on what we are seeing. Instead, many of those who would discuss the horrors, believe that violence is the correct course of action. Your points on the integrity of elections are valid, election integrity has been in threat for decades, but a more recent instance that came to national spotlight prior to the 2020 elections was the Georgia governor election, where many voters were purged during the Kemp vs. Abrams race.
I really enjoy how your work captures the overall feeling in the United States regarding the 2020 election. With such dangerous conspiracies being common around the country, it is crucial that we find an effective way to counter them. What is interesting to me is examining the role that the Republican party play by pushing this conspiracy. With Trump being the leader across all polling for 2024, is it possible that most of these potential electors understand the views of the people and want to follow along in order to gain relevancy? Whether or not they believe the conspiracy, it is still very interesting to note the direction of the party going forward and how long they will hang onto this provable false allegation of the 2020 election.