MAGA Republicans failed in 2020, but efforts are underway to make sure 2024 is a different story.
November 7, 2020. Joseph Biden is determined by major news networks to be the 46th president of the United States. However, there is a problem. The President of the United States is refusing to concede the election. Eventually, this led to an insurrection attempt on January 6, 2021, and American democracy is still feeling the fallout from these events. Currently, the 2022 midterms are a month away, and the elections are critical for many reasons ranging from the domestic agenda the Democrats want to continue to pass in Congress to the continuing House investigations into January 6th. Nevertheless, while there are many worrying concerns for democracy, the chief one is the Republican Party’s nomination of election deniers for secretary of state, governor, and in numerous congressional races.
As members of the Republican Party continue to push lies about the 2020 elections, the trust in democracy in America has continued to decline. A study done by Brookings Institution found that the proliferation of the big lie that the 2020 election was stolen has suppressed voting turnout and diminished trust in the voting process. This raises concerns for the 2024 presidential election, as the only reason the 2020 election saw a transfer of power at all is because there were enough GOP mainstream republicans and a democratic congressional majority to ensure that the transfer of power did happen at both the state and federal level.
The Republican Party’s nominations for secretary of state is a cause for concern to say the least. In at least eleven states, the nominee for secretary of state on the Republican side has questioned, rejected, or tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
The secretary of state position is crucial because they certify elections. So, if in 2024 a democratic candidate wins the electoral votes of a state, the secretary of state could decertify the results, throwing the country into chaos. Democracy requires states and the federal government to work together, and if that does not happen, democracy is in danger. An example of this happening in American history before is the Civil War. The Confederate states refused to recognize Abraham Lincoln as the winner of the 1860 presidential election, and seceded from the union. The rhetoric that secretary of state candidates use is threatening to democracy. GOP candidate for secretary of state in Michigan, Kristina Karamo, has claimed that Trump, not Biden, is the real winner of the 2020 election. Similar rhetoric has been echoed by other secretary of state candidates across the country. This also connects to the idea of informal norms. This rhetoric is proof that norms of mutual toleration and institutional forbearance are declining. Mutual toleration is the principle of accepting your rivals as legitimate. Institutional forbearance is not using the full extent of your constitutional powers even if it may be legal. Secretary of states could break this norm by potentially decertifying the 2024 presidential election.
There are also some republican nominees in critical governors races that are election deniers, or at least have questions about the 2020 election. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee running to be Pennsylvania’s next governor, is one of the strongest election deniers. After the election was certified for Joe Biden, Mastriano in his role as state senator came out with a resolution which wanted the secretary of state to withdraw the certification of Biden’s victory and appoint new electors. It is a worrying sign for American democracy that one of two major party nominees for a gubernatorial race refused to accept the results of the 2020 election. This provides further evidence of the danger if Mastriano gains power. As governor, he could decertify a Democratic victory in 2024 and weaken electoral institutions in Pennsylvania. Even though there might be an argument that in power, Mastriano would not do this, this argument has proved faulty in the past. A good historical example of this is the German conservatives who thought what Adolf Hitler was saying was not what he intended to do. It is paramount to recognize the danger to democracy Mastriano and other republican gubernatorial nominees pose.
This problem is not just limited to secretary of state and governor’s races as fivethirty eight found that 60 percent of Americans will have a election denier on the ballot in the 2022 midterms. The certification of the 2024 presidential election also relies on those representatives and senators in congress who certify the electoral ballots received from the states. Normally, this has been a process that has happened without major issue each year, as each side accepted the transfer of power. However, this was not the case in 2021, as mentioned above. There have been examples in history where democracy has been undermined by a willing legislature. An example of this could be in Venezuela, where an illegitimate legislature created by President Nicolas Maduro claimed authority for passing laws. This scenario is a warning sign for the US, because if election deniers are elected to Congress, they could refuse to certify the 2024 presidential election. There are many election deniers currently running for Congress. An example is Karoline Leavitt who is running in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional district. Leavitt based her winning primary campaign almost entirely off the false premise that the 2020 election was stolen, stating that the 2020 election was stolen from President Trump.
The arguments election deniers use are very similar. They push claims of mail-in ballots being fraudulent, dead people voting, poll watchers not being allowed to watch, and voting systems being influenced by foreign agents. One example of this is Fox News telling their viewers that a voting system company called Smartmatic was a Venezuelan company under the control of corrupt dictators. These claims, while always false or if true greatly exaggerated, gain support because they are discussed on prominent conservative news networks like Fox News that have credibility with Republican voters.
Democracy is under attack in the US through republican nominees in secretary of state races, congressional races, and gubernatorial races that deny the results of the 2020 election. If these nominees win office in this year’s midterm elections, the 2024 presidential election could be in danger. While some may think democracy’s greatest threat has been averted with the peaceful transfer of power that occured on January 20, 2021, democracy’s greatest threat lies ahead of it.
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