The United States has failed its first important test for democracy since the 2020 election season: Election denialism has taken hold among a significant segment of Republican voters, and election deniers are poised to win elections next week. They will go on to oversee or certify some elections in 2024. The question that matters now is whether the next line of defense for American democracy—our system of state and federal courts—is strong enough for the task ahead.
Things were bad enough at the end of 2020 and into early 2021. Donald Trump’s relentless invocation of the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him through phantom fraud and technical irregularities led to frivolous lawsuits, protests and threats against election workers, and the violence of the January 6 insurrection. When Trump left the White House on January 20, courageous and focused Republican leadership could have quashed Trumpian antidemocratic forces, especially if Democratic leadership had had an earlier singular focus on preventing election subversion.
Instead, the false claim of a stolen election metastasized into an election-denialist movement far worse than even those of us who worried deeply about the future of American democracy in 2020 ever imagined. Election denialism has emerged as a key plank of modern Trumpism, defining part of what it means to be a Republican. It is not just that 65 percent of Republican Party voters say they do not believe President Joe Biden won the election, or that nearly 300 Republican candidates for office have denied or questioned that he did so. It is that the wholesale attack on the integrity of the election system has had a number of downstream effects that make our elections far more vulnerable. [Continue reading…]