During the few moments of the day during which Democrats are not rending garments about abortion’s recent defederalization, they’re bemoaning existential “threats to democracy.” If we elect Republicans, we’re told, we’ll imminently follow Rome, Carthage, and the Mississippians onto the ash heap of history. President Joe Biden gave a whole speech about it a few days ago, in the closing days of the election, showing his disconnect from the average voter by saying, “In our bones, we know democracy is at risk.”
For most voters, what we know is that after just two years of Democratic control we can’t afford a decent steak.
Mistrusting elections is the stuff of revolutions; Jan. 6 was a small taste of the destruction such a lack of confidence could engender.
While the Left panics, folks on the (populist) right discount risks to fundamental American institutions as being figments of a liberal fever dream. They might not be as wrong as Biden is, but it would serve the GOP well to take these issues, if not in the sheer panic on the left about them, more seriously than Republicans currently do. Indeed, given Democrats’ history with “election denial,” clever Republicans would turn the tables.
The red wave in 2022 may be (and I expect will be) enough to overcome hesitation by suburbanites and moderates to support candidates who campaigned (with no evidence beyond false rumors and a largely debunked documentary) on a “stolen 2020 election.”
The issue is not primarily about whether Donald Trump lost; it is about, first, whether our entire election system is to be trusted and, second, whether a plurality of the country will refuse to accept the results of elections that their preferred candidates lose. These are not partisan concerns.
While most recent discussions about “election deniers” revolve around a prior president who cannot accept his loss, the travesty of Jan. 6, and grifters like the soon-to-be-shellacked Republican candidate for governor in Pennsylvania, Democrats have been consistent deniers as well, perhaps most famously in 2000 (Bush v. Gore), and also following the 2016 election of Trump, a full three years after which Hillary Clinton called Trump an “illegitimate president.”
Most recently, and still relevantly, given her soon-to-be-second defeat, Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, fresh from her slap down by an Obama-appointed federal judge, continues to claim that but for “voter suppression” she would have been elected in 2018: “I did win my election. I just didn’t get to have the job.”
In 2022, the “election denier!” fingers point at Republicans, but, as Tim Carney put it, “being a Democrat means never having to accept an election loss.”
As I perused the sludge of “liberal Twitter” (one wonders what will remain of it when Elon Musk is done asking them to pay $8 per month for their “blue checks”), when those sad and angry people weren’t complaining about abortion regulation being returned to the states (where it belongs), they were talking about “election deniers.”
Here in Colorado, they would say things like: “I know that the Republican candidate for secretary of state is not an election denier, but she was at a campaign stop with another Republican whose running mate was, so that means they all are and so I won’t vote for any of them.”
Most people whose brains work that way were never going to vote Republican anyway. But, with so many important races likely to be very close this year and in the future, if I were a GOP strategist, I’d do everything possible to take that issue away from the Left. Indeed, to leave the Left as the only “deniers.”
One should avoid doing it as comically, as did Republican Senate candidate in New Hampshire, Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, who campaigned aggressively during his primary on Trump’s having won the 2020 election only to change his tune on Fox News literally the day after being declared the winner: “I have come to the conclusion, and I want to be definitive on this, the election was not stolen.” (Bolduc won his primary in part due to aggressive spending on his behalf by Democrats who thought that he would be the easier Republican to beat, which he surely is … but Democrats may rue the day they supported him if a red wave carries him over the finish line on Tuesday.)
Bolduc’s brazen flip-flop represents an understanding that running on “Donald Trump really won” is a yuge loser outside of the MAGA base. But, in an effort to thread the narrowest of needles, Bolduc is raising enough “questions” to cause Trump to reendorse him for the general election. It’s a very stupid game we’re all playing.
In the immediate aftermath of this week’s election, let’s hope that conspiracy theorists don’t wreak havoc based on spurious claims of widespread election fraud. Let’s also hope that there is a minimum of actual fraud — of which there is always some — and that those who commit it are found and punished. While the few days right after this election represent a period of potential risk to national stability, I am optimistic that most eruptions of election disputes will be localized and soon ameliorated and not of a scale to call an important election result into question.
For this week’s voters, election integrity and threats to democracy are issues for after Nov. 8. But they are real issues. Belief in trustworthy elections is almost as important as the elections actually being trustworthy.
It will be incumbent, if you’ll pardon the pun, on Republican governors and secretaries of state to ask citizens what their key concerns are about election integrity. Many responses will be irrational or unfalsifiable. But some will be questions for which there are good and often easy answers. And others still will raise reasonable issues that should be investigated, such as how to prevent a vulnerability from being exploited in the future and determining if it has been in the past. Policy changes may be in order, such as limiting or banning “ballot harvesting” — even if a primary reason to do so is to increase citizens’ confidence in elections.
Depending on how the question is asked, polling is all over the map on whether “threats to democracy” or “election integrity” are important to voters right now. A Pew Research poll in early October allowed respondents to choose multiple issues that were “very important” to them; in that poll, “the future of democracy in this country” came in a close second to “the economy.” However, a CNN poll released a week ago asked respondents to name their single most important issue. “Voting rights and election integrity” came in at 9 percent, a very distant third after the economy at 51 percent and abortion at 15 percent. Indeed, election integrity was third even among Democrats, coming in at 15 percent, roughly half of the 29 percent for abortion and 27 percent for “the economy and inflation.”
Election integrity is an important issue, not just for the elections themselves but for the stability of our nation. Again, those who have doubts should be the objects of serious effort by politicians to help them understand why our elections are to be trusted … and to make sure it is true. Mistrusting elections is the stuff of revolutions; Jan. 6 was a small taste of the destruction such a lack of confidence could engender.
But “threats to democracy” is simply not an overriding issue for voters in the 2022 election. Democrats’ incessant focus on “election integrity” (and on abortion) when economic insecurity is the highest it’s been in years and when 79 percent of the public feels, according to a recent CBS poll, that the nation is “out of control,” reminds the voting public that Democratic “leaders” neither understand our concerns nor have solutions for them. After all, most of our problems, whether the cost of living, the 2-million-person-per-year invasion at our southern border, or massive increases in crime, were (and are) caused by policies that Democrats still support.
Republicans will rack up significant gains this week — some losers will be those who campaigned on a “stolen election,” whereas more reasonable Republican candidates would have won those races. Even though I’m not a Republican, I will cheer every time a Democrat loses office, but — for the sake of the nation and their own political fortunes — after Nov. 8, Republicans must take election integrity and perceptions of “threats to democracy” seriously. Yes, it will be nigh on impossible if Trump is the next Republican nominee for president (whether he wins or loses the general election), but that’s a conversation for after this Tuesday.