Very soon we will mark the first anniversary of 6 January 2021 – a day when American democracy died a little. Just hours after the “Stop the Steal” attack on the Capitol, more than 100 congressional Republicans refused to certify the results of the election.
Donald Trump had lost, but he had also won – the “big lie” had firmly taken root. Since then the threats to US democracy have metastasized. Over the last few months, a new threat has emerged, one which few Americans – much less people abroad – are even aware of. It’s a story that has been under-reported and yet the future of US democracy may depend on it being told.
With your help, we can tell this story in 2022.
Far from signalling the end of Trump, 6 January proved he was only getting started. According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, 77% of Republicans believe there was “widespread fraud”. (Earlier this month an Associated Press investigation into the 2020 election found just 475 cases of voter fraud in six key battleground states. Joe Biden won those states by 311,257 votes.)
And yet, Republicans exercised by the ex-president’s lies about electoral fraud are now systematically targeting elected offices across the US. But not any elected office – specifically positions that have oversight of elections. They are pursuing positions of high office, such as secretary of state, but also lower-ranking county-level offices across the states, from Michigan to Pennsylvania and from Texas to Georgia.
This is an entirely new threat. This is not voting suppression or gerrymandering (though those remain huge democratic obstacles which we continue to report on). What is now taking shape across America is the machinery necessary to steal an election.
Free and fair elections are under threat. Last week, Jocelyn Benson, the Democratic secretary of state in Michigan, said about Trumpists targeting official positions with electoral oversight: “This is a five-alarm fire. If people in general, leaders and citizens, aren’t taking this as the most important issue of our time and acting accordingly, then we may not be able to ensure democracy prevails again in 2024.”
We believe it is the most consequential political story of our time. And one of the most important stories to tell in 2022. You can help us do that.
This story is playing out all over the country, from gubernatorial races in Georgia (where Trump is supporting a candidate, David Perdue, who recently said he would not have certified the results of the 2020 election) to lower-ranking offices in Pennsylvania where “Stop the Steal” supporters have triumphed in races to become judges of elections in their local precincts. Yes, a “Stop the Steal” supporter will be overseeing the 2024 election.
Earlier this month, the president hosted a Summit for Democracy intended to draw attention to the erosion of democratic norms around the world as global authoritarianism is on the rise. But Biden and the Democrats need to pay more attention to the threats closer to home.
As a news organisation headquartered in the UK we have conversations with friends and colleagues abroad almost daily and they look on in disbelief at what is happening in the US. Many believed that Trump’s departure would signal a return to some kind of normal; instead, US democracy is in significantly greater danger than it was a year ago.
This is a story that needs telling, to both a domestic and international audience. America is facing down the barrel of a ballot-box coup.
As the writer and academic Lawrence Douglas wrote recently in the Guardian: “Republican state lawmakers have weaponized the lies about the 2020 election and the 6 January insurrection to gain control over the local administration of elections. By the time Congress tallies the electoral votes on 6 January 2025, the putsch could be complete.”
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Help us sound the five-alarm fire.