What if U.S. democracy was on the brink and hardly anyone cared? We’re about to find out.
I can’t remember any time in my life when politics was boring. There’s always a reason to vote. You never know which election really will turn out to be the most important ever. You see where I’m going with this. Yes, 2022 is a big one.
It’s possibly the biggest of our lives, given the dozens of people who A), maintain Donald Trump won the 2020 election and B), are running for state offices that control elections: At least 35 Big Lie proponents are running for governor in 20 states,15 for attorney general in 13 states and 23 for secretary of state in 17 states, according to a States United Action tally as of Monday.
On top of that, most polls show Republicans stand a good chance of gaining control of Congress this fall, even though scores of them tried to overturn the 2020 election. And concern about the U.S. Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, as traumatic as it was, appears to be fading.
The hearings the House Jan. 6 committee started holding Thursday are the best chance to tell the sprawling story of the Big Lie that culminated in the deadly Capitol insurrection, and hammer home the risks of voting for the Trump-era GOP. But with inflation and mass shootings top of mind, they’re unlikely to catapult saving the republic to No. 1 on voter priority lists.
Too many election deniers are winning
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who both held the line against Trump’s demands in 2020, won their primaries last month against candidates who espoused Trump’s false claims of election fraud.
But Trump-backed election-denying candidates have won in other races this spring. For instance, Trump loyalist Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general who tried but failed to get the Supreme Court to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 win, easily beat primary challenger George P. Bush, who said last year that the 2020 election was not stolen.
The Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor is state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a “Stop the Steal” leader who paid for buses to Washington for the Jan. 6, 2021, Trump rally and was on the scene himself. According to a Senate Judiciary Committee report, there’s video footage of him and his wife “confirming that they passed through breached barricades and police lines at the U.S. Capitol.” Mastriano says he left when it got violent and did not go inside.
If he becomes governor, Mastriano will choose the secretary of state who oversees elections, and decide whom to send to the Electoral College in 2024 to finalize the presidential election.
Saving democracy is not a priority
Voters these days are worried about inflation, abortion rights, gun violence, health care costs, climate change, crime and racism. The very system that ensures their votes count is teetering, but, unlike gas prices, survival of the American way seems like an abstraction.
The upcoming Jan. 6 hearings will illuminate a dark day and warn of future threats – but voters under assault from all directions in their daily lives likely will be making political choices based on issues much closer to home. Biden and his party, the party that rejects election lies and attempted coups, understand that they must address those concrete concerns. And they still have opportunities. Here’s what to watch:
►Democrats can pass a deal that includes items important to them and many American voters – lower Medicare prescription drug prices, clean energy incentives and possibly an extension of expanded Affordable Care Act subsidies that are scheduled to expire this year. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is a key negotiator. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., would also have to be on board for the package to pass in the split Senate.
►Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade could mobilize women, Democrats, the LGBTQ community and others deeply alarmed by the 6-3 conservative Supreme Court. The message – Democrats are the only party that will protect abortion rights.
Inflation, shootings are top concerns
►Amid a wave of horrific shootings, a Senate group is discussing bipartisan proposals that include stronger gun buyer background checks and incentives to bolster “red flag” laws in the states. If anything passes, Democrats must make clear that much more needs to happen – and that they are the only party that would take steps like banning assault-style weapons.
►Biden has at least two things he can do himself to ease inflation pressures driving economic dissatisfaction. He can drop some Trump-era tariffs on foreign goods, which would reduce the consumer price index about 1.3 percentage points and save U.S. families on average about $800. And in a move that might energize younger voters, he could forgive some student debt. He has been talking about $10,000, which would wipe out all or at least half of what’s owed by 53% of those with debt.
Democrats need more Democrats to accomplish many of their goals, topped by saving democracy from election fantasists whose hopes lie in iron-fisted minority rule enforced by any means necessary. There are many more primaries with Big Lie candidates on the ballot, including in Colorado. This is not outlandish science fiction. This is America if people don’t take voting seriously.
All champions of democracy should think of the 2022 midterms as the Jackson Pollock election. Splatter all kinds of issues and arguments on the canvas. It doesn’t matter what ultimately sticks and gets people to vote. It just matters that they do.
Jill Lawrence is a columnist for USA TODAY and author of “The Art of the Political Deal: How Congress Beat the Odds and Broke Through Gridlock.” Follow her on Twitter: @JillDLawrence
This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Election liars are on 2022 ballots. Here’s how Democrats can stop them.