The new focus of the far right on local politics, briefly explained
Saturday, a rally of supporters of former President Donald Trump came and went peacefully, with a strong police and media presence and only one a handful of arrests. Before the event, DC officials focused on preventing a repeat of January 6 – but more than eight months after the insurgency, far-right groups have turned to more local causes that could nonetheless have a major impact on national politics.
According to Jared Holt, who does research on domestic extremism for the Atlantic Council’s Digital forensic research laboratory, right-wing extremists like those who stormed the Capitol building were “scared to death” of creating another event like January 6 on Saturday – to the point that several conservative leaders, including Trump, warned their supporters to stay away from the rally, saying it was a trap.
In the end, only a hundred people showed up, according to an estimation by Andrew Beaujon of the Washingtonian – much less than some predictions before the rally – and the demonstrators were sometimes outnumbered by members of the media.
Hello from * that * Capitol gathering that everyone is talking about. We’re about an hour away from the official start time and, unsurprisingly, we’re working with a ratio of around 10 media per attendee. A classic rock mash-up plays on the audio system @VICENews pic.twitter.com/EywP6XidJe
– Tess Owen (@misstessowen) September 18, 2021
But the anemic turnout at Saturday’s event does not reflect the right-wing’s enthusiasm for Trump’s election lies – his supporters are only changing tactics, pushing to elect like-minded politicians and change the law of the United States. state to adapt to a false story of electoral fraud.
“Many are rather … applying this political energy to local and regional scenes,” Holt told Aaron Rupar of Vox last week.
Specifically, this energy manifested itself in a push from the far right to intimidate current and local election officials, many of whom have played a major role push back on Trump’s electoral fraud plots in 2020, and to install a new wave of pro-Trump election officials.
It is a tactic that could have major implications for future US elections, and which extremism experts sounded the alarm bells.
“Become local, [far-right movement figures] suggest to each other, could also help consolidate power and influence their movements gained during the Trump years, âHolt wrote in his Sub-stack information bulletin Last week. âAfter all, few people are really engaged in local politics. That’s a lot of influence to gain for a dedicated movement.
Turning a false narrative into political power
The local impact of Trump’s electoral lie was most visible in some of the battlefield states that fell on President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, for example, election officials from both parties were inundated with harassment from Trump supporters, including explicit death threats. And that’s not a small-scale problem: Reuters identified hundreds of similar threats across the United States, although victims found little recourse to law enforcement.
The harassment has been so severe that about a third of all election workers now feel unsafe in their job, according to a survey conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group for the Brennan Center for Justice earlier this year.
And like the New York Times reported On Saturday, there is now a legal defense committee, the Election Officials Legal Defense Network, specifically to support election officials facing harassment and intimidation.
In many of the same states where officials have faced relentless harassment, far-right figures are also seeking to fire them. In Georgia, for example, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who Many times challenged Trump to confirm that Biden won both Georgia’s electoral votes and the 2020 election, will face a Trump-endorsed main challenger, Representative Jody Hice (R-GA).
According to Politico, Hice voted against the certification of Electoral College 2020 results in January, and he continued to promote electoral fraud lies since. Just after Hice announced his offer in March, Trump released a declaration praising Hice as “one of our most remarkable members of Congress”.
âUnlike the current Georgian Secretary of State, Jody is taking the lead with integrity,â Trump said in the statement. “Jody will stop fraud and bring honesty into our elections!”
Hice is also not the only candidate for secretary of state to embrace Trump’s rhetoric of electoral fraud. Candidates like Marc Finchem in Arizona and Kristina karamo in Michigan, both of which were approved by Trump, could have important surveillance of how elections in these states are run if they win a term, although the counting of votes is done by counties and municipalities.
Finchem repeated allegations of electoral fraud and approved a bogus “audit” of the vote count in Maricopa County, Arizona, AP reports. Finchem, a current state official, also admitted he was at the Capitol on January 6, but claims to have stayed 500 meters away and only learned of the attack later.
Like Finchem, Karamo also endorsed false allegations of electoral fraud: according to the Detroit News, she pushed the allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 election, telling Michigan state senators that she had witnessed two cases of election workers misinterpreting ballots to the advantage of Democrats, and she appeared alongside MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell at a rally in June, airing other unfounded election fraud allegations.
As Politico pointed out earlier this year, the actual power of secretaries of state varies from state to state and is often more “ministerial” than anything else – but the danger that pro-Trump election officials have a platform of high level to espouse electoral plots is very real.
“There’s a symbolic risk, and then there’s … a functional risk,” former Kentucky secretary of state Trey Grayson, a Republican, said. says Politico in May. âAny Secretary of State who is a chief electoral official is going to have a megaphone and a media platform during the election. Much of power is the perception of power, or that megaphone.
Democrats have plan to push back electoral subversion efforts
Candidates like Hice, Finchem and Karamo all still have to win the primary and general election – which is by no means a certainty – if they are to become the top electoral officials in their state. But even without election conspirators in the secretary of state’s offices, some states, such as Arizona and Pennsylvania, have already begun to undermine the framework of their states’ election laws.
The GOP-held Pennsylvania Legislature’s Intergovernmental Operations Committee on Wednesday took another step towards a “forensic audit” of the 2020 election results, like the one underway in Arizona when voted to issue a subpoena for voter information – including information that is generally not public, such as the last four digits of voter social security numbers.
And in Arizona, where a strange ‘audit’ of the 2020 elections has already been dragging on for months, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey also took action Limit the power of Arizona Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. In June, Ducey signed a law depriving Hobbs of his power to defend election results in court.
“This is a petty, partisan takeover that is absolutely retaliation against my office,” Hobbs, candidate for governor, says NPR.
“It’s clear from the fact that it ends when my term ends,” she said. “It’s legally questionable at best, but at worst probably unconstitutional.”
Democrats, however, are making some attempts to stave off attempts by the right to overthrow future elections. In August, the House adopted the John Lewis Advancement of Voting Rights Act, who would help restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) recently introduced its own voting rights bill, the Freedom to Vote Act, which seeks to prevent the same electoral subversions Republicans are trying to enact in several key states.
This bill, however, like that of the Democrats previous voting rights legislation, the For the People Act – has virtually no chance of becoming law under current Senate rules, as filibuster means it would take at least 10 Republican votes to pass.
Senate Democrats could end the filibuster or create a waiver of voting rights legislation, using their simple majority of 50 votes, but that path also seems unlikely thanks to continuous opposition by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).
And with efforts like these tied to a deeply polarized Congress, Trump supporters peddling electoral fraud plots may continue to make inroads into local races and law.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been at a point that has been so tenuous for democracy”, Christine Todd Whitman, the former Republican governor of New Jersey and co-chair of the United States United Democracy Center, told CNN last week. “I think it’s a huge danger because it’s the first time I’ve seen it being undermined – our democracy is undermined from within.”