America’s scary times don’t end with Halloween

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL November 7, 2022

Until recently, it was tempting and deeply comforting to think that America’s election-deniers were just too crazy to win the real contest. Ie. that they would never really have any real impact on the democratic system.

But with the midterms just 48 hours away (full disclosure: I vote in Florida), it’s time to face the truth.

Take a look at this analysis from FiveThirtyEight’s Kaleigh Rogers: “Of the 185 Republican candidates running for House, Senate and governor’s seats who have denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election, 124 — or 67 percent — are in races our forecast currently pins at ‘Solid R’, meaning they have a 95-in-100 or better chance of winning. Overall, a bigger share of election deniers are running in Solid R races than Republican candidates in general: Of the 496 Republican candidates running for House, Senate and governor, 225 — or 45 percent — are in Solid R races.”

That’s a shocker.

And quite a change from some weeks ago. Then, there was reassuring news – wishful thinking, perhaps – on the election-denier front. Then, everyone was talking about the fact that some election-deniers were just engaged in role play. That they were scamming Donald Trump and his supporters in order to win the primary. For example, New Hampshire Senate hopeful Don Bolduc strategically abandoned claims that the 2020 election was stolen just as soon as he became the candidate.

Mr Bolduc was one of those who buoyed up hopes that committed election-deniers knew the facts. That they would lose in the real contest because, so the argument went, conspiracy theories are more of a fringe view in the US than most people realise.

But it’s been some time since the hard numbers don’t yield to softening. There are an awful lot of election-deniers running for office: 35 per cent of Republican candidates have fully denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election; another 10 per cent had raised questions about it. This means that 45 per cent or just under half of all Republican candidates weren’t really sure the US ran a fair election. As FiveThirtyEight points out above, a lot of them are in “solid R” seats, so they will win.

Even when election-denial seemed like madness, there were warning signs  the “big lie” was a big deal. Kari Lake, who’s running for governor of Arizona,  wore her Trumpian sympathies unpleasantly high on her sleeve. For her, election-denialism was an article of faith. And she stood a pretty decent chance of winning. In fact, even in late September, Ms Lake  was so confident, she commended the election victory of Italy’s far-right Brothers of Italy party. When the Brothers’ female leader, Giorgia Meloni, led her party to the largest vote share on September 25, Ms Lake insisted to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that Ms Meloni was someone to whom she “could relate”.

The rise and rise of election-deniers in America is staggering and disturbing. Now, well over half of American voters – a whopping 60 per cent – will have an election denier on the November 8 ballot. As Axios says, there are “profound” implications for democracy in America .“If Trump has foot soldiers administering elections in ‘24 battleground states [ie 2024, the next presidential election year], he’d have a distinct advantage in the general election, regardless of his Democratic opponent,” it noted.

Scary times in America don’t end with Halloween.