For a check on what’s happening in the American midterm elections, one can do worse than to look at candidates that the Grand Old never-so-unhinged Party is putting up in the battleground state of Arizona.
Start with the new MAGA star, Kari Lake, who is candidate for governor. She has magnetism aplenty. Having honed her skills as a TV news anchor, her poise is remarkable, her sentences delivered with flawless syntax.
Once a Democrat, she made a sharp right turn into the zealotry of Trumpland. She refuses to recognize Joe Biden as a legitimate president. She would not have certified the 2020 Democratic win and she’s prepared to disallow a future victory. “We will not stand for another stolen election.” Her platform advocates radically reforming Arizona’s voting system so as to restrict Democrats’ path to the polls in every way possible.
Along with Ms. Lake, who is favoured to win, the Republicans have a full-blown election denier running for the position of Arizona’s secretary of state. That office is responsible for voting infrastructure and certifying elections, which the governor must then sign on to.
The GOP candidate is Mark Finchem. He’s a member of the far-right extremist group the Oath Keepers who has fundraised with QAnon members. Head case, right? But be that as it may, Mr. Finchem has a lead in the polls and even if he loses, he says he won’t concede. As a member of the state legislature, he worked assiduously after the 2020 election to try to find ways to disqualify votes for Mr. Biden. He introduced legislation to decertify the election. He leaves no doubt he will do it again – only this time potentially with the power the new office would bestow – should Old Joe repeat.
He and Ms. Lake have the makings of a heckuva tag team. The Arizona races also feature Blake Masters, a 36-year-old venture capitalist, who is running for Senate against the Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly. Mr. Masters has also been an election denier, declaring, “I think Mr. Trump won in 2020.” But trailing in the polls, he flip-flopped this month to say, in a statement of convenience, that Mr. Biden is a legitimate president.
On election denialism, the Copper State need not be singled out. According to a Washington Post survey, election deniers will be on the ballot in 48 of 50 states and will total more than half of all Republicans running for congressional and state offices. And these are not minor candidates. Based on the Cook Political Report, more than 170 such candidates are expected to win. For Secretary of State positions, 17 Republican nominees are in the election denier camp or close to it. Six are running in swing states.
It was thought or at least hoped that after all the audits and court challenges showing the 2020 election result to be legitimate – there were 65 election lawsuits and Republicans lost 64! – that the party would move on, get over it. As our former blue collar prime minister Jean Chrétien once pithily put it, “A proof is a proof, And when you have a good proof, it’s because it’s proven.”
Ah yes, but not so with the MAGA movement. Its stop-the-steal adherents have made disallowing adverse election results a key component of their arsenal. With candidates like Ms. Lake, they want to rewrite the rules of the game. As in, if we win fine, if we lose, it’s fraud. Doesn’t count.
It’s beyond crazy. But they’re getting away with it. Multitudes of deniers will win high office on Nov. 8. Momentum for these crucial midterms was with the Democrats for a while but appears to have shifted back to the GOP. Inflation numbers have worsened again, which hurts the Dems, and the beneficial impact of the Supreme Court’s reversal of the Roe vs. Wade decision has tapered off.
The Republicans could well gain control of both houses of Congress, and along with victories of deniers at the state level, be in a position to force changes to the machinery of power that contaminates U.S. democracy in a manner heretofore unseen.
Given the magnitude of the threat – will there be more Jan. 6s? – Democrats should be enraged, ready to vote in unprecedented numbers. But there’s not much indication that is the case. And even if they do come out in such waves, there’s no guarantee in the America of 2022 that their votes will count.