Election Denialism did Poorly at the Polls

The "America First" slate of candidates lost all but one contest.

To me, one of the most concerning elements of the 2022 mid-terms was the prospect that candidates whose platforms were built on denying the 2020 election would be elected to Secretary of State and Governor’s offices. This possibility, especially in swing states, was far more concerning to me than the issue of which party controlled the Congress. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the real potential for a major political crisis was the pivot point of individual officials subverting popular vote outcomes in key states during the 2024 presidential elections. While there are any number of major concerns to be identified in our politics, the notion that we could realistically see a single official attempt to steer a state’s electoral votes in a particular direction was (and is) profoundly concerning.

The good news is that the NYT reports: Voters Reject Election Deniers Running to Take Over Elections

Every election denier who sought to become the top election official in a critical battleground state lost at the polls this year, as voters roundly rejected extreme partisans who promised to restrict voting and overhaul the electoral process. 

The national repudiation of this coalition reached its apex on Saturday, when Cisco Aguilar, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state in Nevada, defeated Jim Marchant, according to The Associated Press. Mr. Marchant, the Republican nominee, had helped organize a national right-wing slate of candidates under the name “America First.”

With Mr. Marchant’s loss to Mr. Aguilar, all but one of those “America First” candidates were defeated. Only Diego Morales, a Republican in deep-red Indiana, was successful, while candidates in Michigan, Arizona and New Mexico were defeated.

The bullet dodged here is major, in my view. The potential for a major political crisis over the issue of electors should not be underestimated.

It is worth noting that gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is also part of the America First SOS slate and while she currently trails in Arizona, it is not guaranteed that she will lose (although it does seem more likely than not).

Since losing is usually a signal to a political party that it needs to reform its behavior, I can only hope that the GOP gets the message. But, of course, as I frequently note, there isn’t a singular “GOP” to get said message, since control of the party label is decentralized and is a function of the primary system, from the highest offices in the land to the lowest.

I would note, too, that while these candidates were overt in their election denialism, they were hardly the only candidates/politicians adding fuel to the Big Lie fire. Just off the top of my head the Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, made a statement about the election being stolen in one of her campaign commercials. She is hardly the only one. The America First SOS types may be the obvious tumors on the GOP, but the cancer of election denialism has spread throughout the body. Maybe the 2022 results will lead to further excising of that cancer, but it is unlikely that we are done with it (cue 45’s pending announcement and how it is dealt with by his co-partisans, for example).

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2022, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    Since losing is usually a signal to a political party that it needs to reform its behavior, I can only hope that the GOP gets the message. But, of course, as I frequently note, there isn’t a singular “GOP” to get said message, since control of the party label is decentralized and is a function of the primary system, from the highest offices in the land to the lowest.

    I agree totally with this, but would stress that the first sentence is historical, while the second is the only operative one today.

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  2. Kylopod says:

    I’m curious to see whether they keep Ronna McDaniel after this year. It’s nothing short of odd that they’ve kept her this long–party chairs are typically replaced very often regardless, and I can’t think of any other example in modern times of one being kept on after two bad election cycles for their party, let alone three. Even though she’s never been a favorite of the MAGA crowd, the fact she’s survived this long is, to me, another sign that the party has a problem with course correction following losses.

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  3. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    For as long as Trump looms over it, the GOP is going to remain in the gutter.

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  4. charon says:

    Since losing is usually a signal to a political party that it needs to reform its behavior, I can only hope that the GOP gets the message.

    Unlikely.

    The GOP is largely a religious party now, not the sort of people receptive to change.

    Apart from that, GOP politicians are largely the little bitches of conservative media, and what puts eyeballs on Fox News screens is not going to change either.

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  5. Scott F. says:

    @MarkedMan:
    The infamous Republican post-mortem in 2012 was earlier example of the GOP trying for reform but the primary voters not playing along. The Republicans are going to have to figure out how to appeal to a broader swath of the center so they are less dependent on their base. And that’s going to be tough when your go-to play is demonizing the Other.

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  6. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK:

    For as long as Trump looms over it, the GOP is going to remain in the gutter.

    While I understand the sentiment, I think all the evidence points to Trump being a manifestation of the underlying trend in the Republican Party rather than the cause of it. I keep coming back to California. They lost power by descending into extremism in a trend that started well before Trump appeared on the scene. Early on, CA Republican Party stalwarts got the message from the election results and tried to wrestle the party back into a more palatable direction, but in a primary-only system they were instead driven into irrelevance or out of the party entirely.

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  7. charon says:

    @MarkedMan:

    While I understand the sentiment, I think all the evidence points to Trump being a manifestation of the underlying trend in the Republican Party rather than the cause of it.

    The GOP base voters are largely crazies of one sort or another, the GOP needs all of their votes, every faction, to have any chance. Some mechanism for the GOP to moderate just does not exist.

  8. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    There were always elements of this, but I think it came to prominence with Pat Buchanan in 1996 and his “peasant with pitchforks” speech. Sarah Palin fanned the embers. It took Donald Trump to turn it into the world’s biggest bonfire.

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  9. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Still, Trump didn’t start the fire. And he didn’t try to fight it, either. And when the GOP crawls out of the gutter, the fire will still be burning. I predict that it will go back to William F. Buckley’s and Pat Buchanan’s erudite and witty fire–full of bon mots and double entendres–rather than the harsh, vulgar one we have now.

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  10. MarkedMan says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I predict that it will go back to William F. Buckley’s and Pat Buchanan’s erudite and witty fire–full of bon mots and double entendres–rather than the harsh, vulgar one we have now.

    Buckley’s reputation has been so thoroughly ret-conned that the entire conservative movement has forgotten how influential he was in the whole anti-civil rights movement, giving a veneer of intellectualism to brutality and depravity. Sorry for the lengthy quote, but it’s worth reading if you haven’t seen it before:

    “Let us speak frankly,” Buckley wrote in the editorial, titled “Why The South Must Prevail.”

    “The South does not want to deprive the Negro of a vote for the sake of depriving him of the vote,” he goes on. “In some parts of the South, the White community merely intends to prevail — that is all. It means to prevail on any issue on which there is corporate disagreement between Negro and White. The White community will take whatever measures are necessary to make certain that it has its way.”

    Buckley goes on to weigh whether such a position is kosher from a sophisticated, conservative perspective. “The central question that emerges,” he writes, “is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically?” His answer is clear:

    “The sobering answer is Yes — the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the median cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is a fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists. The question, as far as the White community is concerned, is whether the claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage. The British believe they do, and acted accordingly, in Kenya, where the choice was dramatically one between civilization and barbarism, and elsewhere; the South, where the conflict is by no means dramatic, as in Kenya, nevertheless perceives important qualitative differences between its culture and the Negroes’, and intends to assert its own. NATIONAL REVIEW believes that the South’s premises are correct. If the majority wills what is socially atavistic, then to thwart the majority may be, though undemocratic, enlightened. It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority.”

    Having justified denying the vote to Black people in the South as “enlightened,” Buckley then grapples with the proper level of violence needed to sustain the “civilized standards” he is intent on upholding.

    “Sometimes it becomes impossible to assert the will of a minority, in which case it must give way, and the society will regress; sometimes the numerical minority cannot prevail except by violence: then it must determine whether the prevalence of its will is worth the terrible price of violence.”

    By 1957, when Buckley was writing the column and Congress was considering its civil rights legislation, lynchings were continuing in the South, a mechanism of discipline to enforce Jim Crow, a regime that rendered the post-Civil War constitutional guarantees of the franchise and the right to equal protection of the laws mere words on paper. Buckley concluded the editorial by suggesting that with enough guidance and charity from white people in the South, Black people may one day be worthy of an equal standing.

    “Universal suffrage is not the beginning of wisdom or the beginning of freedom. Reasonable limitations upon the vote are not exclusively the recommendation of tyrants or oligarchists (was Jefferson either?). The problem in the South is not how to get the vote for the Negro, but how to equip the Negro—and a great many Whites—to cast an enlightened and responsible vote. The South confronts one grave moral challenge. It must not exploit the fact of Negro backwardness to preserve the Negro as a servile class. It is tempting and convenient to block the progress of a minority whose services, as menials, are economically useful. Let the South never permit itself to do this. So long as it is merely asserting the right to impose superior mores for whatever period it takes to effect a genuine cultural equality between the races, and so long as it does so by humane and charitable means, the South is in step with civilization, as is the Congress that permits it to function.”

    Disenfranchisement and a reasonable amount of violence were justified, Buckley wrote, to maintain society.
    Buckley’s argument, “undemocratic” as it may be, is an articulate defense of white supremacy — with a capital W, as was the house style at the magazine then — as the proper means toward the goal of a good society. Maintaining that good society through disenfranchisement and a reasonable amount of violence was justified. The column appears not just in the magazine’s archives but also the 2008 book, “From The New Deal to The New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism,” published by Yale University Press and authored by Joseph E. Lowndes. The thesis of Lowndes’s book, that the fusion of Southern white supremacists and the business class was forged with the intellectual guidance of National Review, was buttressed by research a decade later: a paper from Cambridge University Press called, “‘Will the Jungle Take Over?’ National Review and the Defense of Western Civilization in the Era of Civil Rights and African Decolonization.”

    Given that this column was written amidst a background of the lynching and torture of civil rights activists, white and black, the intellectual veneer here is mighty thin. At heart, Buckley was a crude and animalistic thug, albeit one smart enough to see by the 1970’s that his brand of “we only beat the Negro for his own good” had gone past its sell by date.

    I don’t know if Buckley actually believed this racist tripe or just found it useful in advancing his career. And indeed, his fans and apologists make a great deal of that later shift in position. But he still supported all the same racists and the Southern Policy, although nominally now despite, rather than because, of their racism. And it should be noted that whatever change of heart he had occurred only when it was becoming apparent his racist intellectualism was in danger of costing him his very lucrative television career.

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  11. Gustopher says:

    @charon:

    the GOP needs all of their votes, every faction, to have any chance. Some mechanism for the GOP to moderate just does not exist.

    The Democrats are in the same boat. Being left of most Democrats, I don’t think they need to moderate, but they are balanced across the support of a whole lot of constituencies and cannot afford to lose any.

    @CSK:

    For as long as Trump looms over it, the GOP is going to remain in the gutter.

    Or until the Democrats stumble…

    I wish the Q Caucus was so vile that it drove everyone away from the entire Republican Party, but races are scary close.

    If the Dems nominate a presidential candidate who doesn’t speak well to Black voters, or who cannot balance the culturally conservative Latinos with the Gen Z dyed-blue hair wing, or who irritates the 44% of Gen X that is Dem (what is up with my generation?)… and then the GOP gutter overflows up and down the ballot.

    Doesn’t even need to be someone who is actively bad, just someone who there’s less excitement for in one wing of the party.

  12. Just nutha says:

    @MarkedMan: Why, do you suppose, am I still calling it a fire?

  13. Kari Q says:

    @Gustopher:

    the 44% of Gen X that is Dem (what is up with my generation?)

    People’s political identities tend to form around the culture of their adolescence and young adulthood. When Gen X was 15-20 the presidents were Reagan, Bush, and Clinton (moderate who ran against liberalism), and the Republicans took over Congress. Republican conservatism was ascendant. Naturally we lean more conservative than Boomers (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon) or Millennials (Clinton, Bush, Obama).

    This is the generation as a group; of course individuals vary. My very first vote for president was one of the doomed liberal Democrats who lost in landslides to the Republican conservative – I’ll let you guess whether that is Dukakis or Mondale.