“Democrats Are Running Out of Time; Voting-rights advocates are scared that the White House isn’t taking Republican threats to the ballot seriously enough.”

Ron Brownstein for The Atlantic:

Still, it’s clear that the White House is operating at a more tempered level of concern than other Democrats about the threats to small-d democracy emerging in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s attacks on the 2020 election. Based on my conversations with them, officials there seem to take a more nuanced and restrained view of what’s happening. They do not believe that more assertive public denunciation from Biden would dissuade any of the Republican governors or legislators who have moved to restrict voting rights. And although White House officials consider the laws offensive from a civil-rights perspective, they do not think most of those laws will advantage Republicans in the 2022 and 2024 elections as much as many liberal activists fear.

The senior official noted that the Biden campaign repeatedly adjusted its tactics as the electoral rules changed throughout the 2020 election, and that Biden ultimately won more votes than any president in either party ever has. Looking ahead to 2022 and 2024, “I think our feeling is, show us what the rules are and we will figure out a way to educate our voters and make sure they understand how they can vote and we will get them out to vote,” the official told me. Through on-the-ground organizing, “there are work-arounds to some of these provisions,” said a senior Democrat familiar with White House thinking, who also spoke with me on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Contrast their comments with those of Fred Wertheimer, the president of the reform group Democracy 21 and former president of Common Cause, who told me that Republicans’ actions since Biden’s election constitute “the greatest attack on the democratic process in the 50 years I’ve been working on these issues.” Or with those of Ian Bassin, the executive director of Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan group studying threats to the electoral system: “I think we are in a far more precarious place just five months later than we were even from November through January. If that trajectory continues, you can see where it’s headed by November 2022 or November 2024.”

The White House does see a risk in the possibility that Republicans—whether local election officials, GOP-controlled state legislatures, or a potential Republican majority in the U.S. House or Senate—will refuse to certify clear Democratic wins in the 2022 and 2024 elections. The senior Democrat told me, “Given how things have developed since January 6, if the situation is not brought under some control and this isn’t countered effectively, then I think there is a significant risk” that “Republican officials, unlike the ones we saw standing up to pressure in 2020, are going to decline to certify Democratic victories.” If Republicans hold the House, Senate, or both after the 2024 election, that could allow Congress to try to install a GOP president even if clear evidence exists that the Democrat won.

The senior White House official told me Biden aides believe that the best way to overcome Republicans’ undermining of upcoming elections is to maintain Democratic control of the House and Senate. And the best way to achieve that is for Biden to pass the agenda he ran on, which includes working to mitigate political conflict and compromising with Republicans where possible. “We have to go win elections in 2022, so we keep control of the House and Senate, which is the single most critical thing to protecting us for 2024,” the official said.


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