Seven months after Election Day, former President Donald Trump’s supporters are still auditing ballots in Arizona’s largest county and may revive legislation that would make it easier for judges in Texas to overturn election results.
In Georgia, meanwhile, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a bill allowing it to appoint a board that can replace election officials. Trump loyalists who falsely insist he won the 2020 election are running for top election offices in several swing states. And after a pro-Trump mob staged a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to halt the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory, Republicans banded together to block an independent investigation of the riot, shielding Trump from additional scrutiny of one of the darkest days of his administration.
To democracy advocates, Democrats and others, the persistence of the GOP’s election denial shows how the Republican Party is increasingly open to bucking democratic norms, particularly the bipartisan respect traditionally afforded to election results even after a bitter campaign. That’s raising the prospect that if the GOP gains power in next year’s midterms, the party may take the extraordinary step of refusing to certify future elections.
“We have to face the facts that Republicans — obviously with exceptions — have become an authoritarian party,” said Steven Levitsky, a Harvard political scientist and co-author of the book “How Democracies Die.” “It’s impossible to sustain a democracy in a two-party system when one of the parties is not willing to play by the rules of the game.”
Republicans have already offered a preview of how they might operate. On Jan. 6, the day of the Capitol riot, a majority of House Republicans voted to overturn Biden’s victories in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Biden still would have won an Electoral College victory without those states, but the move signaled how the traditionally ceremonial congressional certification process could be weaponized.
For his part, Trump continues to push Republicans to embrace his election lies. He’s criticized his former vice president, Mike Pence, for fulfilling his constitutional duty to preside over the congressional certification of Biden’s victory. And Trump has gone a step further recently by giving credence to a bizarre conspiracy theory that he could somehow be reinstated into the presidency in August, according to a longtime Trump ally who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.