My New York Times Essay: “No One Is Coming to Save Us From the ‘Dagger at the Throat of America’”

I have written this piece for the New York Times. It begins:

The saturation coverage of the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection and of Donald Trump’s attempt to bully his way into a reversal of his loss in the 2020 presidential election has felt dispiriting. More than 70 percent of Republican voters say that they believe Mr. Trump’s false claim of a stolen election, and 59 percent say that accepting the Big Lie is an important part of what it means to be a Republican today.

As we all know, the hyperpolarized, social media-driven information environment makes it virtually impossible to persuade those voters that the 2020 election was fairly run. Those who believe the last election was stolen will be more likely to accept a stolen election for their side next time. They are more willing to see violence as a means of resolving election disputes. Political operatives are laying the groundwork for future election sabotage and the federal government has done precious little to minimize the risk.

Many people who are not dispirited by such findings are uninterested. Exhausted by four years of the Trump presidency and a lingering pandemic, some Americans appear to have responded to the risks to our democracy by simply tuning out the news and hoping that things will just work out politically by 2024.

We must not succumb to despair or indifference. It won’t be easy, but there is a path forward if we begin acting now, together, to shore up our fragile election ecosystem….

Here are the three principles that should guide action supporting democratic institutions and the rule of law going forward.

To begin with, Democrats should not try to go it alone in preserving free and fair elections. Some Democrats, like Marc Elias, one of the leading Democratic election lawyers, are willing to write off the possibility of finding Republican partners because most Republicans have failed to stand up to Mr. Trump, and even those few Republicans who have do not support Democrats’ broader voting rights agenda, such as passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Flying solo is a big mistake. Democrats cannot stop the subversion of 2024 election results alone, particularly if Democrats do not control many statehouses and either house of Congress when Electoral College votes are counted on Jan. 6, 2025. Why believe that any legislation passed only by Democrats in 2022 would stop subversive Republican action in 2024? A coalition with the minority of Republicans willing to stand up for the rule of law is the best way to try to erect barriers to a stolen election in 2024, even if those Republicans do not stand with Democrats on voting rights or other issues. Remember it took Republican election officials, elected officials, and judges to stand up against an attempted coup in 2020.

Other Republicans may find it in their self-interest to work with Democrats on anti-subversion legislation. Senator Minority Whip John Thune recently signaled that his party may support a revision of the Electoral Count Act, the old, arcane rules Congress uses to certify state Electoral College votes. While Mr. Trump unsuccessfully tried to get his Republican vice president, Mike Pence, to throw the election to him or at least into chaos, Republicans know it will be Democratic vice president Kamala Harris, not Mr. Pence, who will be presiding over the Congress’s certification of Electoral College votes in 2025. Perhaps there is room for bipartisan agreement to ensure both that vice presidents don’t go rogue and that state legislatures cannot simply submit alternative slates of electors if they are unsatisfied with the election results.

Reaching bipartisan compromise against election subversion will not stop Democrats from fixing voting rights or partisan gerrymanders on their own — the fate of those bills depend not on Republicans but on Democrats convincing Senators Manchin and Sinema to modify the filibuster rules. Republicans should not try to hold anti-election subversion hostage to Democrats giving up their voting agenda.

Second, because law alone won’t save American democracy, all sectors of society need to be mobilized in support of free and fair elections. It is not just political parties that matter for assuring free and fair elections. It all of civil society: business groups, civic and professional organizations, labor unions and religious organizations all can help protect fair elections and the rule of law. Think, for example, of Texas, which in 2021 passed a new restrictive voting law. It has been rightly attacked for making it harder for some people to vote. But business pressure most likely helped kill a provision in the original version of the bill that would have made it much easier for a state court judge to overturn the results of an election….

Finally, mass, peaceful organizing and protests may be necessary in 2024 and 2025. What happens if a Democratic presidential candidate wins in, say, Wisconsin in 2024, according to a fair count of the vote, but the Wisconsin legislature stands ready to send in an alternative slate of electors for Mr. Trump or another Republican based on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud or other irregularities? These gerrymandered legislators may not respond to entreaties from Democrats, but they are more likely to respond to widespread public protests made up of people of good faith from across the political spectrum. We need to start organizing for this possibility now….

If Republicans have embraced authoritarianism or have refused to confront it, and Democrats in Congress cannot or will not save us, we must save ourselves.

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