Republicans Are Outlining Their Strategy to Steal Future Elections in Plain Sight

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Photo credit: Tasos Katopodis - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tasos Katopodis - Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris made the grave mistake this past weekend of acknowledging Americans value Memorial Day partly because it involves a day off from work, which earned her some vitriol from the same people waging a sustained assault on American democracy. That those we honor on Memorial Day fought to safeguard more than the flag and the song does not seem to register to these people as a trigger for them to feel ashamed, because genuine democracy is not an essential feature of the American experiment in their eyes. This country rightfully belongs to them and their fellow travelers, and if sacrifices must be made to maintain that illusion—and keep the country out of the Wrong People's hands—they'll be made. Along the way, we'll be subjected to a rolling river of bad-faith bullshit while the foundations of this whole thing steadily erode.

Because nothing says "honoring the fallen" like calling for a military coup. That's what we got from General Jack D. Ripper at a QAnon conference in Texas on Memorial Day Monday. One of the loony toons in attendance asked the following of former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn—who has, in the time since, become a felon and pledged allegiance to the cult: "I want to know why what happened in Minamar can't happen here?" By this, the American Patriot meant, "Myanmar," and the military coup that took place there. By this, he meant there should be a military coup to reinstall Donald Trump as president. To this, ex-General Flynn replied: "No reason, I mean, it should happen here. No reason. That's right." It seems Flynn quickly realized that's not right, or at least you shouldn't say that's right in public. He's since denied endorsing a Myanmar-style military coup, despite the whole video thing, and the fact that a coming coup has become a major tenet of QAnonism over the last few months, along with the idea all their political opponents are pedophiles who should be rounded up and executed.

Photo credit: James Devaney - Getty Images
Photo credit: James Devaney - Getty Images

This little gem has also, according to the New York Times' Maggie Haberman, entered the addled mind of the former president. He thinks he'll be back in the Oval Office by August, or at least he keeps saying that to people. That timeline might be based more in Trump's desperation to avoid prosecution for decades of Totally Above-Board Business Practices than actual belief, but it's not hard to see where this is going. Republicans will never accept another national election if they don't like the result. This is what happened in 2020, of course: they didn't like that Trump lost, so he and his followers almost instantly gravitated towards the legitimately insane claim that there was widespread fraud that cost him the election. They have never produced evidence of this at any point, but they are using the Questions and Concerns they themselves ginned up as justification not just for the delusional "audits" in Arizona and elsewhere, but also for more restrictive voting laws. People are concerned about Irregularities based on our shadowy talk of Irregularities, so the only solution is for us to make it harder to vote.

But it's not just the voter suppression. Republican state legislatures are also seizing control of election-certification procedures so that they will not fail Mr. Trump next time like they did in 2020. The then-president's final attempt to steal the election centered on getting states, then Congress, to refuse to certify the election results based on nonsense allegations of fraud. This was the underlying theme of January 6: the mob that came to the capital that day at Trump's beckoning, then marched to the Capitol at Trump's direction, was tasked with stopping the certification. That's why they were chanting for Mike Pence—and eventually, chanting they wanted to hang him. Trump had pumped them full of bullshit about how Pence could somehow stop the certification.

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And so this is how they see it playing out in future elections. They're not trying to hide it. It's not subtle. They are doing all the stuff Trump begged them to do to keep him in power in contravention of the will of the people. First, they'll try to stop people from voting. But if that doesn't work, they'll try to throw out the election results on the basis of "fraud." And the task will be made easier by the fact that in a bunch of states, practitioners of the Big Lie are running for state-level positions that are in charge of administering elections and/or certifying them. The mechanisms of electoral democracy will deliver the right outcomes, or they will be remade to deliver those outcomes. And undergirding it all will be an outright assault on reality itself. You need the window dressing of the "fraud" claims to justify the vandalization of democratic institutions, but there's also an almost primal force at work here, where any defeat for The Movement represents an attack on The America You Know and Love, a theft of the nation itself by Others and undesirables. Their votes are fraudulent because They are casting them.

And there is no lie that goes too far. Another development from this weekend, in addition to Kamala Harris's grave insult to the fallen and Michael Flynn's patriotic exuberance, was that an attorney for the D.C. police admitted for the first time, in court, that tear gas was used to clear protesters away from Lafayette Park so Trump could hold up a Bible in front of a church. That ham-handed proto-fascist gesture happened one year ago today, and Trump and his minions spent the ensuing weeks and months slinging bullshit about whether it was tear gas. They lied, they will lie again, and they'll happily turn to force to achieve their political ends if democracy fails to produce them. And all the while, the United States Senate flounders, unable or unwilling to grasp that free elections are on the chopping block. We often overestimate the gravity of the times we live in, but this is not an example thereof. It's all up for grabs now.

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