Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Democracy Wasn’t On the Ballot, Extremism Was

And it lost. Big time. Behold the wisdom of crowds.

An abortion-rights activist and an anti-abortion counter-protester argue during the Women’s March Action Rally for reproductive rights at Mariachi Plaza on October 8, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)

Democracy was on the ballot, argued Democrats in the run-up to yesterday’s elections. If voters elected Republican governors and a Republican majority in Congress, Democrats and media pundits warned, we could soon see the end of the American system of republican democracy. Those Republicans who denied the outcome of the 2020 election would use their position to help Donald Trump steal the 2024 election, tear up the Constitution, and install himself as dictator-for-life. Or something.

But many Democratic candidates have themselves denied the results of past elections. In November 2002, Al Gore said he “would have won” the presidency had all the votes in Florida been counted, even though in 2001 The New York Times conducted a comprehensive review of all uncounted Florida ballots and found that George W. Bush would have won even had the United States Supreme Court allowed a manual recount of the votes to go forward. In 2005, Democratic Senate and House members objected to the certification of Ohio’s electoral college votes for George W. Bush claiming “numerous, serious election irregularities,” while the losing Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, claimed that voters were “denied their right to vote; too many who tried to vote were intimidated.” In 2017, House Democrats objected to the 2016 electoral votes, 67 Democrats boycotted the inauguration claiming his election was “illegitimate” and in 2019, Hillary Clinton said the election was “stolen” from her and that Trump “knows” he stole the election and was “an illegitimate president.”

It’s true that election denialism is much more widespread among Republicans than it is among Democrats. Where seven Democratic House members objected to the certification of their states’ votes for Trump in 2017, 139 Republican House members and eight Republican senators objected to the certification of their states’ votes for Biden in 2021, notes Cathy Young at The Bulwark. At the state level, 19 Republican attorneys general coordinated with Trump’s legal team to invalidate the results of the vote and involved fraudulent electors sending phony certificates to Washington depicting Trump as the winner. And Trump encouraged a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol Building on January 6 in an effort to stop the certification of Biden’s election.

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