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Video interview: Greg Sargent on the threat of election subversion
It's scary, but there are reasons for hope, and lots we can do.
Greg Sargent is a political reporter at the Washington Post, who writes the Plum Line blog. He has consistently sounded the alarm about continued efforts by Trump supporters to pave the way for an even worse repeat of 2020s attempted election denial, and has advocated specific legislation that could reduce the risk.
That seems like a pretty important topic right now. A contested 2024 presidential election and protracted constitutional crisis in the U.S. could send business sentiment plummeting, crash asset markets, destabilize the global economy, endanger global security, or — in the very worst-case scenario — even lead to a civil war. So from even a purely financial perspective, it makes sense to start thinking about this risk. Thus, I sat down to talk to Greg about it. We discussed the threat of a contested election and how legislation could reduce the risk, but we also talked about how progressives are focusing on the wrong issues right now and need to reorient their efforts.
My key takeaways were:
Trump and his allies are trying to install people favorable to the idea of election denial (refusal to certify, etc.) in key positions in Republican-controlled states.
U.S. law is fairly vague on how electoral votes are counted, including key details like the role of the Vice President. Amending the Electoral Count Act could fix this procedural ambiguity and lessen the risk of a contested election in 2024. There are also other bills in Congress trying to address this.
Manchin might be willing to support a filibuster carve-out to address electoral counting issues.
Any attempts by GOP-controlled states to send slates of “fake” electors to Congress will be contested at the state level, but the outcome might also depend on who controls Congress and what the rules for counting the electors are.
Many Republicans probably don’t want to subvert the electoral process or have their party controlled by Trump, but Trump’s ability to send primary challengers up against them can cow them into going along.
Some Republicans like Glenn Youngkin are winning elections by appeasing movement conservatives without kowtowing to Trump. If these people can prove that Republicans can win without subverting democracy, it might make the party more willing to resist Trump.
Progressives aren’t focusing enough on the danger of election denial/subversion in 2024; instead, they’re mainly focused on voting access and on gerrymandering.
The focus on voting access (e.g. the John Lewis Voting Rights Act) is morally important for the long term, but in the short term it probably doesn’t affect turnout that much, and even in the long term it might help Republicans instead of Democrats.
Gerrymandering is a real problem for Democrats, but so far, state-level independent commissions in blue states have actually hurt the Dems’ electoral chances by preventing them from gerrymandering in retaliation. Meanwhile, red states are not going to do anything about gerrymandering.
In other words, progressives need to reprioritize. They need to put most or all of their focus on preventing Trump from succeeding in 2024 where he failed in 2020. And they should probably quietly look for assistance from those Republicans who have no desire to turn their party into a movement for Trumpist insurrection. Otherwise we could stumble into a catastrophe in just a few years.