Stopping the Next Insurrection Starts Down-Ballot
The GOP is planning to seize power by any means necessary in 2024, electing Democratic Governors in battleground states is one way to stop them.
What happened one year ago today at the United States Capitol is one of the darkest moments in U.S. history and a grave warning about what is to come. For a very brief moment, the near-universal bipartisan condemnation of the violent assault signaled the possibility that the Republican Party would turn away from Donald Trump and his dangerous strain of conspiracy theory-driven authoritarianism.
A year later, the events of January 6th, 2021 have not proven a turning point. They are a rallying cry. Trump is more firmly in control of his party today than when he was in the White House. The Big Lie is now an article of faith among Republican elected officials and voters. Most believe the election was stolen from Trump. The rest pretend to believe it in order to avoid the wrath of the MAGA base. Instead of being convicted or chastened, those who spread the Big Lie and incited the violence of January 6th have been emboldened.
A lot of the media coverage this week is looking back at what happened and who is responsible. Congress is doing the same. But we also need to use today’s anniversary to look forward. Preparations for the next insurrection are underway and out in the open.
The Next Insurrection is Coming
“January 6th was practice” has become a rallying cry for the Right. And as Bart Gellman ominously wrote in The Atlantic:
For more than a year now, with tacit and explicit support from their party’s national leaders, state Republican operatives have been building an apparatus of election theft. Elected officials in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other states have studied Donald Trump’s crusade to overturn the 2020 election. They have noted the points of failure and have taken concrete steps to avoid failure next time. Some of them have rewritten statutes to seize partisan control of decisions about which ballots to count and which to discard, which results to certify and which to reject. They are driving out or stripping power from election officials who refused to go along with the plot last November, aiming to replace them with exponents of the Big Lie. They are fine-tuning a legal argument that purports to allow state legislators to override the choice of the voters.
The fact Republicans are moving ahead with a plan to steal the election in 2024 without fear of consequence is frightening and depressing. The political winds heading into the midterms are at their backs. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema remain more interested in protecting their centrist credentials than American democracy. Too much of the political media has normalized election theft as a legitimate political strategy in a fruitless attempt to avoid accusations of bias.
The time, place, and plan for perhaps the greatest crime in American history have been identified. We have three years to stop it. Yet, our political leaders are either unwilling or unable to intervene.
When people ask what can be done, the list is long: keep the House and the Senate, pass the Freedom to Vote Act, reform the filibuster, fix the Electoral Counts Act, win all the elections, etc. Most of these items are incredibly challenging. Some are downright impossible due to the political environment or the bizarre predilections of a couple of senators. The size of the threat, combined with the difficulty of addressing it, can feel paralyzing. But just because we can’t do everything, doesn’t mean nothing can be done. There is one achievable chokepoint that would make it nearly impossible for Trump or his heirs to steal the next election: winning key governors’ races.
Battleground Governors are Key
The Republican plan to steal the 2020 election was always doomed to fail. Democrats controlled the House of Representatives and therefore had a majority to certify the election. As importantly, there were safeguards earlier in the process to ensure there was nothing Donald Trump, Kevin McCarthy, or Mike Pence could do to alter the results. Ultimately, that election came down to six states — Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia, and Arizona.
As the New York Times wrote in a 2020 fact check:
It is up to Congress to accept the Electoral College results, which will happen on Jan. 6. Even if a state legislature were to send to Congress ballots from its own appointed slate of electors, many legal scholars have said that Congress would have to give preference to the slate sent by the governor.
In other words, Democratic governors are the anti-Trump card. In 2020, the Democrats held the governorship in four of those six states. In 2024, all six of those governors are up for reelection.
Democrats have a chance to hold the four states we had and pick up Georgia and Arizona too. But it is also possible that Republicans could end 2022 controlling the governorship in all six key battleground states. The Cook Political Report currently rates all six races as “tossups.” The good news is that every one of them is winnable. We have great candidates running in all six races:
Michigan: Governor Gretchen Whitmer is running for reelection;
Wisconsin: Governor Tony Evers is up for reelection;
Nevada: Governor Steve Sisolak is running for a second term;
Pennsylvania: Attorney General Josh Shapiro is currently running unopposed;
Georgia: Stacey Abrams is running for governor again to claim the office denied to her in 2018
Arizona: There are several Democrats running for the nomination, including Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.
If you are looking for a way to channel your anger on this day, you might consider supporting these candidates. I have hyperlinked the names of the candidates to their campaign websites. Another option is donating to the Democratic Governors Association.
We need to do everything we can to hold onto our narrow congressional majorities and fight like hell to pass voting rights legislation, but we can’t forget that stopping the next insurrection begins down-ballot.