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The Bloodless Coup of 2024

By Donna
October 6, 2021 7:01 am
Category: Politics

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"Last year, Republican officials in key states refused to do the president’s bidding, and the Democratic majority in the House served as an extra backstop. When Trump backers in Congress formally objected to the certifications of Arizona and Pennsylvania—two states that Biden won—the House voted down the objections even though a majority of Republicans supported them. Since the election, however, GOP state legislatures in each of the tipping-points states have introduced or enacted laws that could make it easier to subvert elections, and Trump allies have moved to purge Republicans who bucked him in 2020. In Georgia, for example, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger faces a primary challenge from a conservative member of Congress, Representative Jody Hice, who backed Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.

Next year’s midterm elections, often a challenge for the party in power, pose an even greater threat to the future of American democracy. The GOP could regain majorities in Congress and oust Democratic governors seeking reelection in three states that narrowly voted for Biden—Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Republicans already control the state legislatures in those states, and winning the governorship could allow them to enact more laws to restrict voting and shift authority over elections away from courts and nonpartisan election administrators. To consolidate power even further, conservatives want the Supreme Court to accept a legal theory that would allow state legislatures to pass election laws that are not subject to review by state courts and possibly not even to a veto by their governor.

Victories by Trump-aligned Republicans over the next year in state races and in the courts could open the door to a worst-case scenario for 2024 that, if the election is as tight as the past two presidential races, is both dangerous and entirely plausible, says Ben Berwick, a counsel for Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan group founded in late 2016 to fight authoritarianism in the U.S. First, Berwick told me, Trump backers in the closest tipping-point states would “manufacture doubt about the results, and then use that doubt to allow state legislatures to step in and say, ‘Well, we can’t really be sure of the winner, so we’re just going to decide which slate of electors to choose.’” As my colleague Barton Gellman reported before last year’s election, ambiguities in the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which provides instructions to Congress for resolving disputes, could lead to chaos when lawmakers meet to tally the results."


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