Opinion | We need a plan to deny the election deniers victory

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Rational people may differ as to whether the Justice Department can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defeated former president Donald Trump and his chief enablers committed crimes in their 2021 coup attempt. What is not controvertible is that Trump lost the election, lacked any proof of fraud, betrayed our democracy by attempting to overthrow the election results and sparked a violent assault on the Capitol.

Yet more than 100 Republican election deniers, according to a Post analysis, will be on the ballot in November. The question now is what we as a country must do about that.

As a preliminary matter, no one should doubt that election deniers must be kept from public office. Republicans who continue to fan the “big lie” of a stolen election are either nincompoops or liars, and are therefore a threat to two essential elements of democracy: the sanctity of elections and the peaceful transfer of power. They are incapable of abiding by the oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic and should be disqualified from office.

We know that many of the incumbent House and Senate Republicans who tried to reject valid electoral votes and continue to fan the “big lie” will be reelected. Such is the diminished state of our democracy that voters will keep such characters in power. But a full-court press to keep the number of such officeholders down and to defeat election deniers running at the state level for secretary of state, attorney general and governor is essential to prevent a rerun of Trump’s attempted coup in 2024 and beyond. “No election deniers running elections” seems a simple enough message.

As of yet, there seems to be no coherent plan to achieve that basic goal. Hoping the nuttiest contenders in these contests for election-related posts will lose is not a viable plan; it’s a recipe for disaster. (Didn’t millions of people make that error in 2016?) Instead of wishful thinking, the media, Democrats, independents, sane Republicans, donors and retired officials all have a role to play to defend the sanctity of elections.

First, the media has an obligation to identify the election deniers running for these critical roles, confront their lies and refuse to treat them like ordinary politicians. No responsible editorial board should endorse election deniers for posts with responsibility for elections.

Second, Democrats from President Biden on down must focus their fire on election deniers and persuade voters that no policy issue justifies putting these people in office. Biden will need to give more than a single speech; he will need to campaign coast to coast to convince voters it is essential not to put (or keep) in office people who would deny Trump’s betrayal and encourage insurrection as a political tool.

Democrats should invite independents and democracy-loving Republicans to vote against election deniers, particularly those who would administer elections. Nominees running against such candidates should make every effort to reach out to those who would ordinarily vote Republican and make clear that they’ll listen to their views, represent their interests and protect democracy on their behalf.

Third, responsible Republicans politicians (looking at you, Sen. Mitt Romney), retired politicians (that’s you, former president George W. Bush), sober Republican donors and former GOP officials (now is your chance to earn redemption, former attorney general William P. Barr) should use their influence to defeat the deniers. They aren’t going to reach the hardcore MAGA voters, but they can influence run-of-the-mill Republican voters or Republican-leaning voters.

In an ideal world, this sort of unified campaign would be marshaled against election deniers running for all offices, including for the House and Senate, but given the sheer number of candidates who pose a threat to the country, democracy defenders would do well to focus on those running for posts with the power to certify elections. The most immediate concern should be to safeguard the country from future coups.

Is it too much to hope that a broad coalition across party lines could commit to defeating candidates who have made clear they don’t respect truth or elections? If so, our democracy is on life support.



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