WASHINGTON — This week’s vote had an unspoken candidate: American democracy. Two years of relentless attacks on democratic traditions by former President Donald Trump and his allies left the country’s future in question, and voters reacted.
Many of the candidates who supported the lie that Trump won the 2020 election lost races that could have put them in a position to influence future elections. But the conditions that threatened the demise of democracy persist, and Americans view them from very different perspectives, depending on their politics.
In New Hampshire, voters re-elected Republican government leader Chris Sununu to a fourth term, but rejected three congressional candidates who were either supported by Trump or sided with the former president. Instead, voters sent Democratic incumbents back to Washington.
Bill Greiner, a restaurant owner and founder of a community bank, said the Trump candidates won their Republican primaries by “owning the crazy job” and then provided an easy playbook for Democrats in the general election.
Greiner, a Republican, said he has fallen behind GOP nominees in recent years when his favorite candidates lost primaries, but he was unable to vote for candidates who continued to deny the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.
“The election is not stolen, and anyone who leads and ends up with an election denier will not do well,” he said. “I think that point was proved with exclamation marks.”
In the run-up to the midterm elections, President Joe Biden spotlighted threats to American democracy, though critics suggested it was a ploy to divert attention from his poor ratings and voter concerns about the economy.
On Thursday, Biden said the country’s core tenets had held up: “There were many concerns about whether democracy would stand the test. And it worked!”
Election Day showed Biden was not alone in his concerns: 44% of voters said the future of democracy was their top consideration, according to TBEN VoteCast, a comprehensive survey of more than 94,000 voters across the country. That included about 56% of Democrats and 34% of Republicans.
But among Republicans, those who identified as part of Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again movement were more likely than others to say that the future of democracy was the most important factor in voting, 37% to 28%.
Democracy concerns were shared by members of both major parties, but for different reasons: According to the TBEN VoteCast poll, only about a third of Republicans believe Biden was legitimately elected. party.
Democrats, meanwhile, believed the spread of election lies and the number of Republican candidates they repeated was an attack on the very foundation of democracy.
Several of the most outspoken candidates who denied the results of the 2020 presidential election ended up losing races for the entire state office involved in election oversight.
Trump and his supporters targeted races for the Secretary of State, the agency that oversees voting in most states, after failing to reverse the 2020 election results at the state level.
The TBEN VoteCast survey also showed the effect the false claims have had on how Americans view election security. It found that MAGA Republicans were more likely to lack confidence in the midterm vote – about half of MAGA Republicans overall were not confident that the votes would be counted accurately, but only 3 in 10 of their non-MAGA counterparts had those concerns.
There was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election or any credible evidence that it was tainted, as confirmed by federal and state election officials, exhaustive assessments in battlefield states, and Trump’s own Attorney General.
The former president’s charges of fraud were also flatly rejected by dozens of courts, including his appointed judges.
Yet the conspiracy theories run deep. They provided fertile ground for sowing mistrust as fairly routine problems arose in Detroit and Maricopa County, Arizona, on Tuesday. The problem was easy to fix, but not before it sparked recriminations on social media, including posts from Trump.
Kari Lake, Arizona’s Republican governor’s candidate, has raised the possibility of nefarious activity and has said that if she wins, she would call a special session to make sweeping changes to Arizona’s election laws.
Questions about elections were directly on the ballot in several states.
In Nebraska, voters approved a voter ID proposal that was born in the wake of the 2020 election and its false claims of fraud. Michigan voters approved a wide-ranging initiative backed by voting rights advocates. Among other things, it would expand early voting options, require state-funded return postage and offer drop boxes for absentee ballots. The measure also specified that the Board of State Canvassers has only an “administrative, non-discretionary” duty to certify election results.
A long-term victory should not be proclaimed, Ron Daniels, president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, said: “The white nationalist, white supremacist MAGA movement has been controlled but not defeated.”
He said black voters in particular were aware of what was at stake. The election deniers who could potentially invalidate votes were part of a long history of attempts to deny people, especially people of color, representation.
The results were “dangerously close,” Daniels said. “We have to wait for the final result.”
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat who won re-election against a candidate who repeated Trump’s lies in 2020, said she was encouraged to see concessions from candidates who had previously refused to admit Biden’s victory was legitimate or who repeated Trump’s election lies.
Among them was Minnesota Republican governor Scott Jensen, who lost to the incumbent Democratic governor.
“Tim Walz is governor for another four years,” he told supporters. “Republicans, frankly, we didn’t have a red wave. It was a blue wave. And we have to stop, we have to recalibrate. We have to ask ourselves, ‘OK, what can we learn from this? What can we do better?’”
Jenna Ellis, senior legal counsel for Pennsylvania Republican governor candidate Doug Mastriano, said on her podcast, “There’s not this kind of concern that we had in 2020. We can’t just say, ‘Oh my god, everything was stolen.’ That is ridiculous for this election.”
The fact that some of the strongest supporters of Trump’s claims conceded could help “restore some of the norms of the Democratic process that were destroyed during Trump,” said Dartmouth historian Matthew Delmont.
The question now is whether democracy is safe, or just safe today, he said.
The Bharat Express News writer Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.
Follow TBEN’s coverage of the election at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors involved in the 2022 midterm elections.
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