Trumpism Didn’t Kill Democracy–This Time

Election deniers vying to control voting in 2024 lost in a lot of places, including crucial swing states Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
midterms-trumpism-democracy
Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano speaks during a rally featuring former U.S. President Donald Trump at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport November 5, 2022 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

This content comes from the latest installment of our weekly Breaking the Vote newsletter out of VICE News’ D.C. bureau, tracking the ongoing efforts to undermine the democratic process in America. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday.

Thank you for your incites

Democracy had a pretty good night on Tuesday! Election deniers vying to control voting in 2024 lost in a lot of placesDonald Trump’s attempts to stir up chaos in Arizona, where the count continues, weren’t repeated by other right-wing elites, and for the most part went ignored. At first.

Advertisement

But now, the propagandists have begun to pile on.  

In Pennsylvania, Trump and his acolytes’ efforts to incite chaos weren’t enough to convince Doug Mastriano, the insurrection-attending GOP candidate for governor, to cry fraud after losing by 14 points. But in Arizona, governor-wannabe Kari Lake is keeping her feral base primed, speaking out against mail-in and drop-box balloting, which Arizona has used reliably for decades.

Advertisement

Just as in 2020, election deniers exploit the time it can take to tabulate ballots. Lake’s been hard at it in her very tight race attacking the process, while behind her MAGA supporters spread calls for protests over supposed fraud. It should come as no surprise that GOP secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem has used predictable tabulation time to hector election officials and whip up conspiracists.  

Election officials in Maricopa County expect to keep counting through Saturday. Check out Liz Landers’ latest report from inside and outside the tabulation center, as the ballots get tallied and the propagandists circle.

Planet Reno

We’re also still waiting for results in Nevada, where one of MAGA’s most notorious conspiracists is in a razor-close race for secretary of state. As of Thursday nightJim Marchant trailed Democrat Francisco Aguilar by about 1,200 votes, with lots of ballots still uncounted from blue-leaning areas like Las Vegas and Reno. Trump falsely accused election administrators there of cheating too.

Advertisement

Bottom line, there’s a long way to go here. Trump himself isn’t on the ballot, and so far he appears too distracted by the apotheosis of Ron DeSantis to launch the kind of relentless disinformation campaign that led to a crisis in 2021. But high-profile defeats in Arizona or Nevada could move his hard-core supporters’ incitements from the internet to the real world. Let’s hope not. 

Either way, there’s no reason to believe that significant losses for election deniers this week mean democracy is now safe. 

Hundreds of candidates who denied the 2020 result were elected nationwide. Republicans who tried to sabotage the investigation of Jan. 6—and even some who participated in the coup—are poised to take power in the House. Trump is teasing an announcement of his 2024 candidacy next week. That election will be harder for him to steal without loyalists running elections in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. But Trump long ago radicalized the GOP around the idea that the only legitimate elections are the ones they win.

Advertisement

 By the way, Trump seems to be admitting to using federal agents to try to steal yet another election here? Sure, the likeliest explanation is that he’s lying but, cc: Attorney General Merrick Garland.

College student Zoe Johnson, 20, casts her vote at a polling place at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH on November 8, 2022 (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

College student Zoe Johnson, 20, casts her vote at a polling place at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH on November 8, 2022 (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

unnamed (2) (1).jpg

Kids in America

Catch those students in the video who told Liz they came out to defend democracy? Turns out Gen Z mounted its second-highest turnout in 30 years on Tuesday. We’ll need more data to know for sure, but it looks like threats to democracy and abortion were huge motivators for a wall of youth that turned the “red wave” into a “pink splash” (h/t VICE’s Dexter Thomas for that one).

Which brings me to Chris Mowrey, a 20-year-old junior studying economics at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, who went viral on Wednesday crowing about how the kids saved democracy. Admittedly, it’s a sample size of 1, but Chris seemed like a good Z’er to ask about just how the kids are, in fact, alright. Here’s a little bit of our chat. 

Advertisement

Did you have a strong sense going into Tuesday that there was a fundamental threat to democracy or an extremism that you wanted to vote against? Was it something specific?

For me, a threat to democracy and the disinformation is by far my biggest issue of voting. Because I just don’t think people understand how fragile democracy is. When you start to  push out so much misinformation, or claim the election was rigged, you’re slowly just taking apart democracy, and that is so dangerous. And so I think my No. 1 reason for voting was that you just can’t go down a road where you have hundreds of election deniers on the ballot.

Were your friends worried about the threat to democracy and ready to vote on it like you were?

Honestly, no. It’s not that they don’t see it. It’s that they feel like they can’t change it. A lot of friends I talk to about it, it’s not like they’re anti-democratic or anything. But they’re like, what’s one vote? Even if they don't gloss over the whole threat to democracy thing, they just think it's already over. They're like, “We’re gonna continue in this insane world where the right becomes essentially fascist and it’s all gonna fall apart.” And some don’t see a path where it gets better. 

What did your friends who were voting say was most important, then? 

For a lot of my friends, especially the women, it was really all about abortion, and the idea that their rights are being taken away. There were also some who talk about abortion and things like election lies as encapsulating a bigger extremism.

Advertisement

So what happened with the viral TikTok?

I stayed up till 2:30 in the morning watching the results. I was really hoping Gen Z was gonna show up. I woke up the next morning, I started looking at some of the data and I was like, “oh, my God.” In a good way! There was no “red wave” and the whole reason was that young voters showed up. I put my phone down, I took a shower, I got out, and then I was just really excited especially for the future, that maybe hope for democracy is not lost. 

Former Trump White House Advisor Peter Navarro at the Prettyman Courthouse on August 31, 2022 in Washington, DC. Navarro has been indicted by a grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Former Trump White House Advisor Peter Navarro at the Prettyman Courthouse on August 31, 2022 in Washington, DC. Navarro has been indicted by a grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

T.W.I.S.™ Notes

The 60-day period where the DOJ avoids making politically significant moves before an election is now over. Put another way, This Week in Subpoenas, indictment season is open. 

- Rushin’ roulette 

Donald Trump is in a hurry to announce his next presidential run, hoping to make it politically difficult for Merrick Garland to charge him in any of several investigations. Likewise, retired Judge Raymond J. Dearie has set a tight deadline for the next round of reviews in the Mar-a-Lago documents case. 

Advertisement

We haven’t heard much from the federal grand jury investigating the coup attempt, but expect to read more soon. And remember, Fulton County DA Fani Willis has said she could start charging people in the Georgia election fraud case as soon as December. 

- Contempt creator

Former White House trade adviser and TV cringe-man Peter Navarro got his criminal trial for contempt of Congress moved to next year. Navarro’s trial for blowing off January 6 committee subpoenas was supposed to start next week, but Judge Amit Mehta is getting held up by presiding over the Oath Keepers sedition trial, which is running long.  

Advertisement

Will be Mild

It’s not that Donald Trump didn’t try to sic his supporters on election officials in swing states. It’s that they didn’t show. As noted earlier, Trump attacked elections in Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania… and also Michigan. In 2020, Trump backers descended on a Detroit tabulation center and demanded entry after he falsely claimed victory. Protesters later showed up at the home of the secretary of state. Here’s what election officials are saying about this year so far, when Trump tried to rally his faithful to undermine the election but no one came. 

Advertisement
unnamed (4).jpg

“The fact that these youth voters are coming in so strong in an off year is very concerning.”  — "Fox News’ Jesse Watters, on election night.

unnamed (1) (1).jpg

Manual gratification — An Arizona judge ordered Republican officials in rural Cochise County not to go ahead with a scheme to hand-count all of this week’s ballots, because that’s illegal. They’re doing it anyway. Or, at least trying to, depending on what the state Supreme Court says. Hand counting ballots has become a kind of “Luddite’s choice” in the election conspiracy community, where voting machines are supposedly vulnerable to tampering by everyone from Venezuelans to Italian aerospace engineers to George Soros. Election experts vehemently recommend against hand counting, but only because it’s slower, less accurate, and less secure.

Advertisement

Win, lose, draw — Republicans’ edge in House elections is looking way slimmer than it was supposed to be. Here’s VICE News’ Cameron Joseph on how the process of drawing favorable districts, known as gerrymandering, gave Republicans advantages that plain old elections never could.

Concession special — Here’s a 2022 election denial story that went right in Ohio. Republican JR Majewski attended Jan. 6, supported QAnon, and lied about his military record, all before losing to 20-term Democratic incumbent Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Then the RINO-hating MAGA candidate did something totally normal in a functioning democracy: He quickly conceded.

unnamed (3) (1).jpg

The hidden way election denial hurt Republicans.

FROM THE ATLANTIC

Trump will burn it all down.

FROM THE BULWARK PODCAST

Oath Keepers’ sedition trial: Was there a plan on Jan. 6?

FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES