Opinion: This is how the anti-democratic right wins


HR King
May 29, 2001
By Greg Sargent
Yesterday at 5:00 p.m. EDT

CNN has an appalling new report documenting the threats that elections officials around the country are receiving, in part because Donald Trump and his movement continue feeding his lies about the 2020 election. To take one vile example, Arizona secretary of state Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, got a voicemail saying: "I am a hunter — and I think you should be hunted.”

There are many other similarly disgusting threats, which you can peruse in the CNN piece.
But as horrifying as the threats themselves are, the consequences of these threats are also alarming when it comes to the future of U.S. democracy. In particular, the head of the group that oversees the Democratic secretaries of state fears that elections workers may be cowed into refraining from returning to work in future elections.

This is how the anti-democratic right wins: Every time a public spirited elections worker decides that helping to administer democracy in good faith is too personally dangerous to carry out, the threats are achieving precisely their desired end.


It’s often noted that many Republicans loyal to Trump’s 2020 lies are running for positions of influence over the machinery of democracy. This is generally described as some sort of half-baked plot to put in place the building blocks of a future election theft effort by Trump.
But the more worrisome thing here is that some of these candidates appear to be unshackling themselves from any sense of obligation to implement elections in good faith or even to abide by their legitimate outcomes. Never mind Trump’s future intentions; this trend is worrying as a separate matter, independent of Trump.

Now add into the mix the prospect of elections officials and workers feeling too intimidated to make the system work properly.
Colorado secretary of state Jena Griswold — who is also head of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State — raised this prospect in the CNN piece.

I contacted Griswold to ask her view of how serious a problem this has become. She pointed to a Reuters report documenting more than 100 threats of violence or death to elections workers and officials in key swing states, largely inspired by the Trump movement’s lies. Griswold noted that she had personally fielded reports of such threats to elections officials and elected county clerks in her home state.

“One county clerk works behind bulletproof glass,” Griswold told me. This was the subject of an account by a local Colorado news outlet, which reported that this had been installed in the Chaffee County Clerk and Recorder’s office.
Griswold also said some Colorado elections officials have been threatened for refusing to carry out fake third-party election “audits” of the sort we’ve seen in Arizona. Griswold said these threats are a topic of conversation among other secretaries of state, and noted that it’s “incredibly concerning” that officials are getting threatened for “doing their jobs and upholding the will of the voters."

To be fair, we really don’t know how widespread this all is. The CNN report does note that federal law enforcement officials are taking this increasingly seriously and exploring ways to take over some responsibilities in investigating these threats, which have historically been handled by local law enforcement. That’s a pretty bad sign.

But however widespread it is, let’s think of it this way: Any time a single individual fears for her personal safety in carrying out the work of democracy, it’s a victory for the anti-democratic right.
They will stop at nothing. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) just unleashed a disgusting diatribe filled with lurid lies about how the left, antifa, Black Lives Matter protesters and assorted “Marxist-communist” operatives allied with Democrats were far worse than the Jan. 6 rioters, who, she said, were carrying out the spirit of the Declaration of Independence’s directive to “overthrow tyrants.”

And Trump has now gone all the way into declaring the Jan. 6 rioters the heroes and the implementers of the 2020 election as the insurrectionists.

The 2020 election isn’t often thought of this way, but it was a civic triumph. Countless elections officials and workers implemented the election under extraordinarily difficult conditions — a pandemic, upended procedures to deal with it, a president relentlessly casting the whole process as irredeemably corrupt and egging on angry mobs to terrorize them — yet it came off relatively smoothly, with the horrible exception of the violence on Jan. 6.
This is exactly what the anti-democratic right hates about what happened. And they’ll do all they can to ensure that people who heroically implemented a legitimate election last time will refrain from doing so next time.


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