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American politics these days can often seem fairly normal. President Biden has had both big accomplishments and big setbacks in his first year, as is typical. In Congress, members are haggling over bills and passing some of them. At the Supreme Court, justices are hearing cases. Daily media coverage tends to reflect this apparent sense of political normalcy.
But American politics today is not really normal. It may instead be in the midst of a radical shift away from the democratic rules and traditions that have guided the country for a very long time.
An anti-democratic movement, inspired by Donald Trump but much larger than him, is making significant progress, as my colleague Charles Homans has reported. In the states that decide modern presidential elections, this movement has already changed some laws and ousted election officials, with the aim of overturning future results. It has justified the changes with blatantly false statements claiming that Biden did not really win the 2020 election.
The movement has encountered surprisingly little opposition. Most leading Republican politicians have either looked the other way or supported the anti-democratic movement. In the House, Republicans ousted Liz Cheney from a leadership position because she called out Trump’s lies.
The pushback within the Republican Party has been so weak that about 60 percent of Republican adults now tell pollsters that they believe the 2020 election was stolen — a view that’s simply wrong.
Most Democratic officials, for their part, have been focused on issues other than election security, like Covid-19 and the economy. It’s true that congressional Democrats have tried to pass a new voting rights bill, only to be stymied by Republican opposition and the filibuster. But these Democratic efforts have been sprawling and unfocused. They have included proposals — on voter-ID rules and mail-in ballots, for example — that are almost certainly less important than a federal law to block the overturning of elections, as The Times’s Nate Cohn has explained.
All of which has created a remarkable possibility: In the 2024 presidential election, Republican officials in at least one state may overturn a legitimate election result, citing fraud that does not exist, and award the state’s electoral votes to the Republican nominee. Trump tried to use this tactic in 2020, but local officials rebuffed him.
Since then, his supporters have launched a campaign — with the Orwellian name “Stop the Steal” — to ensure success next time. Steve Bannon has played a central role, using his podcast to encourage Trump supporters to take over positions in election administration, ProPublica has explained.
“This is a five-alarm fire,” Jocelyn Benson, the Democratic secretary of state in Michigan, who presided over the 2020 vote count there, told The Times. “If people in general, leaders and citizens, aren’t taking this as the most important issue of our time and acting accordingly, then we may not be able to ensure democracy prevails again in ’24.”
Barton Gellman, who wrote a recent Atlantic magazine article about the movement, told Terry Gross of NPR last week, “This is, I believe, a democratic emergency, and that without very strong and systematic pushback from protectors of democracy, we’re going to lose something that we can’t afford to lose about the way we run elections.”
Theda Skocpol, a Harvard political scientist, notes that the movement is bigger than Trump. “I think things have now moved to the point that many Republican Party officials and elected officeholders are self-starters,” she told Thomas Edsall of Times Opinion.
The main battlegrounds are swing states where Republicans control the state legislature, like Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Republicans control these legislatures because of both gerrymandered districts and Democratic weakness outside of major metro areas. (One way Democrats can push back against the anti-democratic movement: Make a bigger effort to win working-class votes.) The Constitution lets state legislatures set the rules for choosing presidential electors.
“None of this is happening behind closed doors,” Jamelle Bouie, a Times columnist, recently wrote. “We are headed for a crisis of some sort. When it comes, we can be shocked that it is actually happening, but we shouldn’t be surprised.”
Here is an overview of recent developments:
Arizona. Republican legislators have passed a law taking away authority over election lawsuits from the secretary of state, who’s now a Democrat, and giving it to the attorney general, a Republican. Legislators are debating another bill that would allow them to revoke election certification “by majority vote at any time before the presidential inauguration.”
Georgia. Last year, Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, helped stop Trump’s attempts to reverse the result. State legislators in Georgia have since weakened his powers, and a Trump-backed candidate is running to replace Raffensperger next year. Republicans have also passed a law that gives a commission they control the power to remove local election officials.
Michigan. Kristina Karamo, a Trump-endorsed candidate who has repeated the lie that the 2020 elections were fraudulent, is running for secretary of state, the office that oversees elections. (Republican candidates are running on similar messages in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and elsewhere, according to ABC News.)
Pennsylvania. Republicans are trying to amend the state’s Constitution to make the secretary of state an elected position, rather than one that the governor appoints. Pennsylvania is also one of the states where Trump allies — like Stephen Lindemuth, who attended the Jan. 6 rally that turned into an attack on Congress — have won local races to oversee elections.
Wisconsin. Senator Ron Johnson is urging the Republican-controlled Legislature to take full control of federal elections. Doing so could remove the governor, currently a Democrat, from the process, and weaken the bipartisan state elections commission.
The new anti-democratic movement may still fail. This year, for example, Republican legislators in seven states proposed bills that would have given partisan officials a direct ability to change election results. None of the bills passed.
Arguably the most important figures on this issue are Republican officials and voters who believe in democracy and are uncomfortable with using raw political power to overturn an election result.
Miles Taylor, a former Trump administration official, has helped to start the Renew America Movement, which supports candidates — of either party — running against Trump-backed Republicans. It is active in congressional races but does not have enough resources to compete in the state contests that often determine election procedures, Taylor told The Times.
Gellman, the Atlantic writer, argues that Democrats and independents — as well as journalists — can make a difference by paying more attention. “Grass-roots organizers who are in support of democratic institutions,” he said on NPR, “could be doing what the Republicans are doing at the precinct and the county and the state level in terms of organizing to control election authorities to ensure that they remain nonpartisan or neutral.”
For more: Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, was involved in fighting the election outcome, according to the House Committee investigating the Capitol attack.
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Chris Wallace is leaving Fox News after 18 years — and after raising questions about Tucker Carlson’s work — to join CNN.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California called for legislation modeled on Texas’s abortion law to go after the gun industry.
A litany of crises is confronting Los Angeles before next year’s mayoral election.
The climate crisis is reshaping the planet. Here’s what it looks like in 193 countries.
Gail Collins and Bret Stephens discuss inflation and crime.
And just like that: It’s Peloton vs. “Sex and the City.”
The Media Equation: A climate-change comedy nails the media’s failures.
Quiz time: The average score on our latest news quiz was 8.6. See how well you do.
Advice from Wirecutter: Beware overpriced, mediocre wines.
Numerous inquiries Since former President Donald Trump left office, there have been many investigations and inquiries into his businesses and personal affairs. Here’s a list of those ongoing:
Investigation into insurance fraud. The Manhattan district attorney’s office and the New York attorney general’s office are investigating whether Mr. Trump or his family business, the Trump Organization, engaged in criminal fraud by intentionally submitting false property values to potential lenders.
Investigation into tax evasion. In July 2021, the Manhattan district attorney’s office charged the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer with orchestrating a 15-year scheme to evade taxes. A trial in that case is scheduled for summer 2022.
Investigation into election interference. The Atlanta district attorney is conducting a criminal investigation of election interference in Georgia by Mr. Trump and his allies.
Investigation into the Trump National Golf Club. Prosecutors in the district attorney’s office in Westchester County, N.Y., appear to be focused at least in part on whether the Trump Organization misled local officials about the property’s value to reduce its taxes.
Civil investigation into Trump Organization. The New York attorney general, Letitia James, is seeking to question Mr. Trump under oath in a civil fraud investigation of his business practices.
Lives Lived: Anne Rice wrote more than 30 novels, including the best seller “Interview With the Vampire.” She died at 80.
Vicente Fernández was a powerful tenor whose songs of love, loss and patriotism inspired by life in rural Mexico endeared him to fans as “El Rey.” He died at 81.
If you’ve watched “The Beatles: Get Back,” Peter Jackson’s documentary about the album “Let It Be,” you’ll have noticed Yoko Ono, sitting by John Lennon’s side and performing mundane tasks like opening mail.
“At first I found Ono’s omnipresence in the documentary bizarre” The Times’s Amanda Hess writes. But as more of the footage played, “I found myself impressed by her stamina, then entranced by the provocation of her existence and ultimately dazzled by her.”
Some people are seeing the documentary as proof that Ono wasn’t responsible for the band’s 1970 breakup, a rumor that is tinged with misogyny and racism.
Ono was vigilant about not being a typical artist’s wife, Amanda writes. Or, as Ono herself said about women in rock in a 1997 interview: “My first impression was that they were all wives, kind of sitting in the next room while the guys were talking. I was afraid of being something like that.” — Claire Moses, a Morning writer
This shrimp stew requires minimal prep and cooks quickly.
“Sesame Street” was always political: A documentary on HBO explains.
The best poetry of the year, according to our columnist.
Kate McKinnon returned to “Saturday Night Live” as Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The pangram from Friday’s Spelling Bee was longboat. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.
More on the Bee: How the hivemind conquers it.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Dance at a Jewish wedding (four letters).
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David
P.S. A hidden haiku from a story about a Ukrainian soldier who worries for his children: “They give him strength, but / he fears what would happen if / he didn’t come back.”
Here’s today’s print front page.
“The Daily” is about the Steele Dossier. On the Book Review podcast, James Andrew Miller and Mayukh Sen discuss their new books.
Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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