President Joe Biden gave a dark warning that the future of American democracy was on the ballot in 2022 in a speech Wednesday, six days before the midterm elections. Certain “extreme MAGA Republicans” on the ballot next week, he said, have intentions to “subvert the electoral system itself.”
“As I stand here today, there are candidates running for every level of office in America, for governor, Congress, attorney general, secretary of state, who will not commit to accepting the results of elections that they are running in,” Biden said. “This is a path to chaos in America. It’s unprecedented. It’s unlawful. And it’s un-American.”
Biden did not name any of those candidates. But it’s clear enough who some of them are. They include Doug Mastriano and Kari Lake, the GOP nominees for governor in Pennsylvania and Arizona. Mastriano helped Trump try to overturn Biden’s win in Pennsylvania in 2020, and Lake has said she wouldn’t have certified Biden’s victory.
The election deniers also include Mark Finchem, the GOP nominee for secretary of state in Arizona who was a member of the far-right militia group the Oath Keepers, and Jim Marchant, the GOP nominee for secretary of state in Nevada who works with supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
These aren’t traditional Republican candidates — they’ve fully embraced Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election being stolen (at least some appear to be true believers in it). Biden himself pointed out that the faction threatening democracy was a “minority” of the GOP. But that minority could well win important offices in charge of overseeing election results, in some cases replacing Republican state officials who upheld elections in 2020.
The threat is most acute in elections for governor and secretary of state. In 2020, Trump heavily pressured them to try to flip states Biden won over to him by interfering with results, and even GOP officials in those states uniformly refused. They were tethered enough to factual reality and ethical enough to keep democracy working as it should. It’s not clear the same is true for Mastriano (who appears headed for a defeat), or for Lake, Finchem, and Marchant (all of whom are in tight races and could well win). Should any of them refuse to certify legitimate election results in 2024, the country could be thrown into chaos.
“I hope you will ask a simple question of each candidate you vote for,” Biden said. “Will that person accept the legitimate will of the American people and the people voting in his district or her district? Will that person accept the outcome of the election, win or lose? The answer to that question is vital, and in my opinion it should be decisive.” On the answer, he continues, hangs “the future of the country we love so much and the fate of the democracy that has made so much possible for us.”