The future of American democracy as we’ve known it until now could be decided May 24, in Georgia, with the election of an obscure politician.
Since his defeat on Nov. 4, 2020, Donald Trump seems motivated by two obsessions: to overturn the presidential election results of 2020 and to purge the Republican Party of all voices hindering his efforts to subvert the election. The former culminated during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. The latter will play out in a little over six months, as part of an event from which we should already be starting to protect ourselves.
On May 24, 2022, primary elections will take place in Georgia, a state won at the very last moment by Joe Biden with the smallest margin ever in a presidential election, barely 0.2%. Georgia was one of three states, including Arizona and Wisconsin, that had a margin of less than 1% that could have reelected Trump to a second term. It is also in Georgia that Trump quite likely broke the law by harassing the secretary of state, specifically during a call four days before the Capitol insurrection, asking him to “find 11,780 votes” so that he would be the winner in Georgia.
That secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, is a Republican who had battled the leader of his own party from the beginning until the end. His position as secretary of state, which he has held since 2019, is also an elected position, and will be up for grabs in an election next May 24. Raffensperger will face his adversaries in a primary that is already looking like a settling of scores for supporters of the 45th president.
Among the candidates loyal to Trump is Jody Hice, a former member of Congress who refuses to recognize that Biden was legitimately elected, and with whom the rejected president has already started actively campaigning.
In a context where Trump continues to be seen favorably by more than 80% of the Republican voter base in Georgia, it could be difficult for Raffensperger to win. His defeat would represent an unprecedented trophy for Trump: He would have beaten the person who prevented him from realizing his notion to overturn the results of the last presidential election.
And he would have given the position of secretary of state in a swing state to a candidate who had promised to never recognize the results of an election that Trump lost. It would be a first, and would set the scene in an equally powerful and troubling way for the rest of the 2022 election calendar … and 2024 as well.
Will Georgia Open the Floodgates?
Besides Georgia, positions that oversee elections in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin will also be up for grabs later in 2022. These are the four states, after Georgia, that Biden won with the smallest margins. (The fifth one, Pennsylvania, has a nonelected election official named by the governor.)
And these are four states where the electors, having respected the integrity of the 2020 election, were originally elected themselves with weak majorities, something that will be threatened if there is a wave of Trumpism in 2022.
In other words, they are vulnerable. In every case, they will face candidates like Hice, supported by Trump and promising him their loyalty in return.
At the beginning of the month, comedian Bill Maher presented a striking portrait of the democratic future of the United States, and it was far from funny. His starting point was the same one that has been on his blog repeatedly since the days after the election last November: Trump wants to come back to the White House and, unless there is a divine intervention, he will almost certainly try to do so in 2024.
With this prediction, Maher added a second one that seems just as plausible: If Trump runs for office, he will win the Republican Party’s nomination.
And with this second prediction, Maher added a third: No matter the result of the general election, he will claim to have won it.
And this third prediction leads to a question that already merits some serious consideration: Could Trump be positioned any better to implement his declaration of victory … whether it is true or false?