voice for democracy

Opinion | Sorry, Glenn Youngkin. Trump is the biggest issue in Virginia — and in every other state. – The Washington Post

Imagine that you lived in Italy in 1922, Germany in 1933, Spain in 1936, Argentina in 1973, Russia in 2000, Venezuela in 2002, Turkey in 2014 — or any other country on the verge of losing its democracy to strongman rule. What would be the most important issue on your mind? Would it be what’s taught in high schools? Or the fate of democracy itself?
America may soon be in just as precarious a position. We don’t have the luxury of “moving on” from the events of Jan. 6 to focus on ordinary issues as urged by so many Republicans, including Virginia gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin. Democracy is on the ballot in Virginia — and in every other state between now and 2024.
Donald Trump was the first president in U.S. history who refused to accept the outcome of an election and mobilized an army of followers to invade Congress and try to stop the vote certification. Today, he remains unrepentant. The Wall Street Journal just published a letter from him repeating lie after lie about the vote in Pennsylvania.
Yet far from repudiating Trump as a threat to democracy, the Republican Party is repudiating its few members who dared stand up to him. Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s (R-Ill.) announcement that he won’t seek reelection makes clear there is no room for patriots in today’s GOP. Only Trump toadies are welcome.
Trump is so popular among Republicans that he would win the 2024 nomination in a cakewalk and could conceivably win the electoral vote, too, particularly if Republicans succeed in throwing out the votes of states that do not support him, as they tried to do in January.
If Trump does return to the White House, our democracy might be on its deathbed. Early in his first term, Trump was so ignorant of government that he often deferred to the “adults in the room,” e.g., Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly. But the longer Trump stayed in office, the more willing he became to rid himself of anyone who stood in his way. A second Trump term would undoubtedly begin with the installation of cultists at every key agency, including the Defense Department, intelligence community, Justice Department and FBI.
That is a terrifying prospect. Every candidate in the country, from dog catcher to senator, must therefore answer this fundamental question: Do you support or oppose Trump’s efforts to destroy our democracy?
This is a litmus test that Glenn Youngkin, who is running with Trump’s support, has failed. When seeking the GOP nomination, he refused to say whether Joe Biden won legitimately. Only after winning the nomination did he admit that the 2020 election was “certifiably fair,” but he keeps genuflecting to Trumpian concerns about “election integrity” — code words for the big lie. He even donated $1 million of his own money to a political action committee that supports Republican candidates who echo Trump’s bogus claims of fraud.
You can split the difference on taxes or spending. You can’t split the difference on democracy as Youngkin is trying to do.
What would happen in 2024 if Trump again screamed fraud and demanded that Republicans appoint pro-Trump electors in states he lost? If Republicans gain control of Virginia’s governorship and House of Delegates this year, and of the state Senate in 2023, they could deliver the state for Trump no matter how it votes. Even if the legislature remains in Democratic hands, a Republican governor could create a constitutional crisis by refusing to sign the “certificate of ascertainment” certifying the results. (Youngkin refused to say in an interview if he would have certified the 2020 election; his campaign later claimed he would have.)
What would happen if Trump again mobilized his fanatical followers to storm the U.S. Capitol? On Jan. 6, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) sent Virginia state troopers and the Virginia National Guard to help save the citadel of democracy. There is no reason to expect that Youngkin would risk Trump’s wrath by acting to stop a future coup attempt.
Youngkin doesn’t like to talk about Trump. He wants Virginia voters to focus on other issues. Sorry, that won’t cut it. Trump is the biggest issue in the country because he remains the de facto leader of the Republican Party and could again be the leader of the whole country. Candidates such as Youngkin who won’t take a clear stance against Trump’s war on democracy are making clear they are on the wrong side of an existential debate.
And if voters are focused on issues other than the fate of our democracy, they aren’t paying attention. It is the height of arrogance to imagine that just because our democracy has survived for more than 230 years, it will last forever. If we take our democracy for granted by electing candidates who are willing to collaborate with authoritarians, we could easily lose our freedom as so many countries have in the past.
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