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The problem of election deniers winning GOP primaries gets worse

Republican conspiracy theorists aren't just running for powerful public offices, they're also winning GOP primaries. The threat to democracy is real.


On Tuesday morning, The Washington Post published a discouraging report, highlighting “the scores of Republican candidates for state and federal office who say the 2020 election was rigged.” The article even applied some specific tallies to the report: “District by district, state by state, voters in places that cast ballots through the end of May have chosen at least 108 candidates for statewide office or Congress who have repeated Trump’s lies.”

The references to the offices stood out. As we’ve seen, it’s discouraging enough when election deniers and Republican conspiracy theorists are elected to local offices. But the Post’s review focused specifically on those running for Congress or statewide offices.

Making matters worse, the tally of 108 candidates didn’t include the election deniers who continue to win GOP primaries. NBC News reported this week on developments in Nevada.

Jim Marchant, a prominent election denier and former Nevada state legislator, has won the Republican secretary of state primary, NBC News projects.... With his win, Marchant, who continues to falsely claim that President Joe Biden did not win the state, gets one step closer to being elected the top elections official in Nevada, a crucial swing state where efforts by allies of former President Donald Trump to overturn the last presidential election have persisted in the years since the race.

As unhinged conspiracy theorists go, Marchant is not a casual advocate of ridiculous ideas. On the contrary, the Nevadan has been an enthusiastic proponent of discredited nonsense. The report added:

Marchant told NBC News then he would not have certified the 2020 election if he had been the secretary of state. He also said that he wouldn’t rule out, if he was to hold the office in 2024, advocating for an alternate slate of Trump electors if Trump were on the ballot. (Marchant pushed for an alternate slate in 2020.)

If elected, the Republican also intends to eliminate early voting, voting by mail, and all electronic voting machines — not because Nevada has a history of problems in any of these areas, but because Marchant is fully committed to a Trump-inspired vision.

At one point during his statewide primary campaign, Marchant went so far as to argue, “Your vote hasn’t counted for decades. You haven’t elected anybody. The people that are in office have been selected.”

This is the same Republican who lost a congressional race in 2020. He blamed his defeat on — you guessed it — fraud claims that he couldn’t prove. Marchant took the matter to court, though the case went nowhere.

It might be tempting to think voters in Nevada — a blue-ish state in recent years — would obviously reject a candidate like this, but polls suggest Republicans are well positioned in Nevada this year, and it’s entirely possible that Marchant, his deeply strange ideas about voting and elections notwithstanding, may very well be elected to oversee Nevada’s system of elections.

A New York Times analysis added yesterday, “The potential for far-right Republicans to reshape the election systems of major battleground states is growing much closer to reality.”

The national picture is unlikely to improve anytime soon: Election deniers, effectively running on a Big Lie platform, will probably fare quite well in several more statewide GOP contests in the coming weeks and months, most notably in Arizona.

The best-case scenario — the one that would be ideal for the strength and health of our democracy — is that these Republicans are simply brazenly lying for the most cynical of reasons. Perhaps, these GOP candidates, up and down the ballot, know full well that the 2020 presidential election was legitimate, and the scourge of system “fraud” exists only in the right’s imaginations, but they pretend to embrace nonsense to impress a far-right base that’s fallen for the con.

That’s the political dynamic that supporters of democracy have to hope for. If they’re lying, that’d be the good news.

The more realistic analysis, however, is that these Republican election deniers are entirely sincere, which is vastly worse.