Even after all the revelations regarding Trump’s pervasive pressure campaign to subvert the election at both the state and federal levels, an NBC News poll this week found that 61% of Republicans still believe Biden’s victory was illegitimate.
Now some Republican candidates are adopting Trump’s election scam in their own races. The New York Times’ Reid Epstein actually contacted the candidates in 20 key races to ask them if they would accept the outcome of their race. Every single Democrat said they would respect the results of the election, win or lose.
But a dozen Republicans in high-profile contests—most of them Trump endorsees—either ignored the inquiry or explicitly declined to make such a commitment. Those who overtly refused to commit to accepting the 2022 results were:
- Kelly Tshibaka, Alaska Senate nominee
- Blake Masters, Arizona Senate nominee
- Ted Budd, North Carolina Senate nominee
- J.D. Vance, Ohio Senate nominee
- Tudor Dixon, Michigan gubernatorial nominee
- Geoff Diehl, Massachusetts gubernatorial nominee
To be clear, no Democratic candidate is talking about what has become standard fare among Republicans: simply not accepting defeat when you lose an election.
But again, Republican candidates feel emboldened to reject the outcome of a democratic election precisely because a large swath of their base supports such a position. In fact, Trump’s Jan. 6 insurrection was a highly visible expression of election denialism that also created a permission structure for future violence by anyone who doesn’t like an election result.
Just like polling has found a high propensity of election denialism among Republicans, surveys have also found that Republicans are more prone to embrace violence as a legitimate form of political expression—or “legitimate political discourse,” as the Republican National Committee put it. In January, for instance, The Washington Post released a poll finding that 40% of Republicans and 41% of independents believe violence against the government can be acceptable. Just 23% of Democrats shared that belief.
When a Post survey in 2015 asked the same question, it found “no significant partisan divide when it comes to the question of justified violence against the government.”
The doubt Trump injected into the electorate, the grievance he has routinely stoked, and the violence he helped foment on Jan. 6 has now metastasized on the right, and GOP candidates are continuing to fan those flames.
So when pundits and journalists elevate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York as “extreme” or a “polarizing” figure on the left, the question to ask is: Does she believe in democracy? Would Ocasio-Cortez accept the results of a democratic election in which she lost? The answer would be a resounding yes. And if she said otherwise, it would be a disqualifying position on the left because the Democratic Party and Democratic voters still support this constitutional republic.
Just like Al Gore did in 2000, and Hillary Clinton did in 2016, despite the fact that both Democratic presidential contenders won the popular vote.
Both sides aren’t threatening to rip apart our democracy. Only one side is: the side that is explicitly saying they don’t accept the results of the last legitimate election they lost, and that they won’t accept the results of the next legitimate election they lose.
And indeed, those same Republicans are telegraphing the idea that a legitimate loss could justify a violent uprising against the government.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.