“The problem is that Americans have a real lack of trust in institutions these days,” said William Mishler, a longtime expert on democratic institutions at the University of Arizona. And even many who regard the Arizona election review as a discredited, amateur exercise “fear the mischief that’s likely to come out of this in the form of some further undermining of confidence in the election outcome.”
Thomas E. Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a longtime student of the American political system, said the Arizona election review highlighted a seismic shift in the rules of American democracy. In years past, political parties were forces for moderation, trying to appeal to as many voters as possible. Now, he said, one of the two major parties was taking precisely the opposite tack.
“We’ve had crazies in public life before,” he said. “We’ve had demagogues speaking out and sometimes winning high office. The difference this time is that they’re being encouraged rather than constrained by party and election officials.” Without some check on radicalism, he said, “our whole system breaks down.”
Mr. Mishler concurred. “What worries me is not that there’s a minority of crazies in the party,” he said of the Republicans. “It’s that there’s a majority of the crazies.”
That said, election inquiries count only votes. Mr. Mishler, Mr. Mann and Mr. Kolbe, the former representative, all said that a more imminent threat to democracy was what they called an effort by some Republicans to disregard votes entirely. They cited changes in state laws that could make challenging or nullifying election results easier, and a burst of candidacies by stolen-election advocates for crucial election posts such as secretary of state offices.
Arizona is among the latter. The race to replace Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state who said last week that she was running for governor, already has attracted one Republican Legislator who is an election conspiracy theorist and another who is perhaps the legislature’s leading supporter of restrictions on the right to vote.
“These are perilous times,” Mr. Mann said. “Arizona is just demonstrating it.”
Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.
Author: Michael Wines
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News