Trump’s Anti-Democracy Blueprint Continues on Two Years after the Capitol Insurrection

Trump’s Anti-Democracy Blueprint Continues on Two Years after the Capitol Insurrection

By Evan Vorpahl and Lisa Graves

Two years after the violent insurrection at the Capitol that Donald Trump incited, his blueprint for attacking American democracy continues to unfold and be implemented by his GOP allies.

True North Research has detailed how Trump’s January 6 speech at the Ellipse not only launched a bloody insurrection but also mapped out changes to federal and state laws he and his closest advisors sought, which could enable the GOP to subvert future elections. Key components of Trump’s speech, which his loyalists have worked to implement, included furthering longstanding efforts to make it harder for Americans to vote and suppress voter turnout as well as establishing new powers for far-right state legislatures to overturn Americans’ votes in an election next time they seek to do so.

With this new flurry of election restrictions came a new crop of extremist candidates in 2022, endorsed by Trump, who built their campaigns on his election lies.

Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake centered her campaign around wild conspiracies and election denialism, later refusing to concede the election she lost. She unsuccessfully sued to overturn the 2022 results in Arizona, as did her MAGA allies Abe Hamedah, the candidate for Attorney General, and Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem, who was photographed at the foot of the Capitol as Trump supporters invaded the Capitol on January 6. Finchem also tweeted his support for those who breached the police barricades, touting false and deluded claims of fraud. 

In Michigan, another Trump-endorsed conspiracy theorist candidate for governor, Tudor Dixon lost by over 10 percent of the vote. Overall, according to analysis by the Center for American Progress, only seven of 20 election denier candidates for governor won their races, six of whom were incumbents. Only two of the 12 Trump conspiracy theorists running for Secretary of State won in 2022.

Though many of the candidates were rejected by voters, America is far from safe from these ongoing threats to our democracy. A majority of the GOP Members of the House continue to use their platforms and power to undermine our elections and refuse to disavow Trump’s Big Lie. In many states, Trump loyalists continue to hold legislative majorities, due in no small part to the hyper-partisan gerrymandering that followed the 2010 and 2020 midterm elections and the Census. 

Since last January, state lawmakers have continued to push a frontal assault on free and fair elections. According to the Brennan Center, 11 states enacted legislation to restrict voting rights or interfere with elections. A number of other state legislators have pre-filed similar measures for the 2023 sessions that are beginning this month, like Texas–where GOP members have already prefiled 21 anti-voting bills–and Ohio, where the legislature passed a Voter ID bill which would also limit early and absentee voting. The proliferation of these restrictions work to make our country less democratic. Many of these restrictions are premised on variations of Trump’s voter fraud claims, even though his own Department of Homeland Security found that the 2020 election was the most secure election in history and international election monitors also found no election fraud.

Another looming threat to American democracy is the Moore v. Harper case that the right-wing faction controlling the U.S. Supreme Court chose for argument this term. That case is predicated on a discredited scheme dubbed the “Independent State Legislature Theory” (ISLT). ISLT is a fringe notion embraced by far-right Justice Clarence Thomas which has never been adopted in more than 200 years. The ISLT claims that the Constitution’s Elections Clause and Presidential Electors Clause do something no other provisions of the Constitution do: forbid any court from exercising any judicial review or oversight over election decisions by a state legislature. 

ISLT was peddled by John Eastman, the author of Trump’s election subversion gameplan to stop the counting of the Electoral College votes and challenge state court rulings in Arizona and Pennsylvania, for example, that protected Americans’ right to vote in the midst of the pandemic. 

During the 2020 election battle, the U.S. Supreme Court again declined to embrace Trump’s argument, but GOP appointees Justices Thomas, Sam Alito, and Neil Gorsuch appeared sympathetic. 

This Trump-embraced maneuver flies in the face of centuries of U.S. law where state Supreme Courts have interpreted state Constitutions including provisions regarding elections and voting to protect voting rights. The claim is also directly contradictory to the recent precedent by the Roberts Court, before Trump’s three appointees to the Court were confirmed, in the Rucho v. Common Cause case where the Court limited federal review of legislative maps by noting that state Supreme Courts would of course have the power to review them under state Constitutions.

The Moore v. Harper case originated in North Carolina, where the state Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the far-right legislature’s maps constitute as extreme partisan and racial gerrymanders in violation of the state Constitution. If the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court sides with the GOP-controlled legislature in North Carolina, such an edict would allow future legislatures in other states to violate their state Constitution in election matters and state courts would have no authority to reign them in. Such a ruling could also lead to the elimination of independent redistricting committees and be used as a pretext for state legislatures to refuse to certify election results and replace electors. 

Rallying behind the case are a raft of right-wing dark money-funded groups, a phenomenon that  Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has dubbed the “flotilla of amici.” Some of the same groups providing legal ammunition to the court have funding and close links to Leonard Leo’s two billion dollar political network, which is almost singularly responsible for packing the U.S. Supreme Court with right-wing activists. Leo, who hand-picked the slate of judicial candidates Trump chose from, deployed his network to get those controversial nominees confirmed. Leo has also tried to sideline other Federalist Society lawyers–and its co-founder Steven Calabresi–who oppose ISLT as contrary to the Constitution’s language, history, and precedent

Other Republican-controlled state legislatures are looking to ISLT to justify extreme, undemocratic maps and their defiance of rulings by state Supreme Courts. In Ohio, the GOP-controlled legislature ignored their own state supreme court’s deadline for a new map, after it struck down two gerrymanders and cited ISLT in their challenge to the Ohio Supreme Court’s authority. So, two years on from Trump’s violent insurrection attempting to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 election, his loyalists continue to try to advance discredited legal arguments to consolidate GOP political power through making it harder for Americans to vote, gaming the maps to limit fair elections, and make it easier for Trump loyalists to attack and try to set aside election results that reject their extremism. 

Read the 2022 report below:

Leave a Reply

Close Menu