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As GOP extremists seek office, the cancer of election denial threatens to spread | Editorial

More than 100 Republicans seeking state and federal offices across the country have repeated Trump’s false stolen election claims.

Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano (right) was greeted by former president Donald Trump at a rally in Wilkes-Barre earlier this month.
Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano (right) was greeted by former president Donald Trump at a rally in Wilkes-Barre earlier this month.Read moreSpencer Platt / MCT

Donald Trump’s falsehood-filled attacks on the 2020 presidential election unleashed a political cancer on the Grand Old Party.

Trump’s baseless claims of a rigged election — even after advisers told him he lost — helped incite a riot at the U.S. Capitol, inspired some of the former president’s most extreme followers to seek public office, and has metastasized to such an extent that it threatens the totality of the Republican Party.

Since the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, assaults on free and fair elections have ramped up. Republican-controlled legislatures in at least a half-dozen states — including Arizona, Georgia, and Florida — have passed restrictive measures that range from purging voter rolls to interfering with how elections are administered. In Arizona alone, Republicans have proposed nearly 100 bills that would impact elections.

Scores of candidates are running on Trump’s election denialism. More than 100 Republicans seeking state and federal offices in November parrot Trump’s false stolen election claims.

If elected, GOP election deniers in six battleground states — including Pennsylvania — would be in position to change the outcome of the 2024 presidential election. A dozen Republican candidates for governor or Senate refuse to say if they will accept the outcome of their races, the Washington Post found.

» READ MORE: Biden’s prudent warning on the threat to democracy posed by GOP extremists | Editorial

This is not normal or remotely patriotic. Historians warn our democracy is in peril as election deniers undermine trust in government and stoke violence.

Members of the GOP complained when President Joe Biden told the truth about MAGA Republicans during a speech at Independence Hall. Biden was clear not to criticize all Republicans. But there is nothing democratic or American about undermining elections and opposing the peaceful transfer of power.

Nowhere are the stakes higher than in Pennsylvania. Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano led the charge by state lawmakers to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election — while not contesting the results of his own race.

Mastriano urged colleagues not to certify Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania and pressured the Justice Department to investigate the 2020 election. He marched in and paid to bus protesters to the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C., that turned into a deadly insurrection.

Mastriano was Trump’s “point person” in Pennsylvania in a scheme to appoint fake electors to overturn the election. He wants to eliminate no-excuse mail-in voting, ban ballot drop boxes, and force voters to reregister.

» READ MORE: In Mastriano’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, a chilling template for future races | Editorial

If elected governor, Mastriano can appoint the Pennsylvania secretary of state, who oversees election administration. It is frightening to consider the constitutional crisis Mastriano could unleash in the next presidential election if his preferred candidate loses.

Beyond the election chicanery, Trump-supporting candidates have become more extreme and paranoid. On the campaign trail, election-denying candidates talk up violence, conspiracies, and misinformation.

At last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference, attendees cheered Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, an autocratic strongman who dismantled his country’s democracy.

After the FBI searched Trump’s Palm Beach, Fla., property following his refusal to return classified information, Republican officials lashed out at law enforcement. As the six investigations surrounding Trump mount, Sen. Lindsey Graham predicted “riots in the streets” if the former president is indicted.

The extremist wing of the GOP’s rhetoric has consequences.

Like Trump’s election lies, the extremist wing of the GOP’s rhetoric has consequences. An Ohio man, who called for FBI agents to be killed “on sight,” died in a shootout after he tried to breach an FBI field office. More broadly, 40% of Americans think a civil war is coming, a recent poll shows.

To be sure, Fox News and social media have stoked anger and spread disinformation among Republican voters. Witness the quackery promoted by Rudy Giuliani about Dominion voting machines helping Hugo Chavez steal elections in Venezuela. Or a recent New York Times report where a woman claimed voters were being controlled by nasal swabs coated with nano-sized smart dust particles in COVID-19 tests, while another said November’s election could be hijacked by WiFi.

QAnon used to be a fringe conspiracy group that claimed the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles that includes Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Hollywood celebrities. Now, one in four Republicans believes the central views of QAnon. Trump has also embraced the movement.

This is bizarre terrain — yet most Republican leaders have done nothing to stop the absurdity.

The future of democracy runs through Pennsylvania. All Democrats, independents, and any Republicans willing to face facts must vote to reject every election denier running for office on Nov. 8.