It’s been a year since a mob of Trumpists violently attacked the U.S. Capitol. They wanted to stop Congress from affirming President Joe Biden’s victory.
Some of them were out for blood. All of them were motivated by the former president’s Big Lie that he won the election but that his victory was stolen from him and his supporters.
That lie has been debunked by journalists and election officials—both Republicans and Democrats. It has been rejected by courts. But it has never been abandoned by Trump or his right-wing allies.
And so, one year after it fueled an attack on Congress and the Constitution, the Big Lie is still a big threat to our democracy.
Trump’s Big Lie
The Big Lie causes big harms in lots of ways by fueling anger and mistrust about our elections among Trump’s base.
Many if not most Republican officials know that Trump’s Big Lie is not true. But they are cynical and corrupt enough to use it to justify new voter suppression laws and other schemes to overturn the will of the voters.
Far-right activists have harassed and threatened election officials across the country. And they are trying to get elected to state and local positions that will give them the power to oversee future elections.
Donald Trump would love to go into the 2024 elections knowing that he has loyal Trumpists in place to reject or “find” as many votes as he needs to declare victory.
That’s why Trump has endorsed the effort by Rep. Jody Hice to replace Georgia’s Republican secretary of state Brad Raffensperger. Raffensperger refused to embrace the Big Lie, stood up to Trump’s bullying, and respected the will of the voters.
Hice has promoted the Big Lie. That’s the kind of guy Trump wants deciding which votes to count—and not count—in 2024.
Trump has endorsed other secretary of state candidates, and his political henchman Steve Bannon in encouraging Trumpists to try to replace election officials at the local level.
Meanwhile, state legislators are making it easier for partisan Republicans in state legislatures to mess with vote counting by taking control from local officials – and even to simply override the will of the voters.
Passing voting rights legislation
That is why we urgently need new federal voting rights legislation—and why we need senators and President Biden to work together to overcome ‘states’ rights’ Republicans and their use of filibuster rules to block the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Both pieces of legislation take on both voter suppression and election subversion. The John Lewis Act would make it illegal for a public official to “willfully fail or refuse to certify” an election victory by the candidate who gets the most votes.
The Freedom to Vote Act only allows election administrators to be removed by the state if they have a legitimate cause to do so.
As Sen. Raphael Warnock said on Jan. 4, “Our democracy is in peril and time is running out.”
“This is a moral moment,” Sen. Warnock said. Indeed, it is.
Ben Jealous is president of People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation. He also is the former president and CEO of the NAACP.