If such lethargy prevails this time, the outcome of a few key contests for secretary of state in November 2022 could lead to tragic consequences for American democracy in 2024 and beyond.
Sunday, April 17, 2022
In former President Donald Trump’s ongoing effort to dismantle democracy, his people gave Jim Marchant an important assignment. Marchant embraced it.
The Big Lie, QAnon, and a Coalition
Marchant’s mission began shortly after the November 2020 election, when he lost his bid to become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Nevada.
Savin is the alias for an anonymous QAnon influencer and author. Some followers believe he is John F. Kennedy, Jr. in disguise. QAnon’s bizarre conspiracy theories include its core falsehood that a group of Satan-worshiping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control American politics and media. No longer on the far-right political fringe, QAnon followers now comprise 25 percent of Republicans.
“For the next three to five months, we worked on trying to expose the election, the fraudulent election here in Nevada and everywhere, actually,” Marchant continued, failing to mention that they failed to find fraud anywhere.
He went on to describe his new task, saying, “We need to take back the secretaries of state offices around the country. So not only did they ask me to run, they asked me to put together a coalition… I can’t stress enough how important the secretary of state offices are. I think they are the most important elections in our country in 2022. And why is that? We control the election system. In 2022, we’re going to take back our country.”
In most states, the secretary of state administers all elections and certifies outcomes used to determine electoral votes in presidential contests. Marchant’s coalition is working “behind the scenes to try to fix 2020 like President Trump said.”
“We have the original Rachel Hamm in California, Kristina Karamo in Michigan, Jody Hice in Georgia, Mark Finchem in Arizona,” Marchant said in a January 2022 interview, identifying the members of his coalition. Trump has endorsed Karamo, Hice, and Finchem. Hice has denied that he was “part of a coalition” but is among the handful of candidates profiled on the “America First Secretary of State Coalition” website.
Marchant also claimed that others from Minnesota and Wisconsin would be joining. Currently, the coalition website also includes candidates from Colorado, Idaho, and New Mexico.
“Like-Minded” in Undermining Democracy
Marchant describes his group as a “coalition of like-minded secretary of state candidates” across the country. It promotes the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 election. It supports voter suppression efforts. And without any evidence supporting its claims of widespread fraud, it is systematically undermining voter confidence in America’s elections.
“Your vote hasn’t counted for decades,” Marchant told the audience during a February 2022 debate with his GOP rivals for the secretary of state nomination. “You haven’t elected anybody. The people that are in office have been selected. You haven’t had a choice.”
Marchant relies an absurd antisemitic conspiracy theory to support the baseless claim. He asserts that powerful Jewish Democrats plotted for 20 years to defeat Republican presidential candidates by electing progressive secretaries of state to control election outcomes in key swing states. And he says that Trump’s loss in 2020 was “the direct result of that plan.”
He points to George Soros—a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to the U.S. from Hungary in 1956—and the late former Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)—a Mormon who married a Jew—as key players in his fantasy. His views would be laughable if they weren’t so dangerous.
The Cancer Spreads
Besides Marchant, other members of the coalition spoke at the QAnon convention last October. Michigan’s Kristina Karamo told the audience:
“First, I want to thank Jim Marchant for putting the coalition together. We owe him so much because you know, when I first asked to be a part of the coalition, and we came here today and we sat in a room and we met and we talked, all of us on the coalition together, and we realized how well coordinated, how nefarious this agenda was to undermine the will of the American people.”
Arizona’s Mark Finchem and California’s Rachel Hamm participated in a panel discussion during which Marchant outlined some of the coalition’s priorities for their candidates who win in November. They include advocating voter ID laws, limiting voting to a single day, discontinuing the use of mail-in ballots, and “cleaning up” voter rolls.
According to an NPR analysis in February 2022, “[A]t least 20 Republican candidates running [for secretary of state] question the legitimacy of President Biden’s 2020 win, even though no evidence of widespread fraud has been uncovered about the race over the last 14 months. In fact, claims of any sort of fraud that swung the election have been explicitly refuted in state after state, including those run by Republicans.”
If you live in any of the following states, a “2020 election denier” is seeking to become your next secretary of state: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Washington, and Wisconsin.
In Pennsylvania, the governor selects the secretary of state, and the two front-runners for the Republican nomination are promoting Trump’s Big Lie too. Marchant has said that one of them, Doug Mastriano, is a member of his coalition. His profile is on the coalition’s website.
Historically, midterm elections don’t attract much voter interest. If such lethargy prevails this time, the outcome of a few key contests for secretary of state in November 2022 could lead to tragic consequences for American democracy in 2024 and beyond.
Now is the time to pick a side.
Steven J. Harper is an attorney, adjunct professor at Northwestern University Law School, and author of several books, including Crossing Hoffa — A Teamster’s Story and The Lawyer Bubble — A Profession in Crisis. He has been a regular columnist for Moyers on Democracy, Dan Rather’s News & Guts, and The American Lawyer.
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