What Pennsylvania Primaries Mean for Swing State’s Future

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The Big Lie can have legs.

Trump, the ex-President of the United States of America has gained more support from his mistaken belief that he was actually the winner in 2020. The results in those states’ Republican primaries echo others this cycle, such as Ohio, where Republicans fell in line behind Trump’s fanciful assertion that states and even Congress could choose to ignore the results of the elections.

Pennsylvania’s most remarkable outcome may have been Doug Mastriano, the state senator who was nominated by Republicans in an open race to be governor. Mastriano was present at the Stop the Steal Washington rally on Jan. 6, 2021 that followed the deadly and unsuccessful insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Mastriano has repeatedly denied that he entered the Capitol. The House Committee investigating Jan. 6, has also subpoenaed his statements. Mastriano has also worked in the state legislature to set aside Joe Biden’s victory and has been a tireless apologist for Trump’s efforts to sideline democracy.

He campaigned to be elected governor. Tom Wolf, who is term-limited, Mastriano promised he would appoint a secretary of state—the top elections administrator—who would force all Pennsylvanians to re-register to vote in the next election, a move that would potentially remake the electorate and would definitely violate federal law.

Pennsylvania Republicans supported that view. This shows how much the GOP can tolerate, if it is not fully embraced, Trump’s tyrannical belief.

North Carolina was experiencing a similar situation. There, an open U.S. Senate election led Republicans in North Carolina to nominate Ted Budd. Budd joined the 138 House members who objected to the certification of Biden as the winner in the 2020 election. Budd beat the former governor. Pat McCrory, who refused to repeat Trump’s false claims of victory.

That’s not to say all of the party’s machinery is aligning to support these candidates. The Republican Governors Association, which raises tens of millions of dollars to boost GOP candidates across the country, didn’t pledge to support Mastriano. The RGA’s statement didn’t even congratulate him on his victory in a state that both parties see as a lynchpin to winning the presidency in 2024. In Pennsylvania, 56% of Republican voters voted for another candidate in an extremely crowded field. Politics is ultimately a math game, and Mastriano won while strongly suggesting that democracy was for losers.

It is amazing for many reasons that this false belief, that the 2020 election was against Trump, has grown in strength. This is a testament to how gifted he remains as a salesman. He has convinced millions of Americans—and a consistent majority of Republicans—that the election was stolen. A lot of people believe that Jan. 6, the fatal riot, was justifiable, that the rioters suffered persecution, and that there will be a second, more effective, election. This alone can motivate millions of people to vote for Trump in 2024. And it shows just how fragile American democracy remains, that if one person with a gift of the gab can inspire thousands to organize an attempted coup, there’s no telling, really, what the limits of civility are in a civil society.

It’s plenty easy for voters in other states to look at Mastriano’s win and shrug it off as something happening There are more. But should Matriano prevail in November over the Democrats’ nominee, state attorney general Josh Shapiro, he could have, in effect, veto power over the next presidential election. A hand-picked Big Lie enthusiast installed to run the state’s elections could set aside 19 electoral votes in 2024; John Kerry lost the presidency in 2004 by a margin of one Pennsylvania.

You can see the ripple effects. If the results don’t actually matter in Pennsylvania, what’s the point in believing in democracy more broadly? Mastriano might undermine trust in democracy, and then the legitimacy of government that elections establish. It’s not overblown to see the potential for trouble here well beyond the Keystone State’s borders—and this election. This is how today’s Republican Party is choosing its leaders, and it speaks volumes about the moment in this country’s more-fractured-than-ever politics.

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