Will the American powder keg explode during the midterms?

From our correspondent in the United States,

conspiratorial candidates. Armed pseudo-poll observers. Nancy Pelosi’s husband attacked. After being shaken during the 2020 presidential election, then during the assault on the Capitol, American democracy will again be put to the test, this Tuesday, during the midterms.

All signals are red, with an increased risk of political violence, according to an alert bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI a week before the midterm elections.

One in two Republican candidates questioned Biden’s election

Donald Trump, who could announce his candidacy for 2024 by mid-November, repeated last Thursday the same lie he has been recycling for two years: “I have been a candidate twice, and I have won twice . This so-called fraud, which even his former attorney general Bill Barr called “bullshit,” galvanized the MAGA (Make America Great Again) electorate in the primaries. So much so that half (291 out of 568) of the Republican candidates for Congress or for the posts of Governor and Secretary of State are election deniers “, according a count of washington post.

These candidates therefore refused to recognize Joe Biden’s victory or, at the very least, cast doubt on the results. In Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano assured that he would not hesitate, in case of doubt, to “decertify” the results of the next presidential election if he is elected governor. And in Arizona, Mark Finchem, a member of the Oath Keepers militia who flirts with Qanon, kept a list of “traitors” on Pinterest, calling for stocking up on ammunition. He is hot on the heels of the Democratic candidate, with a chance of becoming Secretary of State and playing a central role in certifying the next presidential election.

Republican candidate for Arizona Secretary of State Mark Finchem.
Republican candidate for Arizona Secretary of State Mark Finchem. – Jim Rassol/AP/SIPA

Armed observers

Two years ago, hundreds of Donald Trump supporters, some armed, chanted “Stop the count” to demand an end to the counting in Phoenix, Arizona. In this disputed state, the conspirators, who fantasize about the existence of “mules” stuffing the ballot boxes with fake ballots, have taken the lead this year. The self-proclaimed “patriot” group Clean Election USA monitored the mailboxes where voters can drop their ballots in advance. The authorities published photos of individuals armed or in camouflage, denouncing an attempt “of intimidation”, and a judge prohibited them from approaching rifle in hand within 80 meters.

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Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi’s husband was attacked by a mentally ill conspirator. Like the Capitol rioters, he asked, “Where’s Nancy?” “. The man intended to take the Speaker hostage and “break her kneecaps” so that she would confess the Democratic “lies”.

From rhetoric to violent action

In such a climate, “the risk of violence is real, particularly just after the midterms,” warns Carolyn Gallaher, a researcher specializing in extremes at the American University in Washington. According to her, the tighter the ballot, the greater the danger, with “many far-right paramilitary groups aligned with the MAGA ideology”. “Around the world, the normalization of fiery rhetoric by political leaders is often a harbinger of a growing threat of violent action,” said Autumn Lewien, researcher at the Bridging Divide Initiative at the University of Princeton.

The two experts are concerned for the thousands of anonymous election workers, who had suffered death threats in 2020, with their addresses published on the Internet. The responsibility for bringing the temperature down falls on Republican officials, the researchers say. They must “put democracy before their party”, insists Autumn Lewien. The researcher nevertheless prefers to remain optimistic: “Voting in the United States is safe, and the elections are secure”, with safeguards that worked in 2020. It remains to be seen whether this will be the case in two years.

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