I got Jocelyn Benson on the phone the day after last fall’s midterms. I was expecting some exhaustion. It had been a long night of returns and a punishing election cycle, and I assumed that everyone was nursing the same kind of civic hangover I was.
But the Michigan secretary of state was ebullient, still riding an adrenaline high from the night before. “Though we’re in the middle of this multiyear effort, this is a significant victory that we never got to celebrate in 2020,” Benson tells me.
That year had also been a Democratic (and democratic) success: a high-turnout election, carried out in the chaos of a pandemic, that saw Joe Biden make Donald Trump a one-term president. But it was followed by weeks of challenges and frenzied protests, including an armed protest outside Benson’s own home that December as she put up Christmas decorations with her young son.
Benson was sworn in to her second term in January after not only presiding over the highest-turnout midterm in her state’s history, but also decisively beating Kristina Karamo, her Republican challenger, who’d made lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election the centerpiece of her political identity. Her win—and those of other Democrats—hadn’t exactly extinguished Trump’s “big lie.” But it seemed they’d managed to get it somewhat contained.
Observers had been bracing for a “tsunami” that would wash all manner of election deniers, conspiracy theorists, and pro-Trump radicals onto Capitol Hill, into statehouses and governor’s mansions and positions of power over the democratic process. Some of them are, in fact, now in office. But the red “tsunami”? That never quite crested.
“We’ve had, in my view, three elections running—2018, 2020, and 2022—where the American electorate as a whole, but also state by state, county by county in some cases, has had this choice between democracy and autocracy, or democracy and Trumpery, on the ballot, and three times America has rejected it,” Norm Eisen, the Democratic impeachment counsel and Obama White House ethics czar, tells me.
Read more: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/01/election-denial-american-democracy