The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Republicans are not in disarray. They’re united in their attack on democracy.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

On the surface, the GOP is a party in disarray. Party leaders in Congress struggle to deal with elected nutballs such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). Far-right extremists try to take over state parties. A member of the House leadership is ousted for refusing to pander to the lie that President Biden stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump.

But underneath, there is a striking — and frightening — degree of unity. For all the disagreement about the 2020 election, Republicans are in lockstep on the question of power — namely, that by rights it belongs exclusively to Republicans and steps must be taken to ensure that Democrats not be allowed to wield it, no matter what the voters might want.

Let me direct your attention to Arizona — but not to the bonkers “audit” of 2020 ballots the state Senate there has ordered.

Instead, let’s focus on a new effort by Arizona Republicans to strip the Democratic secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, of her authority to defend against lawsuits regarding elections.

Arizona is one of the key states in the battle over elections because it is trending Democratic — Biden won there in 2020, as did two Democratic senators — while Republicans still control the legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Using that control, Republicans have put their effort to roll back Hobbs’s authority into budget bills now moving toward approval. They are trying to transfer all authority to defend the state against election lawsuits to the state attorney general, Mark Brnovich, a Republican.

Why? Because the Democrat might take the “wrong” position, say by fighting against a future effort to reverse a Democratic win.

But what if in the next election, a Democrat becomes attorney general and a Republican becomes secretary of state? Not a problem: The provision taking power away from Hobbs sunsets after the 2022 election. If Republicans still control the legislature, at that point they can revisit the question and just put power in the hands of whichever office is held by one of their own.

This is one of many such laws being passed by Republicans at the state level, and while they haven’t gotten the attention of the more colorful efforts at passing new voter suppression laws, they may be even more important.

No national-level Republican I know of has condemned either the power-grabbing or the votersuppression laws. Even Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), fresh from her defenestration, defends the Republican voter suppression campaign.

Even Republicans who would like to be rid of Trump and want to stop arguing about the past election are on board with the party’s turn away from democracy itself.

Arguments about 2020 are for the rubes, a way to keep their deluded base angry and energized. Mainstream Republicans will encourage them and support them with the assertion that people have “doubts” and “concerns” that can be addressed only by feeding the conspiracy theories, but the real action is on what’s being put in place for future elections.

That’s why when we look at the GOP voter suppression campaign, we have to distinguish between voting restrictions focused on voters themselves and those focused on power — who has it and how it can be wielded.

In the first category are voter ID laws, limitations on the number of drop boxes, restrictions on people’s ability to drop someone else’s ballot in the mailbox or bans on giving voters waiting in line a bottle of water. To fashion these laws, Republicans catalogue the differences between Republican and Democratic voters and how the two parties go about election activities, and then find ways to make it more difficult for Democrats to vote.

But putting up hurdles in front of Democratic voters is very different from the second category of changes to election law, which is about putting the power over elections firmly in Republican hands.

As a recent report from a nonpartisan group put it, state legislatures across the country “are moving to muscle their way into election administration, as they attempt to dislodge or unsettle the executive branch and/or local election officials who, traditionally, have run our voting systems.”

In some cases, they’ve moved to strip power from individual officials such as Hobbs or Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. In other cases, they’ve imposed restrictions on the ability of local officials to make their own decisions about how to conduct elections, and have even tried to intimidate them by creating criminal penalties for those officials who run afoul of the GOP-controlled legislature.

Republicans have also introduced bills in more than two dozen states that directly attack the independence of the courts. In many cases, they specifically seek to limit the ability of courts to rule on election cases.

Where are the Republicans who object to this wide-ranging assault on democracy? There aren’t any.

The stage is being set for future elections to be stolen — not by a whiny president who tries to reverse an election he lost, but by systems put in place well before ballots are cast to make sure that the rules are crafted to Republicans’ benefit and Republicans will be in charge of resolving any disputes. And on that, there is no dissent within their party.

Read more:

Paul Waldman: The GOP is going hog-wild in the states. If only Democrats in D.C. did the same.

Jennifer Rubin: Republicans want mini-Trumps in 2022? Democrats would be delighted.

Jennifer Rubin: Whatever Republicans are doing, it isn’t working

Dana Milbank: McConnell focuses ‘100 percent’ on blocking Biden — and zero percent on America

Christine Emba: Why conservatives really fear critical race theory