Trump and his supporters must be held accountable for election lies. Our democracy hangs in the balance

OPINION: As the former campaign manager for Vice President Al Gore, Donna Brazile charts the dangers for America caused by Donald Trump and others pushing falsehoods about the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed. The views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

America’s democracy is on life support as a result of former President Donald Trump’s obstinate refusal to admit he lost his 2020 reelection bid and efforts by his Republican supporters in leadership across the country to enact voter suppression laws that restrict eligible citizens’ right to vote and install supporters in positions to rig the 2024 presidential election in his favor.

Think I’m being alarmist? I wish I were. The truth is that democracies have been overthrown around the world. American democracy could be next. 

The right to vote to elect our leaders — a right denied to Black Americans for most of our nation’s history — may soon be denied to all Americans by Trump and his supporters, who want to throw out any election results that don’t go their way. 

Already, the House committee investigating the Trump-inspired attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has laid out a damning case against the former president’s efforts to overturn the free and fair presidential election won by Joe Biden. 

Trump’s attempted coup failed in 2020, but he’s now laying the groundwork for success in 2024, when he is widely expected to seek the Republican presidential nomination.

For example, as the British newspaper, The Guardian, recently reported: “Republicans and other conservative groups are undertaking a huge effort to recruit election workers, a push that could install people with unfounded doubts about the 2020 election in key positions in voting precincts where they could exert considerable power over elections.”

President Donald Trump speaks at the "Stop The Steal" Rally
President Donald Trump speaks at the “Stop The Steal” Rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation’s capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Trump and his supporters are also mounting an unprecedented effort to elect pro-Trump secretaries of state in the 27 states where these officials are in charge of elections. The goal is obvious: elect officials who will say Trump is the winner in their states in the 2024 presidential primaries and election even if he loses again. 

The FiveThirtyEight political website reported July 18 that at least 120 of the 340 Republicans nominated so far this year in primaries for Congress, governor, attorney general and secretary of state support Trump’s 2020 election lie. Among the most prominent are the GOP nominees for governor in Pennsylvania and Maryland. 

Even before the 2020 vote, Trump was insisting that because he was such a great president it was impossible for him to lose in a fair election. “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged,” Trump said at a rally in Wisconsin in August 2020. He made similar comments many times.

This claim is absurd. That’s why until Trump, no presidential candidate in American history had ever refused to accept defeat.

When I was Vice President Al Gore’s campaign manager in the 2000 presidential race and the Supreme Court ordered a recount to stop in Florida when Gore trailed George W. Bush by less than 600 votes, Gore conceded. When Vice President Richard Nixon was narrowly defeated by John F. Kennedy in 1960, amid questions raised about alleged voting irregularities in Illinois and Texas, Nixon conceded. 

NASHVILLE, : US Vice President and Democratic presidential hopeful Al Gore(L) introduces his new campaign manager Donna Brazile, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for his new presidential campaign headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, 06 October, 1999. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO Luke FRAZZA (Photo credit should read LUKE FRAZZA/AFP via Getty Images)

Democrat Gore and Republican Nixon were very different, but they shared a belief that contesting their losses would badly divide the American people and harm our nation. Unlike Trump, they put the national interest above their personal interests.

Without any evidence, Trump still insists he won a landslide victory in 2020, even though judges (including some he appointed) have thrown out over 60 lawsuits by him and his supporters challenging Biden’s election, and even though multiple recounts have confirmed the Biden victory. 

The Republican speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly even says Trump called him in early July trying to get the speaker to decertify Biden’s victory in the state — nearly two years after the election. Speaker Robin Vos says he told Trump the Wisconsin Constitution does not allow him to overturn the election result. 

Just as he demanded that then-Vice President Mike Pence refuse to carry out his duty to count electoral votes certifying Biden’s election on Jan. 6 last year — and told his supporters to march to the Capitol to support overturning the election — Trump says anything he disagrees with isn’t fair, and insists he gets his way at all times.

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally for Nebraska Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster, Sunday, May 1, 2022, in Greenwood, Neb. (Kenneth Ferriera/Lincoln Journal Star via AP)

Alarmingly, millions of Americans believe Trump’s Big Lie, undermining the faith in elections that is required to sustain any democracy. This is why our democracy is so endangered today.

The Poynter Institute reported in June that four polls found that about 70% of Republicans don’t believe Biden was the legitimate winner of the 2020 election. A Morning Consult poll of registered voters early this year found that while 92% of Democrats believed the 2020 presidential election was free and fair, only 32% of Republicans shared that belief. 

Today, our beloved nation stands more divided than at any time since it was torn apart by the Civil War in the struggle over slavery. This toxic division is fueling Republican efforts at so-called “election integrity,” which is a code for voter suppression efforts to make it harder for Black people and other groups that generally support Democrats to vote.

It’s long past time to heal our divisions and put the 2020 election behind us. I understand that most Republicans don’t agree with my support for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. But Republicans should join Democrats in supporting democracy and acknowledging the winners of elections.

America needs more courageous Republicans like Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who serve on the Jan. 6 committee and are exposing Trump’s wrongdoing. We need more patriotic Republicans like the seven GOP senators who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial in February 2021. 

And we need accountability for everyone — up to and including Trump — who sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election, to ensure no one tries to overturn the 2024 election or elections long after that. We await the Jan. 6 committee’s remaining hearings and final report in the fall, and a decision by Attorney General Merrick Garland on further prosecutions beyond 882 rioters charged so far in the attack on our Capitol. The fate of our democracy hangs in the balance.

Donna Brazile Headshot

Donna Brazile is an ABC News Contributor, veteran political strategist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and the King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University. She previously served as interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute. She managed the Gore campaign in 2000 and has lectured at more than 225 colleges and universities on race, diversity, women, leadership and restoring civility in politics. Brazile is the author of several books, including the New York Times’ bestseller “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.” @DonnaBrazile

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