U.S. lawmakers to foreign allies: Midterm results show our democracy is safe

U.S. lawmakers to foreign allies: Midterm results show our democracy is safe

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers traveling abroad for the first time since the midterms cheered the broad repudiation of candidates who denied the outcome of the 2020 election, arguing those results shore up American democracy and should reassure foreign allies.

Amid concerns about the fragility of democracy both at home and abroad, members of the congressional delegation at the annual Halifax International Security Forum — in public and in private meetings with their foreign counterparts — highlighted the resounding defeat of candidates in battleground states who backed Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

“As we look at the battle for Ukraine and support for democracies around the world, it’s really important for the United States to be able to model the aspects of democracy that we’re talking to other countries about,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who led the delegation here, in an interview. “So many of those people who were the most extreme were defeated. That was a good sign. It was a good sign for democracy.”

It wasn’t just Democratic candidates who were victorious after taking a stand against those who falsely assert that Trump won in 2020. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who pushed back on Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results in his state, won reelection easily. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who is retiring, said he didn’t vote for his party’s gubernatorial nominee, Doug Mastriano, who was the architect of a failed bid to reverse President Joe Biden’s victory there.

Other Republicans, too, are fed up with Trump’s influence in the GOP and his refusal to drop his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

“It just was a lesson that the American people are smarter than that and they don’t appreciate it if people try to simply gloss over that,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who had his own dust-up with Trump earlier this year after he rejected the former president’s continued insistence — without evidence — that there was widespread fraud.

Rounds said those candidates’ losses weren’t necessarily an endorsement of Democrats’ congressional agenda, but “had more to do with poor candidate selection and a failure by some candidates to have the courage to publicly say to their supporters that there was no evidence that would have changed the outcome of the election.”

In states like Nevada, Arizona and Michigan, election deniers lost their bids for key statewide offices like governor and secretary of state, a role that often governs the administration of elections. Democrats in particular said it was also a vindication of Biden’s decision to focus on the promotion of democracy in the final days of the 2022 campaign, despite criticism that he should have centered his closing message on the economy and inflation.

“I was bracing for losing secretary of state and gubernatorial races across four or five states, and that becoming a structural drag on the 2024 elections,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a top Biden confidant, in an interview. “Once again, a man with 50 years of elected experience … actually read the moment better than the commentariat or those who principally failed to appreciate that the American electorate understood and saw clearly that … something more fundamental was going on.”

Congressional delegations give lawmakers a rare opportunity to engage directly with their counterparts in allied nations as they craft legislation and help steer U.S. foreign policy. But in many cases, lawmakers find themselves on the receiving end of awkward interactions, like when Coons met over the summer with officials in Africa who offered to send election monitors to the U.S. for the midterms — a conversation that usually happens in reverse.

“I couldn’t say anything other than, ‘I appreciate the offer.’ Because the whole world saw an attempt by an armed mob, instigated by a failed presidential candidate, attempt to storm our Capitol,” Coons said, referring to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. “There has been both grave concern and a little bit of, ‘So you’re not so perfect after all.’”

The Halifax forum was, at its core, an effort to rally behind Ukraine as its democracy has come under attack by Russia. That’s why lawmakers saw the unpopularity of election deniers at home as reinforcing their efforts to support and promote democracy.

Members of the delegation — the largest group of lawmakers to attend the conference in recent memory — underscored deep bipartisan support for continued aid to Kyiv. They also downplayed opposition to Ukraine aid as limited to fringe elements of Capitol Hill. Many of those lawmakers are also vocal backers of Trump and his false claims about the 2020 election.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), who was making her first trip to Halifax, said the 2022 midterm results were a rejection of “an extreme slate of election deniers,” including several in her home state where a far-right election denier was defeated in the secretary of state race.

Voters “don’t want to litigate one person’s grievance,” Rosen said in an interview, referring to Trump. “That’s why you saw Nevada deliver the majority in the United States Senate.”

Following the midterm repudiation of many candidates he endorsed in GOP primaries, Trump’s decision to launch another White House bid last week is dividing Republicans. The GOP also eked out a narrow House majority and will set the agenda there next year, ending two years of Democratic control of Congress and the White House.

Many lawmakers saw the midterms as a course-correction even as questions swirl on Capitol Hill — especially in the lower chamber — over Republicans’ willingness to continue backing military and economic aid for Ukraine.

“The sentiment is that people are very relieved — as relieved as I am. And I didn’t like all of the results,” Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) said. “But there was no doubt that the message voters sent a few weeks ago was that they’re not going to put up with the Big Lie and election deniers and extremism.”

“Certainly this election shows an element of self-correction, a swing back towards moderation, towards good governance,” he added. “The world saw it, and it was a relief.”

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