Arizona will vote for (or against) truth in the 2022 election – The Arizona Republic

Arizonans this election face a choice between candidates who accept reality and embrace democracy and candidates who assure us they do neither.
More than 50 candidates on the Arizona ballot, including those pursuing the highest state and federal offices, have denied or questioned the 2020 election results. Candidates in major races have made election denialism central to their campaigns.
Make no mistake: the results of the 2020 presidential election were not fraudulent. A coalition of leading conservatives, deeply concerned about the harm done to democracy by unfounded claims of a stolen election, has made this case meticulously.
Three recounts certified by Republican state officials and more than 60 lawsuits in state and federal courts (including the Supreme Court) affirmed the legitimacy of the 2020 outcome. Arizona’s own audit by the Republican-led state Senate concluded that President Biden won Arizona by even more votes than officially recorded.
Candidates and their proxies who claim access to secret mule-born evidence of voter fraud or who engaged in the fraudulent electors scheme complain loudly in public but either do not testify or plead the Fifth under oath.
Why? Because they are lying. Their lies fill campaign coffers. And they exploit susceptible voters’ fears that their majority status is being stolen and must be restored – by subverting democracy, if necessary.
The extent of election denialism among Arizona’s GOP candidates might suggest that commitments to truth and democracy divide squarely along party lines.
Not so.
Democrat Adrian Fontes and Republican Stephen Richer, former and current Maricopa County recorders, have defended the accuracy of Arizona’s 2020 election results with integrity, transparency and extensive evidence. (Combating the lies has been a mission for Richer over the last two years.)
County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates, a Republican, Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, and Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, all performed their 2020 electoral duties honorably in the face of pressure.
Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers resisted – at great personal and political cost – the former president’s entreaty to lie on his behalf about the election’s legitimacy. Bowers, a devout Mormon whose faith informs his civic duties, testified that he told Mr. Trump, “You are asking me to do something against my oath, and I will not break my oath.”
The Arizona Republican Party censured Bowers for his integrity.
The dangerous political divide we witness is not between parties, but between differing views of reality.
On one side, we see a commitment to a shared, public world in which we negotiate and live with our differences. On this side are Democrats, Republicans and independents who may disagree furiously on major issues, such as abortion, immigration, gun control and public education, but who recognize the rules of democracy and the central importance of facts and evidence.
What voters care about:Inflation, abortion and threats to democracy
On the other side are those who refuse to recognize truths held in common. This side selectively spurns the rule of law and democratic institutions, including the courts and executive agencies, that interpret and enforce the law.
It rejects the peaceful transfer of power. It tolerates or promotes anti-democratic or violent means of gaining power, including voter intimidation, election interference and threats to poll workers.
It refuses to share the field, follow the rules of play or accept any outcome but victory. This faction is reactionary, not conservative: it lashes out against the foundations, institutions and civic commitments on which democracy depends.
It’s magical thinking to imagine that we can change historical outcomes we don’t like. As Aristotle observed, “Not even the gods can change the past.”
In that sense, truth is powerful. At the same time, truth is fragile, insofar as it is vulnerable to attempts to manipulate, corrupt or subvert it. Those who command sufficient force can ignore or tamper with evidence, silence testimony or seek to overturn democratic elections.
The Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, which left several dead, hundreds traumatized and 140 police officers injured, showed us what happens when brute lawlessness is summoned to defeat the obstinacy of unwelcome facts.   
Roughly 870 people have b charged in federal court related to storming the Capitol. Several candidates on the Arizona ballot helped set the conditions for the deadly violence by denying the election results and supporting fraudulent elector schemes.
Republican Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar reportedly helped Ali Alexander plan the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington. Rep. Gosar later fundraised off his insinuation that the FBI planned the attack.
Rep. Mark Finchem, the Republican running for secretary of state, attended the Jan. 6 rally and falsely blamed Antifa for the violence, even as he posted approvingly of the mob on Twitter. Finchem and Republican state Sen. Wendy Rogers remain affiliated with the Oath Keepers militia, who led the initial assault on the Capitol.
Arizonans hold differing views on the issues that matter to us. But lies that take aim at democracy itself are not “issues” in any meaningful sense.
If one of us holds that abortion rights are sovereign and the other believes an inalienable right to life begins at conception, we can give reasons for our divergent positions.
If one of us is convinced the other’s party holds power because of massive, unprovable fraud that only violence will set to rights, then constructive debate between us is impossible.
The bottom line is this: none of our views will matter if our votes in this election install candidates who will ignore our votes henceforward. Candidates on the ballot have told us they will relitigate settled elections, refuse to concede if they lose, and override the will of Arizona voters in future election contests.
We can be grateful for their candor. They have warned us, explicitly, that they will not be bound by the will of the majority. They will not let democracy stand in their way.
Truth is on the ballot, and Arizona voters have important choices to make.
A vote for election denialism is a vote against democracy. It could also be the last meaningful vote we cast.
John Carlson and Tracy Fessenden are co-directors of the Recovering Truth project and professors of religious studies at Arizona State University. The views expressed here are their own. On Twitter: @RecoveringTruth


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