What the Devil won't tell you
The question: Az Republicans must answer what they will do come Election 2024
U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly came into Thursday's debate like a guy with a pretty good lead and a huge funding advantage, because both are true.
Maybe a little more preparation would have been helpful.
Republican candidate Blake Masters came out looking, smart, strong and aggressive — but he also escaped the one question that he should have been forced to answer.
I'm not going to fact check Masters' claims about how U.S. energy crude oil production has done anything but collapse under Biden, or that the bulk of the $6 trillion Masters said caused inflation hasn't been spent yet (those are 10-year numbers) or he said "there is something wrong with a person who won't enforce federal law" moments after throwing a hissy fit about new IRS agents or how the bulk of migrants crossing the border during Joe Biden's first two years are making legal asylum claims and are not "illegal immigrants."
Frankly, that was Kelly's job. He could have done a better at it.
Instead, I want to focus on and plead to future moderators to ask the big question – I would argue the only question that matters.
I don't want to beat up on PBS moderator Ted Simons. He did pretty well. He kept control of the candidates. He asked good follow-ups.
But he fell into the same trap so many of us have in dealing with the 2020 election and guys like Masters, who is on the record saying Trump should have been declared the winner.
Election denying about 2020 doesn't matter anywhere near as much as election denying in 2024 will. It's not unfair to press Republicans on the matter. They brought it upon themselves, with claims that the election was "stolen" from Donald Trump and refusing to acknowledge that Joe Biden won the presidency.
The question goes something like this:
"It's January 6, 2025, and Donald Trump is declaring another election fraudulent after another loss. All of Trump's court challenges have failed and the states have certified Joe Biden's re-election. Will you be loyal to the U.S. Constitution or Donald Trump?"
There's no equivocating here. No, "Well, I can't discuss hypotheticals but let me explain Hunter Biden's laptop." Sound the buzzer at "I will accept any results I deem legal." Get the stage hook ready if it's "I reject the premise of the question."
Nope. They lost that chance when their partisans attempted a coup d'etat – something no other losing side has done in this country's history.
Masters embraced the lie. Now he's trying to walk away from it. What will he do in two years?
Sure, the candidates could lie and tell voters what they want to hear and then help kill democracy anyway. Just don't let it be because they never got the question.
And maybe get voters thinking about Jan. 6 in the proper context. It's the next Jan. 6 that matters.
A one-time deal?
The United States has held 59 presidential elections. None of them witnessed this kind of attack on legitimacy, and the Republican Party continues to stand by that attempt to block the process of our republican form of government.
More than 60 court challenges failed to prove fraud, but if the big guy said it was stolen, then it was stolen, GOPers say.
The best reason to invent an election theft in a previous election is to steal the next one.
The only way to justify that kind of coup is to delegitimize the political opposition's victories as criminal acts. A country can't have a democracy if a major political party describes their losses as proof only of an irreparably broken election process.
In the pages of USA Today, columnist Rex Huppke rather colorfully dismissed allegations that Georgia Senate candidate Hershel Walker paid for an abortion. Huppke confessed to what the rest of the party has been implying: He doesn't care how much evil (and goes to great lengths to explain) his party does, so long as it's in power.
When we are talking about state power, that's gotta include ethnic cleansing and genocide (see the QAnon mass-murder fantasy called "The Storm").
And USA Today treats Huppke's manifesto like it's just another voice in a normal election.
This is the problem. We can't get used to it.
The election of 2020 is history. Joe Biden is president. He lives in the White House and is followed by a military aide, who handles the nuclear launch codes.
The coup of 2020 failed and the people seem uninspired by it, compared to an issue like inflation. Inflation can be brought back into line. The Federal Reserve Board can see to that.
Had the coup succeeded, the American people are suddenly in the same situation as the women of Iran. They can take to the streets but the leaders can ignore them, while security forces get busy arresting, beating or killing them.
An "I voted" sticker in 2026 or 2028 won't cut it.
The threat to democracy I think has been woefully miscast to voters. They don't seem to understand that if democracy is stolen, the people can't punish the thieves by voting democracy back into place.
When it's gone, it's gone along with any accountability to the majority. That's the whole idea behind destroying a democracy. The majority becomes irrelevant to power in the best case. It can also become a threat to power.
Don't count on meting out punishment for the crime with the 2026 midterms. Electing a U.S. president has weird mechanics that were nearly blew up the engine in 2020.
Electing congressional representatives is more straightforward. However, there are scary options for a party to seize power that might rest in state legislatures, to the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives or a brutal show of power from the executive branch that has the guns and no shame.
Voters can't uncrack the egg once it's broken.
The power of the state will rest in the hands of an ever-shrinking minority as those in charge inevitably tighten a paranoid circle around themselves.
The people then serve the minority. Freedom morphs into an obligation to prove loyalty to the people in charge. We're either with them or very freaking quiet about it.
And it's not just a matter of "Oh, I agree with that person." Loyalty means agreeing with anything the leader or party might do in the future. The pledge is eternal, not conditional.
I have to make a final point here. Power without accountability takes about eight seconds to produce corruption on a pretty grand scale. They have guns. They make the laws. Try to keep them from the money.
Vladimir Putin can't just resign and say "Golly, that Ukraine thing went wonky. Now it's time to put Russia first." He knows if he ever tries to give up power that, at best, he will die in prison, convicted on a quadrillion counts of corruption.
Reading a 10th-grade history book (not one of Florida's) will show why authoritarians can't give up power.
Little Round Top in the desert
Jan. 6, 2021, still matters because it so raises the stakes on Jan. 6, 2025.
And Arizona? You are the one of the final lines of defense. We are the 20th Maine Regiment sitting on Little Round Top.
Arizona is now one of just six to eight obvious swing states. Voters here will elect in November a governor, a secretary of state and a U.S. senator. All of them will be in a position to certify or help derail the 2024 election results.
In southeastern Arizona, voters will get to cast a ballot in a congressional district that could go either way.
Even a guy like Juan Ciscomani, the Republican running in the 6th District, can't really be counted on to stand up to the 45th president, the current governor of Florida or whomever gets the GOP nomination.
No candidate with a say in the chain of ratifying an election should be able to get away with simply acknowledging Biden is president. They need to explain what it would take for them to let him (or another Democrat) win the presidency again.
Any answer other than "It's up to the voters, not me" should be all the kryptonite those who are defending democracy need. Then again, Democrats don't seem to think democracy polls well. Sigh ... whole /nother column about why we may be screwed.
Inflation, immigration, abortion and other issues are transitory. We can sort them out as a nation.
No one forced Republicans into a position where the only question they should be asked is the one that is so politically dangerous to answer. They can have the voters or Trump but in Arizona, I doubt they can have both.
That's what makes the question so necessary to ask when the camera is on them. Let them squirm or let them lie but make them answer.
Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist, who worked in daily journalism for nearly 25 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things the Devil won’t.