The US is on a knife-edge. The enemy for Trump’s Republicans is democracy itself

Jonathan Freedland

s in all the best horror movies, at first glance everything looks normal. It’s a classic scene of the American autumn: campaign rallies outside community centres, battle buses emblazoned with candidates’ smiling faces, kids wearing badges and holding up signs, while TV screens fill with debates, punditry and an endless loop of focus-grouped ads. Even the predicted outcome of Tuesday’s US midterm elections fits a template as familiar as falling leaves. Most experts agree that the Democrats will take a hit, losing control of at least one or perhaps both chambers of Congress, because they are the incumbent party – and incumbent parties almost always suffer in midterm – and because times are unusually tough. Inflation, interest rates, petrol prices, fear of crime: they’re all up. Couple that with a president set to turn 80 this month whose approval ratings have often plumbed the depths, and all the elements are in place for the Democrats to take a midterm beating, losing ground even in states they once counted as solidly their own.

But look closer and you see something else. Because next week’s results will decide more than just whether the red team or the blue team takes control of the House of Representatives and the Senate, on which hangs Joe Biden’s ability to get things done. Next week’s elections will also help determine whether, and for how much longer, the US will remain a genuine democracy.

It sounds hyperbolic and that, too, is an American tradition. Candidates always tell the crowds, “This is the most important election of my lifetime” and plenty will have heard Biden’s warning, delivered on Wednesday, that democracy itself is on the ballot in that same spirit. They will have assumed that when the president said, “In our bones, we know democracy is at risk” it was so much campaign talk. But Biden was scarcely exaggerating.

More than 370 Republican candidates for some of America’s highest offices have joined Donald Trump in his big lie of election denial, either casting doubt on or wholly rejecting the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential result. That means a majority of Republicans running for those key positions refuse democracy’s most basic act: accepting the verdict of the voters….