Meanwhile, at the state level, the Republican-backed bills that purport to fight voter fraud are obviously partially sops to conservative paranoia — but as such, they’re designed to head off cries of fraud, claims of ballots shipped in from China or conjured up in Italy. That sort of heading-off strategy may fail, of course, but for now, exercises like the Arizona audit have mostly divided grass-roots conservatives against one another rather than set up some sort of Tea Party wave that would sweep out all the quisling legislators who failed to #StopTheSteal in 2020.
That kind of wave is what anyone worried about a crisis in 2024 should be looking out for today. Undoubtedly a lot of Republican primary candidates will run on Trump-was-robbed themes in the next election cycle; undoubtedly a few more Marjorie Taylor Greene-ish and Matt Gaetzian figures will rise in 2022. But the key question is whether Trump and his allies will be able to consistently punish, not just a lightning rod like Raffensperger or the scattering of House Republicans who voted for impeachment, but the much larger number of G.O.P. officials who doomed the #StopTheSteal campaign through mere inaction — starting with Republican statehouse leaders in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona and moving outward through the ranks from there.
The same dynamic applies to Republicans in Washington. In February, seven Republican senators voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial; just a few weeks ago, 35 House Republicans defied him and voted for the Jan. 6 inquiry. Even in a future where the G.O.P. takes back the House and the Senate in 2022, any attempt to overturn a clear Biden victory in 2024 would require most of the Republicans who cast these anti-Trump votes to swing completely to Team Let’s Have a Constitutional Crisis, with someone like Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski casting the decisive vote. Which is imaginable only if some transformative political wave hits the Republican Party in the meantime — and barely so even then.
Then keep in mind, too, that in the event of a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024, Biden, not Trump, will enjoy the presidency’s powers; Kamala Harris, not Mike Pence, will preside over the electoral count; and Trump will be four years older, unlikely to run a fourth time, and therefore somewhat less intimidating in defeat. In that landscape, it’s at least as easy to imagine him going more limply into the good night as it is to imagine top-to-bottom G.O.P. enthusiasm for the Great Coup of ’24.
Which, again, does not make the worriers unreasonable; it just makes their we’re all doomed attitude seem extremely premature.
And potentially counterproductive, I would add, for a Democratic Party whose immediate problem is a much more ordinary one: Its ideas and leaders in the last election cycle weren’t as popular as its activists imagined, and it’s therefore vulnerable not just to some future Trumpian chicanery but also to a relatively normal sort of repudiation, in which the democratic process works relatively smoothly — and rewards Republicans instead.