Two years after the weeks of post-election turmoil that culminated in the Jan. 6 insurrection, the far right has displayed a much more muted response to the outcome, which again hinges on closely contested results still being tallied days after Election Day in Arizona.
The tone was set by Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who has taken a combative stance against election officials, while stopping short of directly accusing them of fraud in an election that she stands a chance of winning, after all, once all the ballots are counted.
In contrast to two years ago, there is no unifying claim of election fraud or call for mobilization to overturn the result. The conspiracy narratives pushed by election deniers — many of whom were active in amplifying Trump’s false claims in 2020 — this time have largely failed to gain purchase with the MAGA electoral base. And some prominent far-right figures, demoralized by Republicans’ poor showing, have signaled a shift from defying election results that don’t go in their favor towards openly rejecting the democratic system altogether.
Taking cues from Lake and Mark Finchem, the election denier who wants to oversee Arizona’s elections as secretary of state, much of the far-right constituency is stuck in a holding pattern of waiting for results.
“We’re literally in a hostage situation with, like, a gun to our heads about where we’re just stuck here,” Jack Posobiec, who promoted the “Stop the Steal” slogan before the 2020 election, said on Friday, during a four-day midterm election marathon on “The Charlie Kirk Show.” “We’re literally just stuck here waiting for these goblins to dance around. We don’t even know, by the way, if we’re getting batches [of ballots] today. We don’t know if we’re getting batches tomorrow.” Donald Trump interjected himself in the Senate race on Friday evening, writing on Truth Social: "They stole the Electron [sic] from Blake Masters. Do Election over again!"
But late on Friday, the logjam began to break, with the Associated Press calling races in favor of Mark Kelly and Adrian Fontes, the Democratic candidates in the US Senate and secretary of state races respectively.
As some far-right backers like Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, and former White House strategist Steve Bannon anxiously await the results in Arizona, others have long since disengaged.
Nicholas Fuentes, a white supremacist and antisemitic leader of the so-called Groyper movement, was welcomed into the “Stop the Steal” movement by Ali Alexander, and helped galvanize Trump supporters with direct appeals to white grievance at rallies in Atlanta; Harrisburg, Pa.; and Washington, DC.
Dismayed at Democrat John Fetterman’s victory in the US Senate race in Pennsylvania, Fuentes announced on Telegram the morning after the election: “At this point I’d almost like to pivot and say there’s never voter fraud because then you wouldn’t be able to ‘fix’ the problem of electing retards and criminals with election integrity laws; we could just stop most people from voting altogether.”
Anthime “Tim” Gionet aka Baked Alaska, a live-streamer who attended the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017 and pleaded guilty to parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building for taking part in the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was even more blunt as he watched the promised red wave fail to materialize.
“F*** all this s***,” he said during a livestream with Fuentes. “I don’t care. Just give me my f***ing Twitter back. I’m moving to Russia. F*** elections.”
Patrick Howley, formerly a reporter for Breitbart News Network and the Daily Caller who has migrated through a host of increasingly extreme platforms since Trump’s 2016 election, issued an appeal on Gab, a haven for white supremacists and antisemites, on Thursday: “Don’t let them steal it from Kari Lake in Maricopa County with paper ballots after Election Day.”
Some of the Gab users who reshared Howley’s post added more explicit calls to action.
“AZ Patriots it’s time for mass protests,” one user wrote.
“THE ELECTION COUNTING SITES NEED TO BE RAIDED RIGHT NOW AND ANY FAKE BALLOTS SEIZED – WE ARE MISSING HUGE OPPORTUNITIES TO CATCH THEM RED HANDED,” another wrote.
But the vast majority of the 100-plus replies to Howley’s post expressed resignation, with a few displaying enthusiasm for “Stop the Steal”-style protests or other direct responses to the election. Some recommended giving up on elections and moving on to accelerationist violence.
“Too late,” one Gab user wrote in response to Howley's post. “If you can’t prevent cheating and the courts won’t correct the cheating, you have one option: WAR.” Another user, lamenting that they didn’t see allies in the military, the Biden administration or even the Republican Party, agreed: “The only way out for patriots is bloody revolution.”
Finchem, an ardent promoter of Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen and someone who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, issued a series of demands for election officials to complete the ballot count on his Telegram channel over the week, up until Friday evening, when the Associated Press called the secretary of state race in favor of his opponent.
In response to Finchem's Telegram posts, some supporters have called for protests and disruption, and even for lethal violence.
“Occupy Maricopa,” one user wrote on Thursday, referring to the state’s most populous county, which accounts for 58.7 percent of the ballots cast in this election. “Start camping or they will punk you. Bring trucks and tractors. Remember Canada.” Similarly, another user wrote: “People of Arizona need to surround the center where the votes are being counted. Otherwise they WILL find a way to Cheat.”
A few called for officials, including Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, to be publicly executed or imprisoned.
The Proud Boys, dozens of whose members were caught in the national dragnet to prosecute participants in the Jan. 6 attacks, are emblematic of the scattered response to the electoral uncertainty in Arizona.
On Telegram, Proud Boys in Miami — including Gabriel Garcia, a former US Army captain who is charged with civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding in connection with his actions at the US Capitol on Jan. 6 — and in southeastern North Carolina publicized their efforts to volunteer at polling places on Election Day.
The Vice City Proud Boys chapter celebrated its role in helping reelect Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, while flipping Miami-Dade County from blue to red.
The Cape Fear Proud Boys chapter, whose members harassed patrons at a drag show in Sanford, NC a week before the election, argued on Telegram that Republicans' less than resounding performance means the country needs "the Proud Boys now more than ever" because of "wokeness and grooming," urban disorder and immigration."
Nicholas Ochs, a Proud Boys member who ran the “Murder the Media” content factory and pleaded guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding for his role in the Jan. 6 attack, predicted on his Telegram channel as the polls closed on Election Day that “tonight will be brutal for Dems.”
He was forced to eat his words the following morning, quickly blaming the Republican establishment for disappointing showing.
While many Republicans transferred their loyalty to DeSantis, including some of his fellow Proud Boys in south Florida, Ochs wrote, “Trump is the only exciting thing in the party. Trump is the only Republican that can win.
“That’s all that matters,” he added. “Idk why I even wrote about the midterms. It’s not something I care about (or should care about).”
There was broad agreement in the comment thread below Ochs’ post, with overt rejections of the democratic system and calls for autocracy.
Some of the comments included: “Voting is fake and gay.” “We won’t win the presidential, it’s over. Whoever runs, won’t happen.” “Let the Republicans lose. Bunch of neocons anyway.” “We need a King.”
Karl Dresch, who pleaded guilty to parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building and was sentenced to six months in jail for his role in the Jan. 6 attack, expressed loyalty to Trump on Ochs’ channel.
“But yeah, fair elections are done,” he said. “Here in Michigan, voter fraud was enshrined in our constitution last night, probably thanks to fraud. The people need a leader with balls to inspire us to fix this and smash communism.”
Ochs, who is still awaiting sentencing, wrote on Wednesday that he wanted to talk about “the sacred subject of ‘democracy,’” but he had to self-censor and would write a full explication of his thoughts on the subject from prison, later.
Disparaging voting as “entertainment,” Ochs suggested he is disengaging from the political process.
“I’ll say this: A consensus is being reached on the true right,” he wrote. “You need to move to a non-urban area with likeminded people nearby. Practically speaking, neighbors have always mattered more than the laws that are written.”