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Robert Draper, author of 'Weapons of Mass Delusion,' examines the GOP's future


Numerous Republican candidates in this year's election rejected the results of the last one. Dozens of judges and thousands of election officials from both parties affirmed Donald Trump's defeat in 2020, but some candidates this year ran on alternative facts. QAnon figures and conspiracy theorists also took prominent roles as part of the Republican coalition.

So what do the election results say about them? New York Times Magazine contributing writer Robert Draper looks at this in his new book, "Weapons Of Mass Delusion: When The Republican Party Lost Its Mind." Mr. Draper, welcome to the program.

ROBERT DRAPER: Thanks for having me on.

INSKEEP: How did some of the election-denying figures that you follow fare last night?

DRAPER: Well, in particular, I've been interested in following the races in Arizona, where a completely Trumpy slate ran for statewide office, all of them endorsed by the former president. And it's very early to be saying this right now, Steve. We just don't know. But it's clear that Trumpism was not the resounding victory that the former president and others of his stripe had hoped for. The one that I'm in particular interested in is Mark Finchem, who's running for secretary of state - has been - in Arizona, has been a very vociferous 2020 election denier, was at the Capitol on January the 6. He is 6 points behind his Democratic opponent right now.

And so the open question will be, in addition to, obviously, you know, how it all shakes out electorally, is if indeed Finchem loses - it appears he will - will he concede? He's already kind of seeded the possibility of not doing so by talking about the Marxists who are trying to deny him victory, by seeing fraud everywhere where there isn't any. So people like Finchem are still out there who are concerning in terms of just whether they will accept a democratically held result.

INSKEEP: And I'll just repeat again, we're just stating facts here. Dozens of judges appointed by presidents from both parties, thousands of election officials from both parties affirmed the 2020 election results. And yet, 2020 also seems to have been on the ballot in the governor's race there. Kari Lake, who talked about election corruption on the Republican side, was up against Democrat Katie Hobbs, who, if I'm not mistaken, is the existing secretary of state in Arizona and certified the election results in Arizona in 2020. Lake may yet win that, but it's a lot closer than the polling suggested it would be.

DRAPER: Much closer. And Lake, we should say, is a very, very polished candidate insofar as she has been in the media for the last two decades, you know, is very good in front of the camera, while her opponent, who, you're correct, is the sitting secretary of state in Arizona, Katie Hobbs, is far from polished and avoided debating Lake, for example. And so you're right. Right now, that is a razor-thin lead that Hobbs is maintaining. Again, the same concern holds true that if she does win but wins in a small - by a small margin, that Kari Lake may challenge that, may say that the sitting secretary of state should have removed herself from any power during this election or simply that there was fraud.

INSKEEP: Can I get you to address a fear that exists among many Democrats and perhaps also some Republicans, a fear that a large part of the electorate in this country is in some way turning against democracy? You certainly can find surveys in which large numbers of people say, I wish that politicians would just do the right thing instead of what the voters tell them to do or what they think is politically popular. But having surveyed the Republican Party, particularly the way that you have, do you think that a large part of it truly has turned against democracy?

DRAPER: Well, yes. And as a corollary to that, a large part of the electorate has turned against a reality-based form of democracy and instead is embracing a succession of lies that have, I think, in part soured them on the notion of democracy. If, after all, you believe, as tens of millions of Americans do, that the 2020 election was stolen, then you believe that democracy has been weaponized against you and that it's a cheap concept and corrupt at its core. And so, yes, that remains a concern now.

It's - you know, we look at - it's going to take days, probably weeks to shake out the results of the 2022 midterms. And arguably, it is a referendum against Trumpism wherever it stands. But it does not change the fact that the base of the Republican Party is held together by individuals who are consumed by these delusions that January the 6 was a peaceful protest, that Democrats cheat to win and that COVID vaccines are either ineffectual or that they're killers. I mean, that disparity between, you know, reality and what they embrace is, you know, a predominating concern.

INSKEEP: We've just got a few seconds here, but let's just note, although Republicans did not have the overwhelming wins they were hoping for, they still have a good chance to get the Senate. They have a very good chance to get the House. In a few seconds, what are the prospects of a Republican Congress or part of Congress controlled by Republicans?

DRAPER: Yeah. I mean, I think you've summed it up well. It's very likely that they'll gain control of the House. It is totally up for grabs right now with the Senate. We really won't know for several days.

INSKEEP: Robert Draper, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

DRAPER: Absolutely.

INSKEEP: He is a New York Times Magazine contributing writer, and he's part of our live coverage here on MORNING EDITION as we continue to follow the results of the 2022 midterm elections. Democrats so far have gained one seat in the Senate, but control is still at issue and absolutely so in the House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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