Doug Mastriano: Is the Trump-backed election denier too extreme to win? | Pennsylvania
As Pennsylvanians prepare to elect their next governor, it is no exaggeration to say that the future of American democracy is at stake.
Doug Mastriano, a retired Army colonel who has enthusiastically given in to Donald Trump’s fantasy that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, is the Republican nominee. If he wins, he plans to unregister every one of Pennsylvania’s 8.7 million voters. In future elections, Mastriano would decide who certifies the state’s election results – or not.
With Pennsylvania being one of the few swing states in presidential elections, Mastriano could effectively have the power to choose the next president. But in a mid-election season defined by republican who appear to be anti-democracy, there are indications that Mastriano, a retired army colonel, may be too marginal even for the Republican Party.
Mastriano is an extremist by most standards.
As a state senator in Pennsylvania, he addressed women violating a proposed six-week abortion ban should be charged with murder. Mastriano frequently attacks trans people and has said Gay marriage should be illegal and same-sex couples should not be allowed to adopt children.
at an event this summerorganized by a couple As one of the self-appointed prophets, Mastriano told his supporters, “We have the power of God with us.” He added that Jesus Christ “guides and directs our steps.” Mastriano posed for a faculty photo while working at the Army War College, a military academy wearing a Confederate uniform.
And as the main schemer in Trump’s bid to overthrow the presidential election, Mastriano Thousands of dollars spent He had chartered buses to Washington DC on January 6, where pictures showed him close to violence as Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol.
None of this stopped Mastriano, who was supported by Trump to win the Republican nomination for governor in May.
He won by appealing to the kind of far-right Trump Republicans who define the modern Republican party — voters who believe children are exposed to pornography in schools, that trans people have too many rights and that they are being asked to close a face wearing a mask is contrary to the US Constitution and that the election was stolen. Mastriano was also helped by Democrats who ran ads promoting the Republicanhoping he would be easier to defeat in November.
That remains to be seen but one thing is for sure: if anyone thought Mastriano would soften his various stances once he won the nomination, they were wrong. At rallies in western Pennsylvania in mid-October, Mastriano demonstrated against a false list of supposed things Democrats stand for and promised things would be different under him.
“On day one, all masking and jabs on job requirements are gone forever. He’s broke the first day. It’s over,” he told a crowd of about 150 people in Butler County.
“On day one, critical race theory will be banned from our schools. On the first day, more secularization of our children and no more pronoun games in elementary school. No more graphic porn on day one – and I saw it – in our elementary schools.
“No more boys on the girls’ team on the first day.”
There were no details on how Mastriano would tackle income inequality or crime — something he claims has “nearly doubled” in the five-and-a-half years that Josh Shapiro, his Democratic opponent, was Pennsylvania’s attorney general.
Instead, there was the Soundbites, and those about his plan to strip trans people of their rights got the biggest cheers. LGBTQ rights, and trans rights in particular, was something Mastriano would come back to again and again.
His obsession with these identity issues, aside from their appeal to Trump Republicans, is perhaps not surprising for a man who has embraced Christian nationalism – the idea that America was and should remain a Christian nation.
Mastriano, whose campaign hasn’t responded to requests for comment, has done so as well claims Islam is “incompatible” with the US Constitution and his beliefs have garnered much support at his rallies.
“He’s a good, honest man — he’s the ideal family man,” said a woman wearing a straw hat with the name “Trump” wrapped around it. She would only give her name as Mary.
“I also admire the fact that you can see that he is such a strong Christian man. When he speaks, you can tell he’s a good man. [Christians are] Good examples for everyone. They are leaders, they believe in what is best for the people. They put their heart into everything and they get things done,” Mary said.
The Guardian pointed out that Joe Biden is a prominent Christian.
“Well,” said Mary. “There are weak Christians and strong Christians. I believe [Biden] is a weak Christian and I believe he is a perpetual liar.”
But while his religion may appeal to some, others have been put off by Mastriano’s positions on elections and democracy, which, like his stance on minority rights, are deeply problematic.
In the weeks following the November elections, Mastriano used his position as state senator to do so promote conspiracy theories on voter fraud and introduced a bill that would have denied endorsement of Pennsylvania’s vote.
Based on his own unfounded claims that the Democrats were conspiring to steal the election, Mastriano called on Kathy Boockvar, who as Pennsylvania Secretary of State was responsible for overseeing the state’s election process step backand issued $3,000 of his campaign money to bus protesters to what became a DC riot. As a result of his actions earlier this year, Mastriano was summoned by the committee investigating the uprising.
As governor, Mastriano would appoint Pennsylvania’s next secretary of state. Given his track record, it seems unlikely that this appointment is for voting protection. But voting refusal has a lot of appeal.
“I’m pretty sure they stole it,” Alan Book, a Mastriano supporter, told the Butler County Guardian.
“When [Trump is] pretty close to a million votes then 3 or 4am loses the advantage I don’t think so. When you get 100,000 votes and none for Trump.”
Trump had been lying before the postal ballots were counted in the vote in Pennsylvania. A majority of mail-in ballots favored Biden, who eventually carried the state with more than 80,000 votesbut numerous conspiracy theories have spread — and been debunked — regarding the count.
If Mastriano’s determination to undermine the results of both the last and all future presidential elections is indicative of his rejection of democracy, so is his approach to a free press.
At the Butler County event, held in a medium-sized aircraft hangar, reporters were confined to a tiny press area demarcated by a white chain link fence on the back wall. Reporters were not allowed to approach the participants before the event and there was no opportunity to interview Mastriano.
The next night, at a rally in Springdale, 15 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, things went even more restrictive. The Guardian has been assigned a minder – a volunteer from the Mastriano campaign. The minder took her role very seriously and even followed this journalist outside when he wanted to make a phone call. Inside, the Guardian was forbidden to leave a “press area” that amounted to a collapsible table.
As Mastriano’s supporters lined up in front of the table, waiting to be photographed with the candidate, a bizarre silencing event took place, with a Mastriano campaign volunteer walking down the line and speaking to each one. It’s impossible to know what the volunteer said, but as she spoke to supporters, they looked across at the Guardian and as they passed the press area, each individual refused to speak up, offended.
Hostility towards the media appears to have been copied from Trump’s by Mastriano, and like the former president, Mastriano has a weak grasp of the truth.
At both events, Mastriano claimed Shapiro refused to debate with him, which would have surprised anyone who would have followed events as they actually happened: it was in fact Mastriano who declined, at a debate hosted by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce to attend – who has hosted the debates for decades – because he has been dissatisfied with the proposed moderators.
Mastriano also refused to attend a “fireside chat” organized by the Chamber of Commerce in lieu of the debate. Shapiro did.
None of that mattered in Springdale, however, where Mastriano slammed Democrats for “swearing at us” and calling for courtesy between campaigns, before calling Shapiro a “weaker,” “fanatic,” and “failure.”
In a theoretical debate, Mastriano said of Shapiro: “I’m going to mock him. I’ll smoke it like a bad cigar.”
At his campaign rallies, Mastriano seemed to have adopted Trump’s tactics of outright lying – he has also borrowed hyperbolic expressions such as calling things “huge” and speaking of “fantastic movements” – and he often seemed to live in an alternate universe.
In Springdale he announced good news of a Trafalgar poll that fell that day. The poll, Mastriano said, had him “dead heat” with Shapiro. But in reality the poll found Shapiro received 52.8% of the votes, Mastriano 43.5%.
As a matter of fact, all current surveys If Shapiro has the edge, the Democrat seems to prevail on November 8th.
If that were a relief to Americans who believe in the value of their voice, there’s also a warning.
Mastriano, extremist, conspiracy theorist, would-be democratizer, has managed to claw his way to one of the most important posts in the country. Even if he loses, his ideas will not go away.