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The United States faces significant risks to its democracy in the 2022 and 2024 elections, experts on democracy and election law warned at a conference on Friday.

“You have a significant portion of one of the two major political parties that is no longer committed to democratic norms,” political scientist Larry Diamond, a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institute, warned as part of a conference on “election subversion” hosted by the University of California, Irvine. “We are facing an existential challenge to American democracy.”

“It’s not just the crazies that kill democracy, it’s not just the people who storm the Capitol on 6 January,” said Steve Levitsky, one of the authors of How Democracies Die. “It is the mainstream Republican party not breaking with democratic extremists that is most dangerous at this moment.”

“The US faces a serious risk that the 2024 election, and other future US elections, will not be conducted fairly, and that the candidates taking office will not reflect free choices made by eligible voters under previously announced election rules,” Rick Hasen, a leading US election law expert and the host of the conference, said.

The decision by many Republican politicians to continue to back Donald Trump’s claims that he lost because of election fraud, and their continued willingness to undermine confidence in elections rather than admit defeat, was a serious blow to American democracy, Levitsky said.

“You can’t have a democracy if one of the two major parties cannot accept an election defeat,” Levitsky said.

“In most cases where we lose a democracy, you can get it back, but it often takes, ten, fifteen, twenty years,” he added later. “Better to prevalent backsliding than to try to reverse it.”

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