Where were the extremists on Election Day? And what did Oath Keepers founder say about Jan. 6? – USA TODAY


The week in extremism, from USA TODAY

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Despite concerns from extremism experts and voter’s rights groups, Tuesday’s election brought very few reports of voter intimidation from extremist groups, and was overwhelmingly peaceful across the country. The election results also represent a failure for the efforts of groups pushing conspiracy theories and other extremist narratives, according to an analysis. And Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, took the stand in the seditious conspiracy case against him.

It’s the week in extremism. 

More: Poll monitoring raises specter of election violence, but experts focus on what happens afterward

Last week’s headlines in extremism: Pelosi attacker’s conspiracies, hate speech spikes on Twitter & another QAnon murder

Few reports of election intimidation 

Extremism experts and voter rights groups told USA TODAY last week they were concerned about possible election intimidation from groups that claim voter fraud and extremist groups. Tuesday brought few reports of trouble at the polls. But observers continue to watch some key, undecided races for signs of trouble.

  • “I was concerned  the reports that there would be challenges and potential voter intimidation at the polls would keep voters away, and I’m really glad to see that was not the case and those reports didn’t have a chilling effect on voters showing up at the polls,”  Marcia Johnson-Blanco, co-director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told USA TODAY.
  • But Johnson-Blanco said her team and other observers are keeping an eye on some as-yet-undecided races where losing candidates have already raised claims of election fraud: “We are keeping a close eye on how the candidates respond when the final results come in and whether they try to nullify the election results,” she told USA TODAY.

Relief:  “Overall, there’s a huge sense of relief,” Sophia Lin Lakin, interim co-director of the Voting Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union told USA TODAY.

Live updates: Undecided races remain close. Get the latest here

Extremists flounder at the polls

Tuesday’s election was far from a “red wave” for the Republican Party, and it was also disappointing for supporters of extremist groups and extremist beliefs, according to an analysis by the Southern Poverty Law Center

  • Candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump did not seem to be helped by his endorsement, the SPLC concludes. With some notable exceptions, Trump-backed candidates did not catch fire at the polls, the report says.
  • Pro-Trump candidates who pushed extremist policies fared particularly badly, the SPLC researchers found. For example, Joe Kent, a GOP candidate for Congress in Washington State who has downplayed the violence at the Jan. 6 insurrection and has connections to domestic extremists, was trailing his opponent, a progressive Democrat, as of Thursday afternoon.
  • In-fighting: The far-right movement, which has overwhelmingly backed Trump, now faces a dilemma, the SPLC notes. With conservative Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis convincingly winning his reelection race, the GOP could face an internal schism in 2024 if Trump and Santis face off against each other.  

Oath Keepers Founder takes the stand

High-profile trial: Oath Keepers trial: A 1800s-inspired defense meets most significant Jan. 6 prosecution yet

Stewart Rhodes’ troubling path to Jan. 6: Vegas parking valet, Yale law graduate, unhinged Oath Keepers leader: Who is Stewart Rhodes?

The historic seditious conspiracy prosecution of several members of the armed extremist group the Oath Keepers for their participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection is coming to a close. Last Friday, and continuing this week, Stewart Rhodes, the eye-patch-wearing Yale law school graduate who founded the group, took the stand and USA TODAY’s Ella Lee was in the courtroom for some surprise new testimony. 

  • Rhodes said the Oath Keepers who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 had “gone rogue.” He called the decision to do so — by some of his co-defendants — “stupid.”
  • It appeared to be an effort to draw a bright line between the rest of the group and himself. Prosecutors have not accused Rhodes of entering the Capitol. On Monday, Rhodes testified: “It was not part of our mission for that day to enter the Capitol for any reason.”
  • But that statement jars with the weeks of planning prosecutors have presented in evidence in the trial. 

Rhodes defended his group, saying the claim the Oath Keepers are racist is “disgusting” and that he and his companions were seeking to defend the constitution.

Next up: The trial continues, and is expected to go to the jury for a judgment next week.