America: The war within

ITV News Correspondent Robert Moore analyses the state of America's democracy in the run-up to the midterm elections

In two weeks, on November 8th, it is once more election day in America. This time, it is a battle for control of Congress.

But far more is at stake. After the Trump-led charges of a stolen election in 2020, this will be a critical test of whether the US can restore faith in the democratic process.

I have been an eyewitness to America's great political divide for more than a decade. It has been like watching a fault line rupture in slow motion.

At first, it seemed to me that the gap might be bridged. Then came the Trump years, the culture wars and the conspiracy theories, and the divide grew alarmingly wide.

After the attempted insurrection of January 6th the gap became a chasm. America was on the brink of serious political violence.

Amid these ominous signs, and ahead of these midterm elections, I was asked this to take a look at the health of American democracy for an ITV documentary.

What I found was frightening.

‘What’s at stake here is our freedom’: Two Donald Trump supporters explain why they are on a surveillance mission for voter fraud

If you dig below the surface, there is a startling discovery to be made - that the foundational principles of American democracy are truly at risk.

The main 2020 conspiracy theory - the unfounded idea that the election was stolen by Democrats - hasn't gone away.

Far from it. It has been weaponised. Tens of millions of Republicans still believe that elections are vulnerable to widespread fraud.

They may not accept the outcome of these midterms and of future votes.

‘I don’t see peace, I don’t see all of us going back to accepting election results’

And now election deniers - those Trump supporters who are fixated with the idea of a stolen election - are running for office. Ahead of the next presidential election, they may be in key positions.

Arizona Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem. Credit: ITV News

Among them is Mark Finchem, running to be the election chief in Arizona, an important battleground state.

The Republican candidate for governor in Arizona, Kari Lake, is also a prominent conspiracy theorist who believes that 2020 saw widespread voter fraud (in fact, cases of fraud in US elections are exceptionally rare).

Republican candidate Kari Lake. Credit: ITV News

In our documentary, we not only talk to the election deniers, but track the origins of one particularly bizarre theory - that elections have been compromised by criminal cartels "harvesting" votes.

‘You cannot be a Christian and vote Democrat in this nation’

We also travel to Tennessee to glimpse how election deniers are now also in the pulpit. Fierce Christian nationalism has blended with conspiracy theories to form a toxic and corrosive force in American politics.

Our exploration of the fault lines also takes us to the Pacific Northwest where we find right-wing survivalists moving into the wilderness, seeking sanctuary.

They are convinced that societal collapse is imminent.

American democracy is on the brink. These midterm elections, and the presidential race of 2024, may well determine if faith in elections can be restored before it is too late.

America: The War Within is on ITV at 10.45pm Tuesday 25th October