The Vote Fraud Fraud
Below is the last thing I will write about the election for a while. It's over, even if everyone isn't yet ready to admit that it's over, so it's time to move on.
And yet—Monday seems to have been the day when otherwise sensible people sent me, or posted onto Facebook, darkly ominous theories about Democrats stealing the election from Donald Trump, and often demanding to know what I think about this important information.
I assume you've gotten some of these, and heck, maybe you've sent some of them. So I'm going to steer you toward some helpful resources to put all of this into perspective.
First, most of the things people are sending around are not exactly from what I would call reputable or trustworthy sources. Most of them are in the category of "a random guy posting stuff on YouTube." Such theories should be treated accordingly. But because they're floating around everywhere, and because they are being amplified by politicians who ought to know better, I'll send you to a good one-stop roundup debunking the most popular ones. The overly brief descriptions in the article itself are not particularly convincing, but each item contains links to good, accurate reporting, often from local newspapers, that gives the real facts to counter each of these wild claims.
My favorite was the video supposedly showing poll workers stuffing ballots in Detroit—but the video actually turns out to be from Russia. We don't have enough home grown vote fraud in this country, so we have to import it.
As a general rule, anything said by a random guy on the Internet should be discounted—while anything actually demonstrated in a court of law should be taken seriously. Why? Because the guy posting stuff on YouTube experiences no consequences of he engages in wild speculation or just makes stuff up. Heck, he gets rewarded for it. His interest is to rile you up, not to give you accurate information. A lawyer in a courtroom, by contrast, faces rather severe consequences for doing these things.
This why the Trump campaign's election lawsuits are evaporating in the courts. You keep getting moments like this one, where a Trump lawyer is forced to admit that he has no evidence of vote fraud. Why? Because unlike the guy on YouTube, the lawyer has to answer direct questions from a judge, and he can get into a whole heap of trouble if he lies to a judge.
Of course, the press also sometimes does a nice job with this sort of thing, as with the reporter who heard a US senator complaining that the media has "refused to discuss allegations of voter irregularities." So he contacted her staff to ask what he should be covering. The reply: "I don't have anything for you right now."
This is par for the course for vote fraud claims: big insinuations backed by small facts. One Trump campaign court challenge in Arizona involves fewer than 200 votes that the suit claims were improperly excluded. That's a "voting irregularity," I suppose, but it's not going to have any impact on the results of the election. Similarly, Trump's supporters tried to whip up a big panic about hundreds of thousands of suspicious mail-in votes pouring in after Election Day. The actual number of late-arriving mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania was about 10,000, far too small to change the outcome there. If you look at the actual claims being made in the Trump campaign's lawsuits, you find that it is all small-scale stuff like this.
All of this leads one Republican lawyer in Nevada, who is an actual litigator in election cases, to denounce claims of vote fraud as the real election fraud.
Serious people know better, and this is all part of the shtick of unserious people that have invaded and infected our politics. These insinuations about stealing an election are not made to protect the democratic process; they seek to undermine it and undermine your confidence in election outcomes.
While this is all shtick, it will, if left unchallenged, cause serious and lasting harm to each and every one of you. Every Republican. Every Democrat. Every Independent.
When one side can just shout "fraud" without actual proof that it is real and that outcomes were affected, so as to delegitimize outcomes, elections will become meaningless.
As another analyst concludes, "Trump's lawsuits appear to be more about politics—and controlling the public narrative—than the law."
That and grift. The Trump campaign, hardly missing a beat, has continued its fundraising after the election, ostensibly to support the voting lawsuits. But if you look at the fine print, the majority of the money will go to paying down the campaign's overhanging debt, or to funding a new organization intended to extend Trump's political influence in the Republican Party long past his election loss.
The actual vote counting is happening in an orderly and normal way, exactly as predicted. We all knew that because of the pandemic, there would be very large number of mail-in votes, and that some states were not prepared to count them quickly. We also knew that there would be a partisan gap between mail-in voting and in-person voting. The initial results from in-person voting would create a "red mirage," an apparent lead for Republican candidates, which would disappear over a period of days as the mail-in votes swung the lead back toward the Democrat. This was all predicted weeks ahead of time and unfolded exactly as expected.
It was also predicted that the Trump campaign would try to take advantage of this effect to throw doubt on the election and subvert the vote. I linked some time ago to a slightly overwrought piece that spelled out the playbook. Trump would take advantage of his early lead in the vote count, the "red mirage," to declare victory on the night of the election, then he would attempt to obstruct the counting of mail-in ballots, which he has repeatedly and arbitrarily denounced as fraudulent. Then with the voting all gummed up, he would push for Republican-controlled state legislatures to override the vote certification and send Trump's slate to the Electoral College.
Trump has actually been trying to do all of this, but it has been too little, too late. The farthest he's getting is in Pennsylvania, where Republicans in the statehouse are vowing to take "extraordinary measures" to investigate vote fraud and in the meantime to block the official certification of the vote.
It's not clear to me whether they actually have the power to do this, but notice also that the fraud claims they are supposedly investigating are without substance.
But Keefer admitted that she and the Pennsylvania GOP do not have anything more than questions. There is no evidence of anything resembling coordinated cheating in the election. "We've just gotten a lot of allegations," Keefer said, referring to what she said was a flurry of calls and e-mails from voters "who are concerned and outraged by the circumstances surrounding this election."
So I don't think this is going to get very far, and Biden probably doesn't even need Pennsylvania's votes to win the Electoral College. But it does give us an idea of how dangerously insane this could have gotten if the vote had been a bit closer and dragged out a bit longer in a few more states.
Or as Zeynep Tufekci tells us this is a warning of what could happen if we were confronted by a "competent authoritarian."
From an international perspective, though, Trump is just one more example of the many populists on the right who have risen to power around the world: Narendra Modi in India, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, my home country. These people win elections but subvert democratic norms: by criminalizing dissent, suppressing or demonizing the media, harassing the opposition, and deploying extra-legal mechanisms whenever possible (Putin's opponents have a penchant for meeting tragic accidents). Orbán proudly uses the phrase illiberal democracy to describe the populism practiced by these men; Trump has many similarities to them, both rhetorically and policy-wise....
But there's one key difference between Trump and everyone else on that list. The others are all talented politicians who win elections again and again....
Make no mistake: The attempt to harness Trumpism—without Trump, but with calculated, refined, and smarter political talent—is coming. And it won't be easy to make the next Trumpist a one-term president.
That ought to concentrate the minds of "liberals" of all persuasions.
As it is, we got a lucky break, and in some ways we've got the best of both worlds. Trump is on his way out, but the Democrats didn't win, and in particular the far-left Democrats lost.
You can already find some delicious examples of far-left Democrats freaking out because they're discovered that they are the fall guys for the failure of Democrats to do well below the presidential level.
Here the case is summed up by Zaid Jilani, who is something of an obnoxious and dogmatic welfare-statist, but who is anti-PC crusader of the class-over-race variety.
The left-wing of the Democratic Party had the answer. To clobber Republicans at election after election, all they had to do was get out the vote. According to this theory, legions of would-be progressives weren't casting ballots. But once activated, they would sweep the likes of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez into higher office, transforming America.
It was a theory with a perk. Progressives—rather than needing to persuade moderate swing voters—could cling to positions on the left, and never reconsider them when they lost elections....
This election did enjoy a huge turnout, a percentage that could exceed any race since 1900. But Biden's victory fails to substantiate the-masses-are-progressive theory. Analysts have suggested that the left-wing of the party actually alienated some traditional Democratic voters. Also, the driving electoral strategy of Biden was an appeal to moderates, peeling away former Trump supporters in key states, which he did with decisive effect in the Rust Belt....
Take the 2018 midterm elections, which put Democrats in control of the House of Representatives, stifling the GOP's legislative agenda. The change from the 2016 elections was determined almost entirely (about 89 percent of the shift) by voters who'd changed sides, according to one post-election analysis. We don't have detailed data on 2020 yet, but there are signs that swing voters again made the difference. By way of illustration, look to Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District, where left-wing Democratic candidate Kara Eastman was defeated by four points. Biden won the same district by about seven points.
This is reflected in the fact that Democrats are extremely unlikely to take control of the Senate.
This is technically in some doubt, because both senate races in Georgia are going to a runoff because the Republican front-runner fell just shy of 50% of the vote. But the Republicans were the front-runners, and both are favored to win.
Even if they don't, the swing vote in the Senate would be West Virginia's Joe Manchin, who represents a state that went heavily for Trump this year. He just struck off two elements of the Democrats' fantasy agenda: "When they talk about, whether it be packing the courts or ending the filibuster, I will not vote to do that." By declaring his opposition to ending the filibuster, he is also giving Republicans the assurance that they can block most legislation with less than a majority.
That leaves Joe Biden with only the unilateral executive authority, which Republicans have once against failed to have the foresight to rein in. Biden is already making plans for a slew of executive orders.
Biden has promised to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, reverse President Donald Trump's rollbacks of public health and environmental rules and call allies worldwide to reassure them, all on his first day in the White House. Before that day is done, he says he will put in place a national strategy for containing the coronavirus pandemic, rejoin the World Health Organization, end the ban on immigration from several predominantly Muslim nations and expand rights for Latin American asylum seekers.
Biden has also promised swift action on housing, labor, gun control, LGBTQ rights and government reform.
Expect particularly to see a push for harassing regulatory enforcement against gun owners.
There is going to be plenty to complain about. But a quick descent into Venezuela this isn't. Nor is it, despite Donald Trump's best efforts, a quick descent into Erdogan's Turkey or Putin's Russia.