If your online feeds are anything like mine at the moment, you are being inundated with claims of fraud, rigging, and other malfeasance related to the election. Of course, these are coming almost entirely from aggrieved supporters of President Donald J. Trump — who seem to believe that there’s absolutely no possible way he could’ve lost legitimately. Many likely believed in the intrinsic impossibility of his loss heading into the election anyway, regardless of whatever facts did or did not come out — given how they’ve been primed by Twitter/Facebook algorithms, the conservative media ecosystem, and of course Trump’s own words on the matter.
I’m open-minded to the notion that there were individual, identifiable instances of voter fraud in this election, mainly because individual identifiable instances of voter fraud happen all the time and don’t always follow a particular partisan pattern. The issue currently is whether there’s anything systematic and coordinated about the fraud, such that it would call into question the probable overall election outcome. As of now, I see no viable evidence for that. Although it should be noted that the mass transition to mail-in voting likely does make committing fraud substantially easier if you really want to go down that road. Which, by the way, would make it all the more strange that so many Republican officials who preside over the voting infrastructure in contested states would have advocated the transition to mail-in voting. Just look at the Georgia state website for verification if you really want, where the GOP Secretary of State proudly declares: “More than ever… Brad Raffensperger encourages Georgians to vote with a mail-in absentee ballot.”
In response to the oncoming deluge of fraud claims, many of which will be clearly dubious, you’ll see the usual suspect crowd of journalist/activist types dropping giant heaps of gleeful scorn. They’ll laugh at the absurdity of supposed “conspiracy theories” being proffered about the vote counts in Arizona or wherever else. They’ll mock those who can’t accept reality. And they’ll be right in certain instances that the claims will be preposterous. But what will be even more preposterous is the profoundly misplaced sense of smug superiority they won’t be able to help themselves from exuding, given everything they just put us through over the past 4+ years.
I know we’re all tired of the polling-industrial complex and rightly so, but let’s please remember that a December 2016 YouGov poll found half of all Clinton voters that year didn’t just believe that Russia “interfered” in the election to the advantage of Trump, but that they tampered with the ballot tallies and effectively hacked the voting machines. By 2018, a supermajority of Democratic voters expressed this belief. And the belief didn’t become widely-adopted as a result of standard looney-tunes off-the-reservation conspiracy-theorizing, which is typically understood to emanate from the fringes of society. Instead these crazy, evidence-free beliefs were deliberately engineered by the most Serious precincts of mainstream respectable opinion, particularly those allied with the Democratic Party and its think tank / media affiliates.
The phrase “hacked the election” entered wide circulation by December 2016, with the New York Times among others spouting it without compunction. If you’re not a particularly sophisticated news consumer, and you have a pro-Democratic predisposition, what exactly do you think you’d have tended to infer from the phrase “hacked the election”? Trump winning the election was unfathomable to many, and people were understandably searching for answers. They were provided with self-deluding fantasies by sources they’d come to regard as authoritative. The people who used the phrase over and over again, like chronic liar Adam Schiff, aren’t stupid. They knew it would engender doubt as to the legitimacy of the election; that was the entire purpose.
One particularly egregious example from November 2016 was when Gabriel Sherman, then of New York Magazine, totally mischaracterized the views of a group of “prominent computer scientists” by attributing to them the belief that they had “found persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked.” The group had then supposedly advised the Hillary campaign to request recounts on that basis. Sherman’s article caused a huge firestorm and clearly contributed to the patently false belief that Russia had tampered with the vote count. But it was bunk; the computer scientist in question renounced Sherman’s article. By then it was too late though, and the legitimacy of the 2016 election would never be accepted by huge swaths of the population — all thanks to the ineptitude/depravity/deceptions of the media class.
Even proudly ironic left-ish commentators who posture as being so savvy and above-it-all literally recommended “Blame Russia” (that’s a direct quote) the day after the election as their explanation for the outcome. This stuff was across the board. (And I fully expect it to be resolutely memory-holed, along with so many other insane excesses of the Trump era.) The legitimacy of the 2016 election was never accepted by an endless slew of the country’s media and political elites. And that informed their entire strategy in how they dealt with “This Is Not Normal” Trump, from Russiagate all the way through to impeachment and beyond. They may not have manifested their rejections of legitimacy in the same crass absurdist way that you’ll see expressed online now vis-a-vis the fraud claims. But because they wielded influence over mainstream institutions, and know how to set the discursive agenda more craftily, what they did was vastly more pernicious.
So unless you’re one of the vanishingly few people in media who opposed the movement to de-legitimize the previous election, you’ve forfeited any standing to sneer at the current de-legitimization movement. The precedent’s already been created and you’re complicit. Enjoy.
Note from MT: This will remain crazy for at least the short-to-medium term future so please contribute to people you see as providing a non-crazy alternative.