There are many calls for Donald Trump to be “magnanimous” and “gracious” and concede the election. Of course, all such pleading assumes that he actually lost. This counsel seeks to paper over credible allegations of election fraud in a number of closely fought states, which have yet to be certified or recounted and have not been subject to scrutiny by the courts.
Trust Is Scarce
The ideal of a peaceful handover of power replete with ritual cooperation is an artifact from a society that has long since disappeared: cohesive, high-trust, consensus-oriented, and low in corruption. Trust in major public institutions generally is at an all-time low, and this crosses party lines. The two political factions have drifted apart. The era of Walter Cronkite and faith in powerful institutions has been in decline for a long time, and the revelations of the last four years coupled with egregious media lying has done little to restore them.
Indeed, for many, Trump was supposed to be the president who might finally engage in that restoration. But he has had to fight a multifront war against the very government he is nominally in charge of, his formal opposition in the Democratic Party, and even a good swath of the Republican establishment. So far from signifying the longed-for changing of the guard, his 2016 election revealed deep-seated hostility from the entire establishment against significant reforms. It was telling that continuing the war in Syria became the cause for which Jim Mattis was so widely feted when he resigned.
I don’t have any particular insight into whether a victory was stolen from Trump or whether it was simply a close one and he lost. There are good arguments to suggest something was amiss, but they’re not conclusive. The legal process may or may not reveal what ultimately happened. Or the combining of good and bad ballots, electronic records lost in the ether, and other tricks may make it impossible to figure out exactly what happened.
It’s also possible all of these things happened, but taken together did not prove ultimately decisive. There is no doubt some fraud in every election. It only matters when it’s a very close one; otherwise, it tends to come out in the wash.
This was a close one, but it seems strange that New York and Texas’ Rio Grande valley went significantly more for Trump than did Pennsylvania, a state he surprisingly won in 2016.
Elections Don’t Matter When They Oppose the Ruling Class
The election did remind us that we have a hostile, dishonest ruling class in this country. Consider what has happened in the last few months. Following a failed impeachment, the economy itself was murdered. Ostensibly, this was a product of science-based efforts to fight a virus, but it had the added and undeniable effect of destroying what was a very successful economic boom, which was considered impossible when Trump took office. While barbers and waitresses and hotel desk clerks lost their jobs, the GS-12s, lobbyists, Wall Street bankers, and media figures found ways to work from home.
Then, after months of lockdowns and other indignities, science was said to demand forgiveness of mass gatherings in the name of hating cops as they became widespread. Conservative political rallies, on the other hand, were bad things—“super-spreader” events, as they were called—while violent race riots were now good.
In advance of the election, polls predicted Biden had double-digit leads in states he ultimately lost, or barely—at least for now—appears to have won. This was a massive voter suppression effort in plain sight.
Finally, the customs of the election itself, which is supposed to be the defining act of a democratic self-government, were radically changed. When previously the vast majority of votes could be counted on election day, instead the process was deliberately extended through the massive, unprecedented use of mail-in ballots.
There is no doubt that without the IDs, checklists, and public observers of election day polling places, mail-in and absentee voting is more prone to abuse. More important, even if everyone were a saint, this process deprives the country of the swift results that normally take place on Election Day itself. In other words, nothing about the widespread use of absentee and mail-in ballots was designed to encourage public faith in the election, nor the swift and public results to which we are accustomed.
One of the arguments for the widespread use of masks to prevent coronavirus was that there is a balance of individual freedom and social responsibility. In other words, what is individually convenient can be harmful to the community. But the Democrats who champion allowing everyone with a pulse to vote—registered, suspect, or otherwise—put the individual benefit of letting every last vote count above the community’s benefit of a swift, reliable election result.
While I don’t buy into the mask hysteria, the accommodation of marginal voters who otherwise can’t find their way to the polls is an inversion of that moral paradigm: it is individually convenient, but harmful to the community because of the predictable uncertainty, delay, and difficulty in policing the process.
The Disputed Election Is a Clarifying Event
Here we stand, not quite sure who the next president will be. Now everything we were told over the last four years is going to be reversed.
Joe Biden brags about talking to foreign leaders, even though this was the basis for launching a criminal probe into an American hero, General Michael Flynn. We were warned Trump might declare premature victory. Then, when the Democrats’ effort appeared somehow to pull Biden across the finish line, the media declared Biden the victor. All the while, Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and perhaps Arizona remain in doubt.
In the name of “democracy,” the election of President Trump has been thwarted from the beginning. Democracy in this usage doesn’t mean counting up votes and picking the winner, but commitment to progressivism and an activist foreign policy, whether it receives a popular mandate or not. This is the same playbook through which foreign leaders are deposed and harassed, even when they are elected. So now, at home, we are being told that recounts and enforcing the rules themselves is some kind of affront to democracy.
The people who spied on the president, encouraged irregular voting procedures to oust him, and declared his use of ordinary executive power somehow worthy of impeachment do not deserve either deference or the benefit of the doubt.
Such principles of comity and fair play make sense only when they are observed reciprocally and consistently. Pretending we live in a high-trust, low-corruption country (when the truth is it is neither of these things) doesn’t make you a model of good behavior or a steward of the good of the nation . . . it makes you a sucker. Naturally, the boys of Conservative, Inc. are saying Trump should do precisely this.
Trump is a fighter and should fight against a series of results and a process that stinks to high heaven. While I said before the election either result would be a “win-win” for the Right, perhaps the actual result is the most providential of all. The mask of power is off, and half the country or more lacks faith in its institutions and can no longer pretend the old rules still apply. The sooner the bare-knuckle, high-stakes dimension to modern political life is revealed, the better.
The gentlemen’s war is over.