Reality and the Narrative

Oscar Wilde was such a card. Sitting for his viva voce examination in Greek, he was given a passage to translate from one of the Passion stories in the New Testament. He started in and was barreling along fluently. At some point, one of the examiners interrupted, noting that he was satisfied by Wilde’s performance and that he could stop. Wilde ignored him and kept at it. The examiner interrupted again. “Really, Mr. Wilde, you may stop now. It is clear that you know the Greek.” “Oh please let me continue,” Wilde is supposed to have responded. “I want to see how it ends.” 

Yuck, yuck, yuck. Who knows whether the story is true? I like to think it is. It’s not that I believe Wilde was ignorant of the plot of a Gospel story. He knew how it ended all right. But I admire the insouciance of his response. 

Many people think the world is in a position akin to Wilde’s with respect to the 2020 presidential election. We’re all assumed to know how it ended. Joe Biden won. Any demurral on that score is put down to feigned ignorance, attempted cleverness, or petulant perversity. 

After all, the Associated Press called the election for Joe Biden a couple of weeks ago. Other news agencies, from the Wall Street Journal and Fox News to CNN, the New Woke Times, and the Washington Post were right there on cue, hailing him the winner. Time, the former news weekly, devoted its cover to Joe Biden, “46th President of the United States.” Twitter was on the case, adding little warning messages to tweets about the election it didn’t like, suspending the accounts of people whose opinions it disagreed with, throttling the ability of those who dissented to broadcast their dissent. Who knows what Google and Facebook are doing with their search results. Some secrets are too deep for the light of day. 

And that is my point. The strongest argument for Biden’s victory is not the vote tally. It is the monolithic narrative, pumped up like one of those inflatable play castles at a child’s birthday party. With every passing day, that narrative becomes more boisterous, more assertive, more uncompromising. It is a collective primal scream, emitted with eyes shut and ears plugged. 

There is a problem for the narrative, however. Or more to the point, there are 73 million problems. A major concession in the Biden-won-give-it-up-narrative is revealed by the hawkers of the “Unity Now” meme. Let us all come together as one nation, under Joe, and reassert the American normality that has been so sorely missing under the despotic reign of Donald Trump. 

No. No, that’s not going to fly, and not only because of the snarling viciousness that attended Donald Trump and his entire administration from the moment he was elected until now. Granted, Democrats are masters of hypocrisy. I will give them that. Brazenness is part of the formula. They are utterly unembarrassed by double standards. Indeed, they glory in them. 

On November 12, Kamala Harris was happy to emit this saccharine Tweet:

Hope.

Unity.

Decency.

Truth.

These are the ideals that will guide a [Biden–Harris] administration.

An alert commentator provided some illuminating historical context from the Left’s latest how-to manual, George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four:

Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely . . . 

HOPE

UNITY

DECENCY

EMPATHY

TRUTH

EXPERTS

SCIENCE

The inclusion of “Science” is especially nice.

In any event, Harris wouldn’t give Orwell a moment’s thought. Her sense of entitlement is unshakable, beyond embarrassment. “When we do it”—go without masks, eat out with friends after telling hoi polloi to stay home, run a private email server for government business, collude with Russians to upset an election, leak classified material, lie under oath, etc.—“it’s OK because—reasons.” “What difference, at this point, does it make?” 

But glaring hypocrisy is not the only reason that the narrative’s call for unity is failing. There is also its essential fragility. It is loud. It is seamless. It is asserted by all the best and most beautiful people, the really smart ones with fancy degrees, the right attitudes, the impressive ZIP codes. But it is also like an elaborate barque in high winds and choppy seas on a leeward course off a rocky coast. 

That coast is the anti-narrative, otherwise known as reality

The really hard and jagged part of the impinging reality, the “impervious horrors of leeward shore,” is the actual vote tally in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Huge anomalies have been alleged in all of those key states. With an assist from various professionals, I’ve summarized some of them in various columns, here, for example, here and here.

Inquiring minds want to know, how is it possible that voter turnout in just those key cities in just those key states was so high: often 90 percent or more? How is it possible that Joe Biden, who barely campaigned, garnered more votes in just those spots than even Barack Obama had done? How is it possible that, as everyone was getting tucked into bed on the night of November 3, Donald Trump had notable leads in almost all of those states and then, suddenly, all at once, in the wee hours, floods of votes poured in and—wouldn’t you know it—they were overwhelmingly, sometimes exclusively, for Biden? And what about those voting machines from Dominion: are we confident that they are secure? 

Aristotle tells us that “Probable impossibilities are to be preferred to improbable possibilities.” Do we have instruments capacious enough to measure the improbabilities that attend Joe Biden’s performance in these key states? 

There seems to be a couple of different attitudes towards voter fraud. For some, a little voter fraud is just the cost of doing business. The best is the enemy of the good, don’t you know, and after all the FDA maintains a meticulous chart of just what proportion of rodent hair, insect heads, and rat feces, and other such “defects” are permitted in the food supply. It’s quite a lot, it saddens me to report, and perhaps voter fraud is like a bag of wheat: if we insist on purity, we won’t have any wheat with which to bake bread.

That, anyway, is one point of view. But even if one grants that in principle, it seems legitimate to ask, how much voter fraud is OK? I am not aware of any political FDA weighing in and telling us what percentage of the vote can be tainted before it is ruled inadmissible. In this election, hundreds of thousands of votes are alleged to be fraudulent. At the moment, Joe Biden is said to be ahead by some 150,000 votes in Michigan, 80,000 in Pennsylvania, 20,000 in Wisconsin, 10-12,000 in Georgia, Arizona, about 30,000 in Nevada. What if his standing in a majority of those states were shown to be the result of fraud? 

Then there is that stretch of coastline known as election law. The particular rules of our elections are generally entrusted to legislatures of the various states. But in several instances, courts or various executive entities weighed in at the last moment to change the rules about how votes would be counted. Pennsylvania is an especially egregious case. As Julie Kelly showed, “Election officials clearly violated the law by inspecting mail-in ballots before November 3,” in clear defiance of the law, which requires such ballots to be safely kept in “sealed or locked containers” until 7 a.m. on Election Day.

Because of this and other irregularities, a state judge on Friday, finding that mail-in ballot procedures likely violated the Pennsylvania constitution, ordered that Pennsylvania halt the process of certifying the vote. “Petitioners,” Judge Patricia McCollough wrote, “appear to have a viable claim that the mail-in ballot procedures set forth in Act 77 contravene” the law. In a blow to Team Trump, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated Judge McCollough’s order Saturday night, clearing the way for the state to certify the election. Next stop? The Supreme Court of the United States.

Something similar is happening in all the battleground states. Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, part of Trump’s official legal team, are pursuing alleged violations of the law in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and elsewhere. Sidney Powell, an activist lawyer who is not on Trump’s official legal team, has filed suit in Georgia and Michigan, alleging “massive” voter fraud significant enough to overturn the vote there. Whether this will be the “Kraken” she promised to unleash or merely a crayfish is something we will know soon. 

But this brings me back to Oscar. Despite the blandishments of the narrative, which seek to seduce you into acquiescence with rumors of inevitability, we really do not know how this story, which seems so familiar, will end.

About Roger Kimball

Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art's Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee).

Photo: Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images

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