Why Do the Election’s Defenders Require My Agreement? 

Recently, I appeared as a guest on Andrew Sullivan’s podcast. Sullivan is vociferously anti-Trump, so I expected us to disagree—which, naturally, we did. But I was surprised by the extent to which he insisted I assent to his assertion that the 2020 election was totally on the level. That is to say, I wasn’t surprised that Sullivan thinks it was; I was surprised by his evident yearning to hear me say so, too. 

Which I could not do. 

Sullivan badgered me on this at length before finally accusing me of being fixated on the topic, to which I responded, truthfully, that I was only talking about it because he asked. As far as I’m concerned, the 2020 election is well and truly over. I have, I said, “moved on.” 

So I thought. Then I received two emails from a friendly acquaintance who is a recognized Republican expert on elections that suggested he, too, is troubled by my lack of belief. Then came two other data points, which I noticed only after the first draft this essay had been completed. Ramesh Ponnuru snarked (snark seems to be the go-to, indeed the only, device his in literary quiver) that one of the anomalies I cited in my most recent article in the Claremont Review of Books had been “debunked” by the partisan left-wing FactCheck.org. While I appreciate the insight into the sources from which National Review editors get their “facts” these days, the quote provided admits that the statistic I cited is, well, accurate. Ponurru naturally ignores all of the other points raised in my earlier article.

Jonathan Chait wrote yet another (his 12th?) article denouncing me, for this same sin of disbelief. Why did he bother? Is there even a remote chance that a single one of his New York magazine readers either read my article or encountered its argument? Or is he worried that the “narrative” of the election is so fragile that it needs to be shored up?

I wanted to move on, I really did. But when Left (Chait), center (Sullivan), faux-right anti-conservative ankle-biter (Ponnuru), and genuine, if establishment, Right (my correspondent) all agree that my lack of belief is a problem, I wondered why this should be so, and the following observations came to mind. 

Let me begin by repeating something I said to Sullivan: I do not actively disbelieve in the outcome of the 2020 election. I do not assert that the election was stolen. I also do not believe the election was totally fair, “belief” being an affirmative mental state. I say only that I don’t know; I haven’t been convinced either way. One side tried to convince me and failed (at least so far). The other side has made no such attempt but instead mostly shouts in my face that I must believe. The latter effort, in addition to being aggravating and insulting, has been less effective. 

The 2020 election came down to a narrower margin than the 2016 contest: fewer than 43,000 rather than 77,000 votes in just three states. In 2016, nothing fishy in Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin—the states on which 2016 turned—was detected. Certainly nothing like:

  • Counting shutdowns in five states, in which one candidate was ahead, only to lose after the counting resumed;
  • “Found” tranches of ballots going overwhelmingly—sometimes exclusively—to one candidate, the eventual “winner”;
  • Sworn affidavits alleging the backdating of ballots;
  • Historically low rejection rates—as in, orders of magnitude lower—of mail-in ballots, suggesting that many obviously invalid ballots were accepted as genuine;
  • Mail-in and absentee ballots appearing without creases, raising the question of how they got into the envelopes required for their being mailed in;
  • Thousands upon thousands of ballots all marked for one presidential candidate without a single choice marked for any down-ballot candidate.
  • The absolute refusal to conduct signature audits—indeed, the discarding of many envelopes which alone make such audits possible—i.e., of the kind of recounts which are performed not merely to get the math right but to evaluate the validity of ballots;
  • Other statistical and historical anomalies too numerous to mention here.

All of which, and much more, did occur in 2020. Any one of these things would have caused Hillary Clinton to march into court in 2016 with an army of lawyers larger than the force Hannibal brought to Cannae

Sullivan dismissed all of this because “Trump tried in court and lost.” End of story. He alleged with a straight face that Trump put on a serious effort run by serious election experts. To put it mildly, that’s not the way it looked to me. In any case, quick dismissals by partisan or even impartial courts do not amount to “proof” that nothing was amiss, much less do they constitute a thorough vetting of what really happened. They might be “evidence”—but only of the fact that those particular courts wanted nothing to do with the election. Judges’ dismissals are certainly not dispositive evidence that there was no fraud. 

Yet if, as it seemed to me, it’s so important to Sullivan that I personally believe that everything that happened was on the up-and-up, he might try using his platform to call for, and get, serious local, state, and federal investigations of all of the above anomalies and others not mentioned. Those investigations would then have to be reported fairly and credibly by a media that actually wants to disseminate the truth and not cover for state and local corruption or for the Biden Administration. 

Of course, none of that is going to happen. The present ruling power has no interest in investigating, much less challenging, what they insist must be the only narrative: Biden won, full stop; there were no irregularities and anyone who says otherwise is a threat to Our Democracy™

Sullivan’s most risible claim was that, if there is anything to any of this, it will all come out in the pending libel suits filed by that electronic voting company. But these private lawsuits were not filed, nor will they be litigated, to find evidence of electoral fraud. They were filed only to vindicate the public reputations of the plaintiffs and punish the defendants. The way this all will go down is that the plaintiffs will demand irrefutable proof from the defendants. When (inevitably) such is not produced, the plaintiffs will claim total vindication, which will then be trumpeted in the media. 

It doesn’t matter if the plaintiffs lose the suit in the sense of not obtaining a favorable court judgment. All they need to “win” is a failure of the other side to produce proof that the media will accept as such. Since the media is nothing more nor less than the propaganda arm of the present regime, it’s foreordained to reject any such claims of proof and to deny that any and all evidence presented is credible. Hence the plaintiff’s victory in the court of “public opinion,” if not necessarily in an actual court, is guaranteed from the outset. Sullivan either knows this, is being willfully blind, or is a fool. I don’t think he’s a fool. 

And, as I told Sullivan, I found the claims regarding the voting machines to be the least credible. Sullivan seized on that as a “concession” that the entire election was above-board. It is no such thing. None of the above other irregularities have been explained, nor will they ever be. Sullivan, like Ponnuru, refused even to address them. 

November 2020 was not the first time we’ve seen evidence of blatant fraud occur in big city precincts. It happens all the time: bags of ballots just appearing from thin air, tranches of votes that are literally 100 percent for one candidate. Remember when we were told that Al Gore lost Florida only because thousands of elderly Jews mismarked their ballots? Now we’re told to believe that not a single voter in some of America’s poorest precincts cast a single mistaken ballot. To say nothing of the possibility that perhaps 0.1 percent of voters in these precincts might just see things differently than their neighbors do? 

Mail-in Voting

But forget all that. Suppose there was no fraud perpetrated by election officials and party activists on election day and night. What about all those mail-in ballots? Can anyone really assert with a straight face that all of them were legitimate, cast by a legally eligible voter, who cast only that one ballot? How could anyone possibly know that, given the intentional porousness of the system? The looseness and openness to abuse of the system makes such knowledge impossible. By design. 

The fact—at which Sullivan scoffed, showing (at best) his ignorance—is that the integrity of America’s electoral processes has been consistently loosened throughout both our lifetimes in the name of “fairness,” “equity,” “civil rights,” and the like. Any and all measures that make it easier to know who is voting, to ensure that only eligible voters vote, only when and where they’re eligible to vote, and that the ineligible do not vote, have been and are vociferously opposed by all power centers and attacked by all arbiters of public morality.

On the flipside, efforts to make voting easier—such as mail-in voting, early voting, ballot harvesting, “motor voter” laws, and giving children, felons, and illegal aliens the vote—are said to be requirements of “justice” and “equity.” Hence all the latter, and none of the former, are enacted or will be enacted. 

These efforts intensified and accelerated exponentially in 2020. Sixty-four percent of ballots were cast before Election Day, as opposed to 41 percent in 2016—nearly all of that owing to the rapid expansion of mail-in voting, the single largest change to our electoral system in one cycle in American history. And all of it driven, aided, and abetted at the national and state levels by Democratic partisans. It’s quite clear, for instance, that Pennsylvania state officials, in collusion with their state Supreme Court, ignored their own state’s election laws and loosened the rules on the eve of the election. At least three other states did the same. When Texas (later joined by other states) sued to protect the integrity of the American electoral system, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, 7-2. I know, I know, this was the “right outcome,” so why bother with all that tedious process? 

What we thus have is a voting system that is slapdash, inconsistent, porous, and easy to manipulate—i.e., cheat. Again, by design. The media, the intellectuals, the “experts,” the universities—every opinion-shaping sector of our society—both cheerlead and lie about all of this. 

Media and Big Tech

But suppose one can wave away all the aforementioned irregularities and convince oneself that no abuse of the mail-in system took place. Many reasons to believe that the 2020 presidential election was neither clean nor fair still remain. 

The media and Big Tech both did everything they could to help Joe Biden and harm Trump. All their actions may well have been “legal,” but if so, that only shows the inadequacy of our laws in the present moment. We’ve allowed a powerful few to engineer a massive shift of institutional power over public life into private hands. The law may still be “one man, one vote,” but when decisions are made based on information, and information is controlled by a tiny number of people who all agree with one another, and who use their control of information flows to help one side and harm the other, in what way can any election really be said to be “free” or “fair”? 

Is it reasonable to say, for instance, that voters possessed complete information on the evidence that Hunter Biden—and through him, his father—for years have been on the take from foreign governments? The New York Post broke the story based on emails from Hunter Biden’s own computer. Joe Biden flatly denied the story without offering any explanation for his family’s conduct and, pointedly, without denying the authenticity of the emails. He counted on the rest of the media—legacy and social—to suppress and censor the story, which they did. 

Now, it’s possible that many voters knew or could have known about these allegations and preferred Biden anyway. I believe, for instance, that most of Bill Clinton’s voters in 1992 had some idea he was a sleaze and voted for him anyway. Politics, even voting, is all about weighing priorities, including competing goods and evils. If you love the Biden agenda you might vote for it even if you don’t like corruption, the same way many decorous people who don’t like bombast nonetheless voted for Trump. 

But what if you don’t know about the corruption or are incessantly told, falsely, that there is “no evidence” for it because those who control the overwhelmingly dominant information channels in this country don’t want you to know or, if you happen to find out, don’t want you to believe? How is that not “election interference”? 

This massive in-kind contribution to the Biden campaign from the media and Big Tech must then be considered the first and most basic way the 2020 election was unfair. 

Corporate and Congressional Collusion

Then there is the credible, if circumstantial, evidence that a COVID-19 vaccine announcement was delayed until after the election. Pfizer, for instance, halted its clinical trial in mid-October, in defiance of the company’s own publicly available protocol, only to resume the day after the election. Why? There do not seem to be any medical or otherwise “scientific” reasons. There have been no explanations at all. Pfizer even may have violated one or more SEC regulations and misled its own investors. Not that any serious person believes the company or its executives will ever pay a price. But Trump naturally believes that Pfizer delayed its announcement so as to harm, or at least not help, his electoral chances. Lacking any other credible explanation, can you blame him? 

Beyond all this, there is the 56-year (and counting) successful attempt to reengineer the American electorate (to say nothing just now of the economy and society) in ways that favor one half of the country at the expense of the other. Without question, the 100-odd million newcomers to our shores since 1965 have vastly boosted Democrats’ electoral prospects and harmed the GOP’s. No factor correlates more perfectly with a state’s, county’s, city’s, congressional, or state legislative district’s propensity to vote Democrat than its percentage of foreign-born: the higher the latter, the higher the former. 

Immigration policy and practice over the last half-century effectively has been to import ringers to help Democrats win, and Republicans lose, as many elections as possible. Whether that outcome initially was intended by the authors and affirmers of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act or merely turned out to be a welcome side benefit, Democrats long ago realized that high immigration gives them an electoral lock over every voting district in the country in which immigrant numbers exceed critical mass. That has long been their hope, which they expect to realize sooner rather than later, for the country as a whole. In what sense is an election “fair,” or even a meaningful choice between real alternatives, if demographics far more than reasoned deliberation determine the outcome? 

On this point I would also ask Sullivan: have you looked at the Biden Administration’s immigration bill? Do you seriously believe that mass amnesty and opening wide all the other floodgates will have no impact on Our Democracy™? 

All of that, and much more, is designed to cement a permanent Democratic majority. Or, if one insists on being cute and repeating the tired concern-troll that “Republicans could compete better for these voters if only they adapted,” then let’s call it permanent left-managerial-intellectual-corporate rule. For “adapting” in this context simply and always means moving toward that paradigm. Republican “adaptation” is—and is meant to be—nothing but another support for present ruling arrangements.

Our Democracy™?

Sullivan brought up his unfair firing from his last job. It was, I wholeheartedly agree, a travesty. One would think that as a target and victim of the woke Left, Sullivan would have a better understanding of what they’re all about. Suppose the 2020 election was, as he insists, entirely on the level. Now that the Republicans are safely neutralized, does he really think the censors and de-platformers will stop there? That the hard Left is too scrupulous to undermine fair elections in the future? That the Democrats controlling the White House and both houses of Congress are going to use that power to make elections more secure and ensure their fairness? 

Even if every vote cast is “real,” it still remains that voting no longer matters in this country. It changes nothing. As I put it in my book, “Blues perpetually outvoting reds and ruling unopposed: this, and only this, is what ‘democracy’ means today.” The one election that might have changed something was 2016, which is why every power center in the country went into hyperdrive to delegitimize it and ensure that Trump could do little in office. The former president’s own missteps played a role, but far less a role than the universal opposition he faced from all the commanding heights. 

The purpose of voting today is not to give the people a say in the direction of their government, nor to balance competing interests by alternating party control. It is rather to give a democratic veneer to an undemocratic regime. The phrase “Our Democracy™”—I lost count how many times Sullivan flung it at me—is a weaponized term meant to assert moral superiority and squelch dissent. 

It isn’t an accident that the phrase is used by only one side. That possessive pronoun is not meant to apply to all, but only to the correct side, the good guys. When a CNN or MSNBC host or Washington Post or New York Times columnist says “Our Democracy™,” she means their regime. She’s relying on Americans’ deep-seated reverence for democracy for this rhetorical fakery to work, which it does—for now. But sooner or later, Americans will catch on. Indeed, the apparent blatantness of the 2020 irregularities, the all-too-evident refusal to explain any of them, and now the official persecution of those who raise doubts, have already alerted millions. 

Why the Concern Trolling?

At any rate, why Sullivan or anyone else should care what I think of the 2020 election I find difficult to understand. Surely no one can seriously (as distinguished from crocodile fears) fret that my disbelief is a threat to the regime? If my opinion carried any weight at all, then my 406-page book and dozens of articles last year would have had some impact. They manifestly did not. 

Or are they concerned for my soul, that I not be plagued (as Plato put it) by a “lie in the soul”? If that’s the case, let me worry about my own soul. I have no doubt that Sullivan absolutely believes he’s right and I’m wrong and is frustrated by my lack of belief. But I tried to caution him against letting that frustration get to him. We all come across people who refuse to accept what seems obvious and clear to us. The only rational thing to do in those circumstances is to write off such people as crazy and move on. Sullivan could take half a lesson from Chait, who insists I’m crazy but also refuses to move on.

But Sullivan seemed genuinely troubled by my lack of belief. Hence his constant hectoring of me to “agree” or “concede” or “admit.” It bothers him that I do not believe, as if somehow the legitimacy of the regime itself rests on my belief or is threatened by my unbelief. 

Let me then reassure him that neither is true. The regime is in power, firmly. I, for one, do not believe it either will or can be voted out of power—though it may lose power from its own internal conflicts, contradictions, and incompetence. In the meantime, it can do what it wants and I can do nothing to stop or even impede it. If the regime really needs my belief for its legitimacy, then it’s much weaker, or at least more insecure, than I thought. 

In any case, it does not have and likely will not attain my belief. My mind and conscience—my free thoughts—are still my own. Freedom of thought used to be a sacrosanct principle for liberals, classical and leftist alike. No longer—that’s obvious enough, given the conformity the regime demands. What the regime does have is my acquiescence. I realize it wants more; does it need it?

Machiavelli says in chapter six of The Prince that for a founder-prophet to be secure, “things must be ordered in such a mode that when [men] no longer believe, one can make them believe by force.” Does this regime currently possess that power? Is it seeking it? Chait would no doubt like to think so; would Sullivan agree? Is forced “belief” really belief? Whatever the answers to those questions, short of major reform, force is the only way the present regime is going to get from me even a profession of belief. In the meantime, it must rest content with my obedience to the law. 

Sullivan repeatedly demanded that I explain how Our Democracy™ can survive as a democracy if something like half the country doesn’t believe in it anymore. The question was rhetorical. Sullivan knows the answer: it can’t. His purpose in asking was to shift blame from those who rig everything, refuse to explain anything but instead gaslight, gaslight, gaslight, onto those who, in response, decline to believe. 

What Will Be the Regime Response to Unbelief?

As I see it, going forward the regime can respond to this increasingly widespread lack of belief in three ways. First, it can simply not care what we disaffected losers think. This seems to be the regime’s current mindset and mode. Witness, viz., its ridiculous treatment of the Jeffrey Epstein affair. Its message essentially is, “You know he didn’t kill himself; we know that you know, and we don’t care. We can lie to your face and there’s nothing you can do about it. We rule. Eat it, zek.” 

Second, it could up its propaganda game, or at least try to do so. Today’s effort is ham-fisted: transparently ridiculous assertions that carry weight only through force of repetition and sanction (censorship, de-platforming, cancellation, etc.). Telling more plausible lies, more artfully, might get more people to believe. 

Third, it could reform itself so that the things it would like us to believe actually become true.

  • Reform all election laws at every level to ensure that only citizens are eligible to vote, that only eligible voters vote (and only once each), that the system knows who is voting and knows they are eligible, that neither the voter rolls nor actual ballots are easily manipulated; ban ballot harvesting and mass mail-in voting, and maintain reasonable but strict absentee voting procedures.
  • Investigate and clean house in urban districts rife with fraud; ensure bipartisan pre-election and counting procedures are in place and enforced in all districts; swiftly and impartially investigate and correct all instances of fraud going forward.
  • Require Big Tech to practice complete neutrality in political contests, including but not limited to how it manipulates search algorithms and news aggregation, and how it “moderates” (i.e., censors) disfavored accounts and points of view.
  • Outlaw de-platforming and other forms of censorship against disfavored points of view.
  • Require the media to cover elections fairly, straight down the middle (lol).
  • End mass immigration so as to stop the 56-year and counting transformation of the electorate into an unassailable Democratic voting bloc.

We all know none of this—zero, zilch, nada—will happen. The above are the very pillars of the present regime. Samson himself couldn’t bring them down. 

Hence every election going forward will look much like 2020—and will be thought of, by millions of people, in the same light. That will not be my fault.

About Michael Anton

Michael Anton is a lecturer and research fellow at Hillsdale College, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, and a former national security official in the Trump Administration. He formerly wrote under the pseudonym Publius Decius Mus when he was a senior editor of American Greatness. The is the author, most recently, of The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return.

Photo: Jason Whitman/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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