Faulty Recall

In a failed attempt to blame the defeat of Larry Elder in the California recall race at least partly on Trump loyalists, Rich Lowry offers a bizarre slant on last Tuesday’s election in the New York Post.  After telling us that “the odds were never in Elder’s favor,” that Democrats outnumber Republicans by at least two-to-one in perhaps our bluest state, and that Gavin Newsom’s recall and Elder’s election as governor were never serious possibilities, Lowry then quotes a NeverTrumper at National Review who offers this dubious wisdom: “the stolen election narrative is going to be an albatross anywhere independents and moderates are needed to win an election—the backward-looking focus on the unproved claims of a 2020 stolen election are toxic, self-defeating and counter-productive.” 

According to Lowry: “It’s one thing to complain about last-minute and emergency changes in voting procedures in 2020 and advocate for a system that is secure and tilts toward in-person voting.” But it’s another matter to “to retail unproved allegations that for most people will always be associated with Trump’s worst excuses and the rioting at the U.S. Capitol.”

Let me see how this works. We are allowed to notice cumulative irregularities and unconstitutional measures of the kind that the governor of my state (Pennsylvania), Tom Wolf, took in enacting mail-in voting without legislative approval. But we’re not permitted to complain about the election results because that’s what Trump did, and by taking that despicable position, we perpetuate “Trump’s outsize influence on the party”? 

We are also fostering a “cynical and corrosive view of American democracy” by questioning the fairness of the 2020 election. From Lowry’s sneers, we may infer that Trump loyalists are especially guilty of pushing this subversive view. But when was the last time the Democrats ran to concede Republican victories in presidential races? It is hard to recall when that happened—certainly not in recent decades. Lowry never explains why the GOP should readily concede defeat when the other party has at its disposal the mass media and a bevy of lawyers to dispute whatever elections it loses.  

Moreover, where is the evidence that Elder lost votes in the recall race because he failed to defend the integrity of the 2020 election? The election outcome corresponded to the party divide in California; and the 30-point margin by which Newsom won reflected the advantage enjoyed by Democrats in party registration. Elder did poorly among his fellow blacks in California, despite his earnest efforts to show how badly blacks have fared under Democratic Party rule. But it is questionable that he lost the predictably black Democratic vote (Newsome won 81 percent of it) because his fellow blacks were upset that Elder did not repudiate Trump emphatically enough. 

Pace Lowry, there is also no evidence that Elder shot himself in the foot by retreating from an earlier statement that Biden had won “fairly and squarely.” The farthest that Elder deviated from that position (one that the October issue of Chronicles will frontally challenge) was by noting the Democrats had committed “shenanigans” in the 2020 race. At the same time, Elder urged his fellow Republicans not to look backward and to focus on winning the presidency in 2024. The overall impression that I took away from Elder’s relevant comments is that he had no interest in dwelling on the 2020 election. 

Lowry misses another vital point: Right after the 2020 election, Elder had contested the election results and particularly the use of Dominion machines for tallying votes. His misgivings about the presidential race, therefore, go back to last year.  At the beginning of his race for the California governorship, however, Elder may have thought the safest course was not to dispute Trump’s defeat. But many Republican voters held different views, and so Elder brought up a subject that Lowry regards as verboten. His statement about shenanigans taking place, however, had been Elder’s earlier view. Further, his remark about voting shenanigans came in an aside, when Elder was telling his audience that the recall election might also be tampered with. is hard to argue that he was pandering on an issue that, in fact, he hardly touched. 

 Significantly, Lowry never shows that Elder’s suggestion the 2020 election was not entirely on the up and up was an “albatross” around his neck or that it cost him a single vote. To repeat the obvious: Elder lost disappointingly for certain self-evident reasons: his inability to bring the black vote over to his side, the two-to-one registration advantage that Democrats hold over Republicans in California, and the oceans of money that woke corporate capitalists and Hollywood poured into Newsom’s campaign coffers. (The California incumbent raked in five times as much in campaign donations as Elder.) The political survival of a thoroughly incompetent, arrogant, and hypocritical Democratic governor by a two-to-one margin should be the real concern of American patriots. National Review’s hostility to MAGA voters is a distraction from addressing this problem.

About Paul Gottfried

Paul Edward Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

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