Will Democracy Survive a New Year and New Elections?

If you say the 2020 election was stolen, you’re likely to lose some friends. But if you say it wasn’t stolen, you may also lose friends. So it’s better just to call it as you see it, and hope your friends, if they really are friends, will understand. 

The year 2022 will see new elections of the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate. But will the elections be fair? Or will they be stolen? Who determines? Who will ensure democracy survives? 

At the Edmund Burke Foundation’s second National Conservatism Conference in Orlando in November, several younger attendees said they thought the 2020 election had been stolen. Some thought the recall election in California had been stolen, too. A follow-up question—could Florida governor Ron DeSantis win in 2024?—also elicited many negative answers. No, a number of them said, the Democrats will steal that one, too.

Whether or not the 2020 election actually was stolen isn’t the point. Having so many people think it was (68 percent of Republicans and 26 percent of independents, according to at least one poll), and that the next one may be too, is no way to run a democracy. Even adding $80 billion to the Internal Revenue Service budget won’t be enough to stop widespread cheating (why pay money to a corrupt government?)—and probably the IRS inspectors will cheat on their taxes, too. 

Even Democrats, and the super woke, should worry: a front-page Washington Post story reports that one-in-three Americans thinks violence against the government can at times be justified, a depressingly low number to be sure. But a good guess is that the number is actually higher: Who’s going to confess to the Washington Post (!) that he thinks violence can ever be justified? (How could you be sure the national security folks weren’t listening?)

What does it mean to steal an election? There are four ways. The first is to stuff ballot boxes with votes for your candidate and “lose” ballots from precincts that traditionally vote for the opposing party. 

A second way is to have your people in the media misrepresent both your candidate and the opposition—i.e., tell lies or simply not cover any derogatory news about their favorite candidate. We saw that in 2020: the media studiously ignored the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. A poll taken shortly after the election found that enough Democrats said they would not have voted for Biden if they had known about the laptop to have denied him his victory. It may not be possible to prove there were enough of such people, but suppose, arguendo, there were: Does suppressing the story constitute stealing the election? And, incidentally, who has the burden of proof? (We’re not in a court of law.)

A third way to steal an election is to fly thousands of illegal immigrants into swing states under cover of darkness and then get Congress to grant those midnight cheats citizenship and with it the right to vote. Biden won the 2020 election by about 81,000 votes in four states. Trump won the 2016 election by 107,000 in just three states. Approximately 1.7 million immigrants have entered the United States illegally over the past 12 months. Some of them, and perhaps many of them—likely enough to swing a close election—have been flown to unknown destinations in the country. If those people get to vote, is that “democracy”?

A fourth way to steal an election and destroy democracy is for the winning candidate to ignore whatever he promised to do or not do on the campaign trail. Sometimes that happens when circumstances intervene: a promise to stop sending U.S. troops all around the world in nation-building missions tends (wisely or not) to get revisited when it’s foreigners who come to America and kill our people and destroy our buildings. 

But that’s not what happened in the case of the Biden Administration. Biden pledged to be a “moderate” president who would “unite” the country. As we have seen, he has been among the most radical and divisive presidents in decades. Why doesn’t that make his election a fraud every bit as much as if he had had his crowd stuff, steal, and lose hundreds of thousands of ballots as many of the supporters of his opponent claimed, and as some of the young people at the Nat Con II conference said they believed? 

In Britain’s parliamentary system, a political leader who changed his stripes as Biden has would find himself in serious and possibly terminal difficulties. In the British Parliament, before a bill can become law it must go through three readings in the House of Commons, a process that offers the opportunity for revision, amendments, and tactical retreats from positions about which there may be second thoughts. 

The only U.S. mechanism for slowing down legislation is the filibuster, designed to frustrate thin and transient majorities. The Democrats, with their thinnest and most transient majority, are frantic to abolish it.

It is true, and remarkable, that despite both a hostile press and a hostile U.S. president, a Republican gubernatorial candidate won in heavily Democratic Virginia, and another almost won in massively Democratic New Jersey. Are those elections harbingers of change? Or wake-up calls for the Clinton-Democrat-UberLeft-Woke Media Complex to up its game next time? 

As a matter of law, no one may go to jail for stealing the election. But as a matter of reality, the people will lose faith in the democratic process. How long can we live peaceably together, and in obedience to the rule of law, if many people conclude the electoral system is rigged? Answer: we don’t know. Yet. 

But we do believe that democracies can perish, done in by forces within or without. How do we prevent that from happening here?

With the Democratic-controlled Congress struggling to require unlimited mail-in ballots and to forbid requiring photo-IDs for voting, and perhaps to grant citizenship (and therefore voting rights) to thousands of illegal, illiterate, and perhaps strategically relocated immigrants, all for the obvious purpose of stealing elections, it is more true than ever that democracy in America is in serious trouble. 

How long can it survive? And who will save it?

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About Daniel Oliver

Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review. Email him at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.

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