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This essay first appeared in the Nov. 20, 2023 Epoch Times.
When I said in a TV interview that I didn’t know who won the 2020 presidential election, I was expressing a view similar to that held by a very large cohort of Americans. That didn’t stop two left-leaning news websites from targeting me last year with investigative stories. Why? Perhaps they were trying to get me hauled up before the House of Representatives Jan. 6 committee.
In American history there have been several contested presidential elections, including in 1960 and 2000. Some people doubted the certified results. But the victors either debated the doubters or ignored them. I don’t know of any election after which the victors excommunicated doubters as secular heretics—“election deniers.”
The establishment insistence that everyone sing the same tune about the 2020 election looks too much like “the lady doth protest too much” to be reassuring. I suspect that some of the election affirmers have their own secret doubts.
Secret doubts may explain why the establishment media so loudly denied any serious irregularities only hours after the election, before anyone could have conducted a serious investigation. Secret doubts may explain the haste to cite the failure of President Donald Trump’s courtroom strategy as “evidence” of the absence of problems—although nearly all his lawsuits were dismissed on procedural grounds, not on the merits.
Secret doubts also may explain the media’s insistence on referring to all claims of election irregularities as allegations of “fraud.” In fact, some of the most serious alleged irregularities were not literally fraudulent. They fit into other categories of wrongdoing.
Despite the pervasive claim that the 2020 election was the cleanest presidential contest ever, disturbing bits of circumstantial evidence simply won’t go away. Some bits are merely odd—like the fact that nearly all the bellwether counties voted for President Trump rather than President Biden. Another is that Biden garnered more votes than any other presidential candidate in history, despite his obvious political shortcomings and minimal campaigning.
Other bits of evidence are more weighty, and some of these remain undenied and perhaps undeniable. The shady influence of “Zuckerbucks.” Social media censorship. The widespread disregard of a constitutionally-authorized federal statute requiring a single-day election.
The Trump haters at Time Magazine summarized what happened in a post-election piece: “[T]he participants want the secret history of the 2020 election told, even though it sounds like a paranoid fever dream—a well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information.”
Admittedly, Time Magazine claimed this was “not rigging the election; [but] fortifying it.”
At this point, I believe, it is irresponsible to claim categorically that President Trump won. But it is also irresponsible to rule out the possibility that he won.
Another element adds to my skepticism: Sixty years of dealing with the far left has taught me that, unlike most conservatives and liberals, they routinely disregard rules they find inconvenient, or, if they deem it useful, they change rules retroactively.
This is one of the most repeated, most confirmed lessons from my political experience. I first encountered the phenomenon in the 1964 Goldwater presidential campaign, when I saw normal journalistic standards suspended to ensure Barry Goldwater’s defeat. I saw it again and again in college: For example, just before participating in a formal debate as a proponent of U.S. support for South Vietnam, I learned that the agreed format had been silently changed to disadvantage my side.
The political word for the latter kind of conduct is “sandbagging.” It is not good form.
In law school, when we students thought the outcome of a case was determined by a rule we had studied, leftist professors admonished us, “Tools not rules!” In other words, rules control nothing; they are merely tools you manipulate for the results you want. The fancy word for this kind of amorality is “instrumentalism,” and it subverts the rule of law.
When I was active in politics, I witnessed leftist rule-manipulation with a vengeance. To cite just one example: In 1998, our volunteer civic group won a vote to amend the state constitution so the people could vote on tax hikes. However, the state supreme court was dominated by a leftist majority. In early 1999, the court changed the election rules retroactively to void the result. Yes, that did violate the U.S. Constitution—specifically Section 1 of the 14th amendment. But rules are only tools, right?
At the university where I spent the majority of my academic career, as at most universities, leftists predominated. One year another Republican and I were the only ones applying for tenure. Hence the tenure committee changed the standards retroactively to lift the bar higher than it had ever been before. (Fortunately we both cleared it anyway.) Similarly, when I made a course-change request of a kind always granted to others, the dean and faculty changed the rules retroactively to deny the change. I had to resort to litigation to win what left-of-center faculty members had been routinely granted for years.
To cite a more current example: In Colorado, where I now live, “progressive” state politicians lost some public votes cutting tax rates. Their solution was not to persuade the voters better, but to have the legislature change the ballot-language rules to falsely communicate that voting for lower taxes was, essentially, voting to close the schools and open the prisons.
The examples go on and on.
My point is that ignoring or changing the rules would be perfectly in character for leftists in charge of election machinery. Unlike traditional conservatives and liberals, the predominantly secular leftists who participate in politics often do not have the moral training that comes with committed religious affiliation.
Whatever the reason, it is clear that before the 2020 election, many rules were changed or disregarded to benefit Biden and disadvantage Trump. This renders it more credible that other rules were disregarded as well—such as those governing ballot collection, ballot custody, and ballot counting.
Historians eventually will write the full story of the 2020 election. There is no use pretending the outcome can be changed now.
But the conduct of that election tells us something about the civic virus that now afflicts America. And it highlights the need to assure that we do not repeat the experience in 2024.