Good Friday Morning, especially to my boy, Marcus Mariota of the Las Vegas Raiders. I never root for a player injury, but after Derek Carr went out with a groin strain early in the game, I got to witness former Titans star QB Marcus Mariota take over and lead the Raiders up and down the field. It was pretty nostalgic, and I enjoyed seeing him on the field again. As long as he’s playing for the Raiders and starting for the injured Carr, I’ll be a part-time Raiders fan. Though this won’t distract me from the much more important Titans season, and their playoff hopes.
This week I’m bouncing off a reader question I was sent about how to respond to people pushing the “stolen election” line. You see it on Facebook and such. I admit when I first replied, I didn’t have a good answer. That’s partially because there isn’t a good answer. And the common social media tactic of berating people just won’t work. But it a topic I continued to think about and share those thoughts here. Links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
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Press and Biden family more corrupt than we knew – The Conservative Institute.
The two parties draw battle lines in the gerrymandering fight – The Conservative Institute.
Dealing with the election truthers and more.
I received a question this week from a long time reader. She asked what advice I’d give on engaging with other conservatives and people on the right who are bought and sold on the “stolen election” narrative. It’s a valid question and one where I honestly had to reply that I don’t have a definite answer for it. I’ve chosen not to engage that much on the topic because the “stolen election” narrative borders on being an unfalsifiable belief.
There’s no evidence that’s been presented in any courtroom, in any case, to prove anything untoward happened during the election. I cited this example in the podcast, and it’s worth reiterating. Andy McCarthy at National Review points out that in Wisconsin:
Publicly, the Trump campaign has been claiming there was extensive vote fraud and law-breaking. Specifically, with respect to Wisconsin, President Trump tweeted on November 28: “The Wisconsin recount is not about finding mistakes in the count, it is about finding people who have voted illegally . . . We have found many illegal votes. Stay tuned!” The campaign further maintained that the recount it demanded would “show somewhere around 100,000 illegal ballots in the two counties that Biden carried” (i.e., Milwaukee and Dane).
You might recognize some of those claims. I’ve seen them in some form or another on social media. But there was nothing in the Trump campaign’s lawsuit. They agreed with Wisconsin on the basic facts and stipulated to them:
In the end, after all the heated rhetoric, what did they tell the court the case was about? Just three differences over the manner in which the election was administered — to all of which, as Ludwig pointed out, the campaign could have objected before the election if these matters had actually been of great moment.
There was no there there. Despite telling the country for weeks that this was the most rigged election in history, the campaign didn’t think it was worth calling a single witness. Despite having the opportunity of a hearing before a Trump appointee who was willing to give the campaign ample opportunity to prove its case, the campaign said, “Never mind.”
So this is a situation where the Trump campaign itself is not bringing in a single outlandish claim that you’ll hear in far-right media. The Trump campaign agrees with the central, non-conspiratorial facts that most states are asserting.
Add to that, it’s very likely that Sidney Powell, the lawyer running around launching the infamous “Kraken” lawsuits that are getting tossed out for being garbage, is going to get sued for defamation. The NYTimes reports that Dominion Voting Systems sent a cease and desist letter to Powell, “demanding that she publicly retract her “wild, knowingly baseless and false accusations” about the company’s voting machines, which have repeatedly found themselves at the heart of conspiracy theories surrounding the election.”
Those kinds of letters are how defamation lawsuits start and contain all the critical language meant to signal a case on the horizon. And given how Powell’s suits are going, Dominion has good odds of winning. And if that doesn’t happen, it wouldn’t shock me to see sanctions and disciplinary actions taken against Powell, Wood, and lawyers in their orbit. These aren’t just baseless lawsuits. There are straight-up lies in their complaints. You can’t do that as a lawyer in any state.
Priming everyone for the stolen election narrative.
But that’s not where we started here. The question is, how do you deal with people who are clinging to the stolen election narrative? And the answer is that you can’t do anything, to be honest. We’re dealing with deception. I wrote this very scenario would happen back in the summer. My July 24th column: The elites have already rejected the 2020 election results.
I wrote that column when the media was all abuzz because Trump was doing his “I’ll have to wait and see” on accepting the election results. It’s a schtick he’s done non-stop for five years. Here’s what I said:
The problem isn’t Trump’s statement. He’s ducked in and out of this same answer for five years now, even when winning. There’s nothing new to this story that hasn’t gotten played out a hundred times.
Gless Kessler, the main fact-checker at The Washington Post, tried to explain this time was different by saying, “Yes, he made the same threat in 2016. But he was not the incumbent President. He is expected to be a steward of American democracy and its more than 200-year tradition of peaceful transfer of power.”
And I agree with that point. It’s true. It’s also true that no one has any real sense that these are real threats from Trump. And, further, the real issue here isn’t Trump.
Like most D.C. issues, Trump is only a reflector of the dominant spirit that pervades the nation’s capital. That is this: no one has accepted the result of the 2016 election, and everyone is preemptively preparing to reject an outcome they don’t like.
Both Democrats and Republicans were gearing up for the 2020 election by building up excuses if they lost. That’s why so many people were willing to jump on board with the stolen election narrative. They were groomed for it. The same is true for Democrats, by the way. Remember the idiotic Post Office conspiracy? Democrats worked themselves into a fervor, convinced that Donald Trump would steal the election by manipulating the Post Office.
I ended that column by saying:
If Trump loses, will he claim that loss is illegitimate? Sure. He will. Just as if he wins, these same reporters will breathlessly tell their readers and viewers that something untoward happened in the election.
Maybe Trump will even option off part of his name for alternate history, like Hillary Clinton. She’s got a show coming out exploring an alternative history of what-ifs across her life, starting with Bill Clinton. Maybe that history will explore if she ever campaigned in Wisconsin in 2016.
The problem here isn’t Trump; the problem is the broader belief in our elite groupthink that rejects anything that it did not preordain as good. Eventually, Trump will be gone from the scene. These same people will argue that anyone they don’t approve of is somehow illegitimate. That’s a legacy beyond and separate from Trump. It’s also a more significant problem.
At this juncture, we’re where people don’t believe the election results because everyone was primed to think this kind of moment would happen. Democrats would be screaming bloody murder if Trump won the 2020 election. The “election was stolen” was a narrative that would happen, no matter what happened.
What’s annoying is that people pretend that Trump’s version is worse than whatever Democrats dreamed up. It’s not. It’s the same tendency and belief system, just mirrored.
The place we’ve chosen.
I also don’t blame people for believing the opposite of what is reported, especially on the right. For the last four years, the most common pro-Trump position was to take a contrarian position on whatever major media scandal surrounded Trump. This mindset is like swinging for a home-run every at-bat. You’re going to miss frequently and strike out. But, when you connect, it’s going to make a huge impact. And if you took this simple contrarian view towards the news, you had an above-average batting average as a pundit.
Many of those same people took the same stance regarding the election. At a minimum, you let it play out and see what happens. Some people went further, trying to stake out the higher risk positions to reap more rewards if evidence materialized showing election wrongdoing. This kind of political thinking is self-serving. It involves pundits and news sites trying to triangulate themselves for the best path forward monetarily.
The point of all this was that people were prepared to reject the election results, no matter what happened. And by people, I mean partisans on all sides. That they’re now playing into those pre-determined playbooks, no matter what the evidence says should be expected.
So how to deal with all that? You can’t do too much to start. You have to start out being patient and working with known facts and not theories. In a way, it’s similar to dealing with the coronavirus and all the misinformation out there. People want it to fail if it boosts their side politically. Take the Democrats.
Before the election, Kamala Harris said she wouldn’t trust a vaccine from Trump. Mike Pence, correctly, blasted her during the VP debate. She never had an answer for it. Just this week, the New York Times ran an op-ed telling people they shouldn’t praise the pharmaceutical companies responsible for delivering multiple vaccinations in less than a year. The column makes a cynical case as possible for the vaccines.
And then, on the flip side, Tucker Carlson is ranting and raving on Fox News that the vaccines are a form of social control. The impact of those kinds of monologues will be the same as the anti-mask effort (which I also predicted would happen in a column a week before the election column quoted above).
Neither of those points is correct. Harris was fear-mongering on the vaccine in a cynical bid to win an election. The NYTimes is desperate to prove capitalism didn’t win the day. And Carlson is playing the populist politics game, where surface-level hot-takes will do. The government does have an interest in getting people vaccinated, but it’s not for control. It’s because if they don’t do that, the economy will collapse, along with tax revenue and any plans they might have for the future.
The virus has upended absolutely everything. Because of that, people will cling to crazy theories to explain what is happening around them. That’s partially what’s happening with this election too. Everyone was prepared to believe that a loss signaled something sinister. And they got what they expected.
Conclusion and some history.
Working past this requires patience, prayer, pointing out facts when possible, and working to get people back to normal. My concern is that this kind of fever pitch won’t break. I’ve done a lot of reading about the French Revolution over the last few months. I started, initially, looking at many of the protests and seeing similarities between the two events (Abe Greenwald at Commentary had similar views. I have a few disagreements with his piece, but it’s superb writing).
One of the events that happened was the Great Fear of the Summer of 1789. People began overthrowing their government and murdering innocents, nationally and locally, based on wide-spread conspiracies. It involved everything from famine fears to people believing the king and his troops would march on them and slaughter them all. The French Revolution was less revolution and more civil war. The bloodshed was rampant.
The American Revolution was a revolution. There were ideas and real grievances at play. And the Founders had a goal of setting up a government. The French had all the opposite impulses. And they wanted blood.
Our era has more in common with the French than the American Founding. The disagreements aren’t just based on figments of people’s imagines at times, but it’s deeply personal. Believing an election was stolen without proof is a recipe for pursuing violence. If the new government isn’t legitimate in your mind, why would you follow it? This mindset is dangerous, especially if it’s based on fantasy.
It’s also not revolutionary, though. It’s closer to a civil war mindset. I’m not saying we’re headed for battle lines between two groups. But I am saying we are in a moment where a great fear and anger has descended and clouded the minds of too many Americans. They don’t see the truth, only the chance to settle grudges.
Biden does not represent a return to normal. In fact, after watching his more recent speech, I’m not even convinced he sees the end of his first term. I’ve never seen a more weak and frail President in my lifetime. The only comparisons are people like FDR in his fourth term.
Biden’s status presents a whole other can of worms, too. If he were to face an untimely passing, people would believe conspiracies about that also. That’s because we’re in a moment of deep deception. There’s no other way to put that, as an evangelical. The problem is that we’re in the middle of a pandemic too. So as a matter of making a priorities list, the first priority is just getting this virus to end, pump vaccinations out, and then figure out where we are after that. We’re triaging everything right now, which isn’t a good place.
Hopefully, that changes in the coming year, but the elements of our unrest remain present and volatile. As Biden forms a new government, how these elements play out will be a major determinative in our country’s direction.
Links of the week
Kathleen Rice beats out AOC 46-13 for spot on coveted House committee: The fight over a seat on the Energy and Commerce panel carries implications for policy and power in the next Congress. – Politico
Flashback 2019: Nancy Pelosi gets revenge against Kathleen Rice after Rice opposed Pelosi’s bid for the speakership – Politico [Note: Interesting to see that AOC is so unpopular in the House, she can’t even beat out an anti-Pelosi member for a committee spot.]
How Trump Won One of America’s Most Diverse Counties — By a Lot: In North Carolina, a rainbow coalition of voters shifted sharply to the GOP this year. Can the party hold onto them for good? – Politico
Black And Up In Arms – NPR
Framed and Guilty – Commentary Magazine
Xinjiang: more than half a million forced to pick cotton, report suggests: Forced labor much more widespread than initially thought in China region that supplies a fifth of the world’s cotton – The Guardian
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Dad Excited To See What He Got His Kids For Christmas – The Babylon Bee
Man Selflessly Offers To Let Rest Of Country Try Vaccine First – The Babylon Bee
Thanks for reading!