To read reports in the mainstream press about the throngs of President Trump’s supporters who rallied in Washington, D.C., over the weekend, you’d think the crowd was made up of a bunch of conspiracy theory-addled rubes and delusional far-right extremists all of them hoodwinked into thinking the election was stolen. To read David Frum’s Twitter take, you’d think they were all Nazis.
The march came on the heels of a poll last week that found a staggering 70 percent of Republicans now say they don’t believe the presidential election was free and fair. That news, like news of the self-described Million MAGA March, was met with a mix of contempt, hysteria, and condescension from Democrats and the media.
Their rough consensus is that GOP voters who still support the president are either treasonous or stupid, reinforced constantly by a brittle insistence that there was “no fraud” in the presidential election. A totemic front-page declaration by the New York Times, “ELECTION OFFICIALS NATIONWIDE FIND NO FRAUD,” has been repeated everywhere, mantra-like. Any claims of voter fraud or ballot-counting irregularities, whether from President Trump or the tens of thousands who marched over the weekend, are “baseless,” “unfounded,” and have “no evidence” behind them.
There’s a palpable nervousness about the media’s insistence that the election was as pure as the driven snow. Maybe they seem so nervous because they know what everyone in America knows: there was nothing pure or secure or even ordinary about the election.
How could there be? Under the pretext of ensuring “voter access” during the pandemic, Democrats, leftist nonprofits, and activist judges across the country unleashed a flood of changes to election rules in the months leading up to the vote, including an unprecedented expansion of mail-in voting, an inherently fraught method of casting ballots that removes almost all oversight from the process.
No matter. States pushed ahead, mailing ballots to outdated voter rolls en masse and recklessly loosening oversight for how those ballots could be collected and counted. Chain-of-custody for absentee ballots went out the window, along with whatever meager safeguards usually apply to absentee voting. Ballot harvesting, long a tradition of corrupt Democratic political machines in places like Detroit and Philadelphia, was introduced in some places for the first time. Taken together, all these pandemic-inspired reforms presented an ideal opportunity for Democrats to flood absentee ballot-counting centers in major cities and run up the vote-count long after the polls closed on Election Day.
Not all the reports of ballot-counting skullduggery amount to old-fashioned voter fraud, but as my colleague Margot Cleveland has noted, they’re just as important because they undermine the integrity of an election just as much as, say, thousands of dead people voting.
Even more egregious than voter fraud (and harder to redress) are cases where election bureaucrats or activist judges simply ignored restrictions that GOP legislatures had passed into law. In Pennsylvania, the state supreme court brushed off rules set by lawmakers and extended a deadline for when absentee ballots could be received. Extending deadlines for absentee ballots is of course an invitation to break election laws—especially in Philadelphia, a city with a long history of ballot-stuffing and bribing election judges.
In other states, the corruption of election integrity was voluntary. In Georgia, the state government settled a lawsuit in March with a cadre of Democratic Party groups that changed the rules for accepting mail-in ballots. Instead of the signature on the ballot having to match the signature on the voter rolls, it only had to match the signature on the mail-in ballot application. You don’t need to be a sophisticated election thief to figure out how to get a fraudulent ballot counted under such rules.
On and on it goes. A dozen states temporarily expanded mail-in voting just for the 2020 election. Others mailed ballots to everyone on the voter rolls. Many others extended the mail-in ballot deadline, set up ballot drop boxes, and allowed mail-in ballot harvesting on a mass scale.
Any reasonable person can look at these changes and conclude they create conditions ripe for fraud and abuse. Only the most naïve, pollyannaish observer would survey all of the above and conclude, as our mainstream media has, that there was “no fraud” in the election. Of course there was, and everyone knows it.
Whether it was enough to change the outcome of the election, we’ll probably never know, partly because the kind of abuses and criminal activity engendered by mass mail-in voting are hard to detect and even harder to prove in court. But pointing all of this out, and having a problem with it, even to the point of saying you don’t have much confidence that the election was free and fair, doesn’t make you a rube or a conspiracy theorist.
By contrast, pretending that none of this had any effect on the election, and demonizing anyone who says it did, as the media is doing now, is a reaction born of self-doubt and desperation—like labeling anyone who disagrees with you a traitor or a Nazi. There’s an exhausted nervousness about it, a contempt rooted in insecurity. It’s the kind of thing you do when you’ve written off your countrymen, and given up on the idea of a republic.
John is the Political Editor at The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter.