As President Trump claimed electoral victory in the wee hours following election night, and multiple times in the last few days, he predictably employed Orwellian doublespeak.
“Frankly, we did win this election,” he defensively told a crowd gathered in the East room of the White House.
“A very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise … and we won’t stand for it,” he declared. “We will not stand for it.”
The Orwellian trick is that in the same speech Trump declared: “We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at 4 o’clock in the morning and add them to the list, okay. It is a very sad moment.”
His ego shattered, his path to victory evaporating, the President decided to bring the system down with him and further shake not only America’s confidence in it’s electoral system — which he has been undermining for months — but the world’s confidence in America as the world’s greatest democracy.
“This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country,” the president fumed. We want the law to be used in a proper manner. So we will be going to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Perhaps this will be lawsuit number 3,500 for Trump.
What does it mean to disenfranchise people, Mr. President? Here’s a definition: “to deprive someone of the right to vote.” Yet what does Trump explicitly say he wants to do?” “Stop all voting” OK — to be clear — in the wee hours of the morning, hours after the polls had closed, no more voting was happening. I presume from his next sentence and from his ensuing comments that he meant that he wanted bipartisan poll workers to stop counting ballots, since he didn’t want “them” to “find any ballots” and “add them to the list.” Nobody was disenfranchised. Nobody was stopped from voting. Perhaps he means this group of “very sad people was trying to revoke the votes that had already been cast?”
However, he did make the claim again on Nov. 5 that “no illegal votes” should be allowed to be cast after Election Day.
As is often the case, Trump’s logic is confounding. Counting the ballots and “adding them to the list” is exactly what is always known to happen — elections don’t end on election night — ballots have to be counted. Some states didn’t even start processing mail-in ballots, let along counting them until after the polls closed on election night — which means it was impossible for the results to be known in a year when such a high percentage of the ballots were mailed-in. The only person who appears to be trying to revoke votes that had already been cast is Trump.
This is why Trump spent the last several months complaining about mail-in ballots. Because he knew that it was likely that he could appear to build a lead from in-person voting (his “tribe” is fired-up and not dissuaded by something as unseeable as a pandemic). And he knew that this lead might seem to evaporate as legitimately cast ballots were counted over the ensuing days (Democrats seemed to be taking the pandemic a lot more seriously — encouraging mask-wearing. Even before the pandemic they were more likely to use mail-in because, perhaps, like me, they reasoned that standing in an hour-long line on election day wasn’t the best use of their time).
This glazes over the fact that, when all is said and done, Biden electoral wins in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona mean Trump never actually had a lead in any of them. The same number of ballots were cast. Trump just had a perceived lead because the early vote counting largely swung his way — from his supporters, who are much less likely to see a threat from COVID-19 than Biden supporters, so they didn’t see any reason to cast mail-in ballots. But as the absentees and mail-ins were tallied, the perceived lead predictably faded. Exactly like many election experts cautioned would happen before the election.
So now, feeling that the election was snatched from his grip, the witch-hunts and wild-goose chases and lawsuits are underway. Thursday Nov. 5, Trump alleged that certainly all these votes couldn’t actually be for Biden. It must be voter fraud.
“We were winning in all of the key locations by a lot, actually, and our numbers started getting whittled away,” Trump said, incredulously. “They want to find out how many votes they need and then they seem to be able to find them. They wait and they wait and then they find them…”
Further, he claimed that in “multiple swing states counting was halted for hours and hours on election night, with results withheld from major Democrat-run locations, only to appear later. And they certainly appeared, and they all had the name Biden on them, or just about all…which is a little strange.”
If the President’s claims of wide-spread corruption were true, wouldn’t it follow that multiple other down-ticket Republicans would see their leads erode? Surely Democrats would want to cheat to elect senators and governors just as much as a president. The reason “they find them” isn’t because they’re pulling votes out of nowhere. It’s because they weren’t allowed to start counting mail-in ballots until election day. Had they been able to legally process and count Pennsylvania mail-in ballots before the evening of Nov. 3, they would have been counted right away. And Trump wouldn’t have had the false sense of security that he had a big lead in that state. This is why he’s gained ground in Arizona, where mail-in ballots were counted early and in-person votes were counted later.
He’s continued this refrain ever since.
Surely the President forgets that he sent out armies of his supporters to cities like Philadelphia to serve as poll watchers and ensure that nothing went awry and that crowds have descended to observe the ballot counting process. Nobody has reported anything out of the ordinary. And it’s untrue that “almost all” mail-in votes went for Biden. A majority did, but Trump still continued to increase his vote count, albeit at a slower pace.
Even in the case of the 53 allegedly late-arriving votes in Georgia that an observer claims were mixed into a pile, sure they may have arrived after the 7 p.m. deadline, but these were still legitimate votes. Trump sued over them. A judge dismissed the case finding no evidence to support claims about concerns of the integrity of ballot counting. They weren’t spoiled ballots that were tampered with in any way. By all appearances, they were simply delivered after the deadline, perhaps by the Post Office that Trump spent the last several months undermining and attempting to defund so it would be overwhelmed and unable to deliver all of the ballots on time on Nov. 3.
They sued in Michigan, demanding to watch video footage of remote dropboxes before those ballots could be counted.
They sued in Nevada, claiming that 3,060 people who had moved out of state still cast their ballots there. And some dead people still voted. Sure, it’s possible. They do verify signatures on mail-in votes, making it unlikely, but let’s say a handful of people did manage to successfully game the system. I agree.
He also made the baseless claim that the “voting apparatus” of the few yet-to-be-decided states “are run in all cases by Democrats” and that the “election apparatus in Georgia is run by Democrats,” forgetting that the top elections officials in Georgia and Nevada are Republicans. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has a strong incentive to overcome the stigma from the 2018 election, when his predecessor Brian Kemp oversaw his own tightly-contested election to governor against Stacy Abrams, which resulted in a voter rights lawsuit that Raffensperger continues to fight.
Now Republican Georgia Senate candidates David Purdue and Kelly Loeffler are asking for his resignation, in spite of no evidence of voter fraud. The reason? Absolute fealty to the President.
Trump also claimed that his campaign had been “denied access to observe any counting in Detroit,” though numerous media outlets had observed and even photographed his supporters in the days after the election. CNN’s Annie Grayer cited Detroit corporation counsel (principal attorney) Lawrence Garcia, who said there were 225 Republican poll challengers on Wednesday at TFC Center, where the counting was taking place, in addition to 256 Democrats and 76 independents.
ABC, CBS and NBC all pulled the plug on Trump’s Nov. 5 speech to fact-check his unfounded grievances, while Fox News and CNN continued to air it. Naturally his supporters rallied around mainstream media censorship — “Thought Police,” some cried with bellyfeel. So the debate rages on — which is preferable— allowing a President unfettered access to the airwaves to spout propaganda and lies to rally his base or allowing the media to censor the President in its role as a watchdog? It’s a legitimate and worthwhile debate, for sure. One worth debating in another place.
He’s willing to make Republicans so angry about improprieties that he provides no evidence for that they are bringing guns to intimidate vote-counters. He wants a scapegoat so he doesn’t feel like a loser.
Even Trump supporter Chris Christie told ABC News, “If this stuff is going on that the president is talking about…it would undercut everything that we believe in in our system. But as a prosecutor, that’s like asking me to indict someone without showing me any evidence.”
The President and everyone else on the ballot have a right to pursue legal action if there is illegal behavior, but without evidence it’s essentially a witch hunt — an investigation aimed at uncovering subversion relying upon inconclusive evidence capitalizing on public fear. A wild-goose chase, a fool’s errand, something unattainable.
“This kind of thing, all it does is inflame without informing,” said Christie. “We cannot permit inflammation with information.”
“Donald Trump tried really hard to kill something tonight,” said Tonight Show host Stephen Colbert. “If you did not know that Joe Biden was getting close to 270 (electoral votes), Donald Trump just provided all the proof you will ever need.”
He went on to describe how, though Trump’s tirade and finger-pointing were expected, it didn’t hurt any less to watch the President try “to poison American democracy.”
“I didn’t expect it to break my heart,” said Colbert. “For him to cast a dark shadow on our most sacred right from the briefing room in the White House? Our house, not his. That is devastating.”
At the moment, Biden leads Trump by more than 4 million votes nationwide. By the time all the ballots are in, my guess is Biden wins by nearly 3 percentage points nationwide. And he wins the electoral vote in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Michigan and probably eeks out razor-thin wins in Georgia and Nevada. That would be enough to win the White House. Perhaps by a significant margin. But the votes in at least three states will be close enough for a recount. So Trump will sue. He will rely on his newly restructured federal judiciary and Supreme Court to claw at every bit of power that he can. And then he’ll start disenfranchising legally-cast votes. Doing everything he can to invalidate ballots that arrived late in Pennsylvania, even though a state allowed them. Scraping and clawing to claim signatures don’t match in Georgia. One of the reasons I decided to vote early instead of using the mail-in ballot I initially requested is my signature has changed over the years — I didn’t want my vote tossed out.
Now Trump is looking to sow chaos — looking to switch metaphors for a House of Cards ending to this election ending in the statehouse, Congress or the courts. The only way for Trump to be re-elected is to clearly usurp the will of the majority of the Americans who voted by appealing to state legislatures to ignore the votes of their citizens or to run again in 2024. Sadly I’m willing to bet he’s willing to burn it down if he doesn’t get his way.