I doubt that voter fraud and irregularities cost President Trump the presidential election, and I’ll be shocked if Trump’s lawyers prove they did. However, Trump has every right to litigate the matter.
Indeed, litigation, responsibly conducted, offers several benefits even if it fails to overturn what appears to the outcome of the election. If Team Trump gets a fair hearing and falls short, the litigation can make sane people less suspicious about the fairness of the election. And to the extent that litigation reveals fraud and irregularities, albeit ones that didn’t affect the outcome, it can provide guidance on how to minimize fraud and irregularities going forward.
Our election procedures changed substantially this year. The stated reason was the pandemic, but the new procedures are likely to remain when the pandemic is over. They need to be vetted. Litigation is one way partially to vet them.
For these reasons, I believe Team Trump is doing the nation a service by litigating.
However, Team Trump does the nation a great disservice if it makes wild allegations it can’t support. Scott’s post from this morning, with its quotation from Tucker Carlson, raises the possibility that this is what Team Trump is doing, in part.
It is alleging that the election was stolen by a collection of international leftists who manipulated vote tabulating software in order to flip millions of votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. One of the lawyers, Sidney Powell, asserts that when the fraud is finally uncovered, “I think we’ll find [Trump] had at least 80 million votes” — about seven million more than have been counted for him. According to Powell, “Trump won in a landslide.”
If Powell has evidence to back this up, have at it. But so far, she hasn’t produced evidence. And she declined Carlson’s invitation to go on his show or to provide him with any.
Powell has no obligation to litigate on television. But she’s already doing so to some degree. With her various utterances, including the highly dubious one that Trump won in a landslide, she’s made, in effect, her opening statement. It would be nice if she offered some evidence to back it up.
If it turns out that Team Trump doesn’t have the goods to back up the claim of an international leftist conspiracy, the allegation will have to be considered demagoguery. And it will have caused profound damage to the nation.
The nation was damaged when Democrats tried to blame their loss in the 2016 election on Russian interference in the election. These claims were a boon to Russia because they undermined America’s faith in its system of government. Putin surely was delighted by the chaos the Democrats inflicted on America.
If millions of Americans believe that Trump was deprived of election victory — and a landslide victory, at that — the damage will be worse than that caused by the Democrats after the 2016 election. The Democrats’ claim that Trump conspired with Russia was investigated and found to be unsubstantiated. All that was left was the ridiculous claim that Russian involvement in our social media somehow swung the election to Trump.
By contrast, the claim that foreigners can deprive candidates of millions of votes by manipulating machines is truly frightening. If true, it means that we can never be confident in the outcome of an election, and certainly not one that a conservative loses. It means our democracy is a sham. If millions of people believe this, the American experiment will be all but dead.
Another problem with pursuing a wild and baseless conspiracy (if that’s what this turns out to be) is that it tends to discredit legitimate election fraud claims in the public’s mind. The problem of voter fraud is real. Its existence shouldn’t be controversial, but it is. Irresponsible claims of such fraud made it too easy for Democrats and their media allies to dismiss well founded claims.
Finally, pursuing a baseless conspiracy theory would impede, if not prevent, an honest inquiry into why Trump lost this election. When a party’s presidential candidate loses, he or she lets down not just the party, but tens of millions of supporters.
That’s why every such loss is followed by an inquest of sorts. It happened with Mitt Romney, whose showing in 2012 may have been, when all is said and done, not that much worse than Trump’s this year. It happened with Hillary Clinton, whose electoral defeat in 2016 may well have been comparable to Trump’s this time.
There’s no reason for a Trump exception. If his challenges to the outcome of this year’s election fall short, it will be fair to ask why he didn’t get more votes. In fact, it will be important to do so.
But claims that, far from falling short, Trump actually defeated (and, indeed, crushed) Biden stand in the way of an inquiry into the question of why Trump didn’t get more votes. If these claims are baseless, they will harm the GOP.
Self-delusion is almost always a recipe for future failure.