My biography of M. Stanton Evans recounts that Stan disliked George Will starting back in the 1970s because “George is always coming up with ‘conservative’ reasons to do some liberal thing.” As usual, Stan was ahead of his time. In recent years this defect has become a pandemic on the right. And it doesn’t even bother to mask itself any more! My train ride from London to Edinburgh today prompts me to propose an American conservative variation of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy, which in this case comes out as the “no true French-man” (as in David French-man) fallacy, which manifests itself in the seemingly endless series of “The Conservative Case for” some kind of conservative defeat.
Steve told me to think about contributing an article on “The Conservative Case Against ‘The Conservative Case For’” whatever is the latest leftist thing some conservatives want to sell out on. Is it a coincidence that most of these seem to come from die-hard Never Trumpers, with David French in the lead, in favor of transgender rights, universal healthcare, or against some traditionally conservative cause (e.g., banning critical race theory, the death penalty). It turns out, though, that back in 2016 our pal Michael Anton, then still writing under the pen name Publius Decius Mus, wrote up the case over American Greatness: “The Conservative Case Against ‘the Conservative Case.’” He observed that whenever you hear “’the Conservative Case’ for or against something, lock your door, check your wallet, and grab your gun. You know what’s coming is an unadulterated sell-out of everything ‘conservatism’ purports to hold dear.”
But that doesn’t mean we can let up on our vigilance for more examples of the problem. The most recent example is the consortium of “conservative legal luminaries,” all of whom boast stellar establishment Republican credentials, who have decided on collective effort behind the claim that the 2020 election was “Lost, Not Stolen.”
These paragons of conservatism believe it was the political landscape caused by the global pandemic and the fact that a small, “but statistically significant” part of the electorate would have voted for any Republican other than Trump that explains the basement dummy winning the most votes of any presidential candidate in history. It definitely was not widespread election fraud, so please stop talking about it because if Americans lose trust that our elections are free and fair, we will lose Our Democracy™.
Perhaps “Comrade Molotov”—surely one of Steve’s more dubious friends*—is correct that Trump is toxic to suburban moms (whose voting rights I’d revoke in any case if I could), and it is also not necessary to believe in election mules to spot mulish submission to the establishment line that there was nothing to see here, move along, move along. . .
Thankfully for those of us conservatives who are not “legal luminaries,” the authors of Lost, Not Stolen provide what appears on the surface to be a final refutation of an exhaustive list of claims of election fraud. A careful reading, however, reveals very little in the way of refutation and much more in the way of rhetorical sleight of hand, e.g., speaking of claims of fraud brought before the courts in Arizona, the authors conclude that “The state courts dismissed similar claims for lack of standing after considering the evidence.” One wonders how much consideration of actual evidence takes place when a suit is dismissed for lack of standing. This and similar tactics are used frequently throughout the report. The authors assert there is no proof of fraud because even the Supreme Court dismissed a challenge based on unconstitutional changes to election law on lack of standing. To be fair, the authors do concede that there are significant discrepancies throughout the battleground states with respect to election interference, ballot integrity, vote counting procedures, ballot harvesting, and other areas of concern (and for which the forces opposing Trump publicly claimed credit):
To be sure, significant last-minute changes [were made] in voting procedures… Last-minute changes are not optimal, and we would hope that this experience would not be repeated outside the circumstances of the COVID-19 emergency.
The authors of Lost, not Stolen then assert that the judiciary’s overall reluctance to consider claims of election irregularity is proof that these last-minute rule changes were inconsequential. Nothing to see hear, folks!
“Legal claims targeted not fraud but ordinary election-administration challenges related to absentee and mail-in ballots. All were rejected.”
However, it turns out this conclusion was a bit premature. The Wisconsin Supreme Court decided recently that the Wisconsin Election Commission’s last minute rule changes authorizing the use of ballot boxes and handing off votes to third party were illegal, concluding that [e]lectoral outcomes obtained by unlawful procedures corrupt the institution of voting, degrading the very foundation of free government.” In other words, despite the assertions of our conservative betters, Our Democracy™ really is at risk, not from those who question the integrity of the 2020 election, but from those who sought to change the rules and procedures designed to ensure that integrity in the name of voter access.
Of course, none of these valid objections to the misdirection and questionable assertions made in Lost, Not Stolen will matter. With the exception of a very few stellar reporters such as Mollie Hemingway, the acclaim has been universal. After all, these are Republicans! Conservatives! If such top names in the conservative movement are calling the 2020 election fair and free of fraud, it must be so! Except that a closer look reveals the NeverTrump bona fides of every author. Ted Olson, who spearheaded the legal campaign to legalize same sex marriage, refused to aid Trump in his battle against the Russian collusion hoax. Former federal judge Michael Luttig recently assisted the January 6 Committee and sits on the board of a project whose mission statement declares that election integrity laws “threaten the cornerstone of American democracy.” Perhaps the most acclaimed of all the authors, Republican stalwart Ben Ginsburg, urged Republicans prior to the 2020 election to vote for Biden to prevent Trump from destroying the party. And so it goes…
* I’m skeptical that “Comrade Molotov” is a real person. I go with the theory some commenters have floated that “Comrade Molotov” is actually Steve trying out another of his pretentious intellectual poses again.