by Conrad Black
President Trump’s October 28 letter to the Wall Street Journal detailing some of his complaints about the 2020 election and the Journal’s editorial comment on it the following day clearly reveal the shortcomings of both sides of this argument. But the important thing to note is that there are two sides to the argument over the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election result.
The prolonged and intensive effort in which the Wall Street Journal has eagerly participated, to suppress and throttle the merest suggestion of illegitimacy surrounding the 2020 election result, has failed. It has always been understandable why there would be a great body of opinion that would wish to suppress any consideration of the question. It is a sobering and demoralizing thing to imagine that the vastly important process of choosing the president of the United States could possibly be an erroneous or even a fraudulent process.
But an election where there are more than 40 million ballots that are cast by people other than those who allegedly voted and where, in places, the apparent turnout is unprecedentedly high (even when the number of erroneously cast ballots is reduced in the recent past by over 90 percent), invites and requires much more serious examination than it received—especially when a flip of 53,000 votes in Pennsylvania and any two of Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin, would have flipped the election result in the Electoral College to Trump.
As is often the case in this and similar debates, President Trump, by his inability to resist indulging in his “constructive hyperbole,” is his own worst enemy. This was particularly evident in the embarrassing number of assertions he made that he had won the popular vote, a feat that would have required to flip 2.5 million votes or to add 5 million new unanswered Trump votes. There is a good deal of both direct and circumstantial evidence of skulduggery at the polls but nothing on a scale that remotely justifies the former president’s claim. Since the election went off well in 44 of the states and serious irregularities appear to be confined to the four aforemenioned states as well as Michigan and Nevada, victory in the popular vote for Trump is practically impossible.
But as in all confederal and parliamentary systems, it is not the popular vote that determines the winner, and six previous presidential elections were won by candidates who received fewer votes than their chief opponent. It is the allegations of dishonest voting or vote-counting in the six states where serious challenges were made that require serious attention.
There is no thought now of reversing the presidential election result. Most of the states where there are serious doubts about the accuracy of the results have already acted legislatively to ensure that there is no repetition of such questionable results.
Whatever the attitude of any media outlet to the election campaign as it was unfolding and the election result as it came in, there has been an almost 100 percent media solidarity in declining to consider the obviously vivid possibility that the election result was false.
In the exchange in the Wall Street Journal last week, Trump delivered a machine-gun fusillade of allegations, as is his frequent custom, some of which are unrigorous. And the Journal editors, as people in that position frequently do when confronted by one of Trump’s flurries of charges, picked out a few of the more vulnerable ones and led the credulous reader to the conclusion that all of Trump’s allegations were false or overstated.
In fact, there are tens of millions of unverifiable votes, many of which were cast suspiciously and counted and recounted unconvincingly. These are the recounts that the anti-Trump media robotically recite. Even the Journal did this on October 29 in stating the Georgia vote was hand-recounted three times confirming the result. This is the truth but not the whole truth, as the recounts of already fiddled votes were taken after the unverifiable harvested ballots had already been inserted in the total to be recounted. The result was merely the tedious repetition of a likely false count.
In fact, many of Trump’s points were not and could not be refuted and it was disingenuous, to say the least, of the editors of the Wall Street Journal to cite three areas where the former president went too far and then engage in the shabby debating device of implying that all of Trump’s points in his letter of October 28 were wrong. Most were not and have not been adequately answered, in the Journal or elsewhere.
Instead, the whole challenge is deliberately portrayed as Rudolph Giuliani forlornly bringing harebrained complaints of individual electors before various state courts and demanding penalties far in excess of what it would be appropriate to grant. Here and elsewhere, Trump’s efforts are portrayed as essentially a King Lear-like exercise in blind rage by the former president at the supposedly indisputable result of the election.
Once again Donald Trump’s habitual recourse to rhetorical excess and the Journal’s tired effort of accusing him of irresponsibly overstating his case, cause readers who cannot be expected to retain the details of these intricate and arcane arguments, to believe that Trump the blowhard and over-reacher is the source of these complaints about the election which, on balance, is then assumed unjustified. Given the scores of millions of harvested or untraditionally dropped ballots, the refusal of the judiciary at any level to evaluate the many serious problems with the election on their merits, and instead just to decline to hear them for technical reasons having nothing to do with the gravamen of the complaint, has lent a level of credence to Trump’s charges that cannot be so easily dismissed with the condescension of a biased high school debating coach.
There were only 19 lawsuits that directly challenged the legality of the changes to voting and vote counting methods, almost all of them enacted officially on behalf of those for whom COVID-19 regulations made it harder to vote. None of these lawsuits, including the Texas attorney general’s case supported by 18 other states, was adjudicated on its merits. In a belt-and-braces approach to ensuring that Trump was defeated, the political establishment not only stuffed the necessary ballot boxes, but ensured that there would be no serious judicial review of the result.
It is vitally important that President Trump continue to impugn the election result and that his complaint continues to attract a respectable amount of credence so that it cannot be airily rejected as sour grapes and self-serving bloviation from a familiar source. If Trump did not have a serious case, there could be no possible excuse for his conduct, including his purposeful but certainly not insurrectionist address to his followers in Washington on January 6.
The election result cannot now be altered; the Supreme Court probably ducked the Texas case to avoid the immense controversy an overturned election would cause. But nor should Trump’s enemies get away not only with a questionable election result but also with the suffocation of legitimate questions about the election and the connected propagation of the fraud that he premeditatedly promoted an invasion of the Capitol by an insurrectionist mob.
Despite the wall-to-wall hostility of the national political media, the suspicion about the election is too evident and widespread to be exterminated. The national interest requires the sensible verification procedures provided in the Georgia and other voting reform bills—no matter the antics of naïve and cowardly captains of industry or baseball team owners who accepted that the Georgia law was a replication of Jim Crow, segregation, and the Klan lynch mob, as they move the baseball All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver.
The danger, apart from the almost terminal incompetence of the Biden slapstick regime, is that dishonest elections become institutionalized, as the Democrats attempted in H.R. 1.
Though we would wish Trump put it less self-servingly and more persuasively, this is his argument. The Wall Street Journal should know better than to try to continue Trump-bashing when the real issue is free elections.
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Conrad Black has been one of Canada’s most prominent financiers for 40 years, and was one of the leading newspaper publishers in the world as owner of the British telegraph newspapers, the Fairfax newspapers in Australia, the Jerusalem Post, Chicago Sun-Times and scores of smaller newspapers in the U.S., and most of the daily newspapers in Canada. He is the author of authoritative biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, one-volume histories of the United States and Canada, and most recently of Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other. He is a member of the British House of Lords as Lord Black of Crossharbour.
Photo “Donald Trump” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.