The 3 Dumbest Lies About the Election, Ranked
It’s been a week since the Election, and five days since President-Elect Joe Biden was projected to be the winner by most outlets, including FOX News. Most Americans, including half of Republicans, believe Joe Biden won the election.
But since this is 2020 and we’re talking about Donald Trump, that hasn’t caused the disinformation and lying to stop, nor useful idiots in the Republican Party from repeating those lies. To set the record straight, here are the three dumbest lies I’ve heard about the Election. I brought receipts.
#3: “This isn’t over yet!” / “The media called it too early!”
The prospect of not having a declared winner on Election Night was telegraphed for most of the Election season. This became a near-certainty when Republican legislatures in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan refused to allow the processing of mail-in and early votes until Election Day itself (in most other states, early counting is the norm). That guaranteed that the winner of those three battleground states wouldn’t be known on November 3rd.
So as night turned into day and November 4th arrived without a declared winner, some naturally compared the 2020 election to the most recent drawn-out post-election process: the 2000 Bush vs Gore contest.
Those comparisons became even sharper as Republicans started spreading around memes comparing the media’s projection of Biden as the winner to the infamous “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline from 1948 and the similar 2000 Washington Times headline of “President Gore.”
Only one problem: that photo is fake. The Washington Times never ran that headline, and has publicly said so. The Trump spokesperson who tweeted it out deleted it, and Trump’s campaign manager castigated his staff who pushed it out as “amateur.”
Yet it served its purpose to drive home a point: don’t trust the media (including FOX News) who have called the election for President-Elect Biden.
The comparison to the 2000 recount also calls to mind two other controversial recount processes: the 2004 Washington Governor’s race and the 2008 Minnesota Senate race. All three dealt with irregularities, court orders, and a laser focus on the processing of individual votes (introducing “hanging chad” and “Lizard People” into the political lexicon).
However, none of those are in any way similar to the 2020 Election, for two reasons.
First, those were recounts. In 2020, we’re still in the initial tally. You can’t “re”-count something until it’s been counted the first time.
Second, each of those elections were determined by extraordinarily slim margins. The initial tally in Florida had Bush leading by 1,784 votes. After the machine recount, that lead was reduced to just 327 votes (a shift of 1,457). After a months worth of re-canvassing and manual recounts, Bush was certified with a lead of 537 votes.
Dino Rossi led the initial tally in the 2004 Washington Governor’s race by 261 votes; after a recount, he led by just 42 votes (a shift of 219). Only after a manual recount and the “discovery” of a couple hundred mailed-in absentee votes did Christine Gregoire emerge with her final 133-vote lead.
Norm Coleman led the initial tally in the 2008 Minnesota Senate race by 215 votes; after recount, Al Franken was certified with a 225 vote lead (a shift of 440).
In each of these recounted states, the initial tallies and recounted vote margins were razor-thin, typically within a few hundred or even a few dozen votes. Irregularities in just a handful of ballots could potentially swing the outcome of the election.
Compare that to Joe Biden’s margins the morning of November 11th:
Georgia could go to a recount. That recount would have to be bigger than the shift in votes that happened in Florida to make it close. A lot bigger. Eight times bigger. And the recount shift didn’t even put Gore the lead; it just got him within a few hundred votes.
At the end of this process, Joe Biden is going to win as many Electoral College votes as Donald Trump did in 2016, and also with nearly 5 million more votes cast and a solid 51% to 47% edge. Election 2020 was not particularly close.
#2: Democrats didn’t concede in 2016
At a press conference Monday, GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said, “If the shoe was on the other foot and President Donald Trump was in the lead in all these states, the media would be screaming that the race is not over and we need more time to count and make sure it’s right.”
Similar pronouncements have been made that Democrats “didn’t accept the results” of the 2016 elections; that Hillary never conceded the election, and that Democrats weren’t in a position to tell Republicans what to do when they lose.
So let’s look at that, and McDaniel’s statement in particular. “If Trump was in the lead in all these states,” she hypothesizes. Turns out, Trump was in the lead in all those states just four years ago.
While Joe Biden is poised to win with the 2nd largest popular vote percentage since 1988, his lead in key states actually about mirrors Trump’s in 2016. Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,292 votes, Wisconsin by 22,748 votes, and Michigan by 10,704 votes. As noted above, Biden’s lead (as of Wednesday morning) in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are nearly exactly Trump’s lead. Swap out Michigan for Arizona, and you have a cumulative lead of 70K to 80K votes that determined the Electoral College in both 2016 and in 2020.
That’s where the similarities end. The differences from here on, though, are not in data but in response.
On Election Night 2016, mainstream news media had seen enough to project that Trump would win the Presidency. The networks all agreed; newspaper headlines ran with it the next day.
The day after the election, Hillary Clinton called Trump to concede on Wednesday, November 9th. She then gave a speech, and in that speech she said:
“We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transition of power. We don’t just respect that; we cherish it.”
The very next day, on Thursday, November 10th, President Obama invited President-elect Donald Trump to the White House to discuss the transition.
The election wasn’t over barely 24 hours before Clinton conceded, and by the second day after the election, the process began to inaugurate Trump as President! There was no talk of lawsuits; no talk of challenges; no talk of convincing state legislatures to send a different slate of electors to overrule the voters.
At the end of this, Biden is likely to end up with the same number of Electoral Votes as Trump did in 2016: 306. He’ll do so with slightly larger margins in key states than Trump did in 2016.
In 2016, Trump and his allies called it a “landslide” win. In 2020, they’re claiming an election with the same was stolen.
Someone please let Chairwoman McDaniel know that the shoe was on the other foot, and that Trump’s opponents adhered to the principles of a constitutional democracy to ensure a peaceful transition of power. As any patriotic American would.
(As an aside, some poor, unfortunate soul might say, “What about Russia!” The fact that the FBI was investigating links between Russia and the Trump campaign specifically wasn’t publicly known until March 2017. The fact that Russia interfered in the election to benefit Trump and that the Trump campaign had regular contact with Russian agents is a consensus fact of the entire Western Intelligence community and the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee. The FBI’s investigation had no impact on the election or the transition.)
#1: There was massive fraud! Reports of multiple irregularities!
You may think that photoshopping newspaper headlines from 20 years ago and conflating an initial count with a recount is stupid. And it is.
You may think that defending your actions by saying the other side would’ve done it too, when four years ago in the exact same scenario they did the opposite, is idiotic. And it is.
But those aren’t the dumbest lies of the 2020 election. The dumbest lie of the 2020 election is that there are massive fraud and irregularities, and that this puts the outcome of the election into jeopardy.
That’s about as dumb as you can get.
After four initial days of confusion, where they wanted to stop counting in some states but keep counting in other states, Trump and his allies have settled on a vague enough line to use: “Count all the legal votes.”
Turns out, they did and Joe Biden won.
Let’s be clear: voter fraud is a real thing. It’s just massively overblown as a threat to elections. The Heritage Foundation has the most exhaustive voter fraud database. They cite 1,285 cases. Across all states. Stretching back to at least 2004.
(The database includes not just voter fraud–people voting who shouldn’t, or voting improperly–but also registration and paperwork errors, in campaigns at all levels of government. Cases in Virginia include a City Council candidate who lied about his home address in 2011, and a 15-person conspiracy to “buy” votes for a Mayor’s race with beer, cigarettes, and pork rinds in 2004.)
Those 1,285 cases in two decades across 50 states at all levels of elections, including registration and candidate residency forms, do not tally up to the type of “widespread” fraud needed to overturn a close Presidential race, let alone a margin of 10,000+ votes.
And just flipping one state would still make Joe Biden President.
In short, it is an absolute fantasy to believe in “massive fraud.” The next several weeks may be spent discussing the particulars of individual mail-in ballots, closely examining postmarks, smudges, signatures, envelopes, and more. That’s fine. That’s part of the process. A disqualified ballot, however, is not “fraud.” Lawsuits alleging that some mail-in ballots were improperly counted, or improperly disqualified, are not alleging fraud. And no one involved expects that sort of haggling to impact any election result.
But where fantasy turns into lies is when the President and his allies, and by extension most of the Republican Party, glosses over the details and puts everything in a giant bucket — disqualified ballots, election observers, registration errors, quickly-corrected human tabulation errors — and refers to them all as “irregularities,” sinisterly implying something nefarious is happening. In truth, there’s nothing irregular about any of it.
But when you operate solely in a bad-faith effort to undermine public confidence in elections, the goal is quantity over quality. The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in Detroit alleging problems with the counting process, with more than 200 affidavits from poll watchers. They want you to focus on the number, not the fact that the “problems” cited including “a man of intimidating size with a BLM shirt on” and someone complaining they were called a “Karen.”
One Republican poll watcher found it suspicious that members of the military would vote for Joe Biden. pic.twitter.com/xnFqBluLRS
— Brad Heath (@bradheath) November 11, 2020
And so the story goes with all of the lawsuits and allegations made. When you actually dig into them, the first thing you notice is that, despite the breathless ravings of those on social media, most of these lawsuits don’t actually allege fraud or illegality. The Trump campaign filed suit to stop counting of 592 mail-in ballots in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Here’s a transcript from the case:
Judge: Are you claiming that there is any fraud in connection with these 592 disputed ballots?
Trump Lawyer: To my knowledge at present, no.
Judge: Are you claiming that there is undue or improper influence upon the elector with respect to these 592 ballots?
Trump Lawyer: To my knowledge at present, no.
– A Trump lawsuit filed in Maricopa County, AZ? Impacts just 200 ballots they contend were incorrectly rejected.
– The Trump lawsuit alleging that observers weren’t allowed in the room where votes were being counted in Philadelphia? The Trump lawyer had to admit that wasn’t actually true.
– The Trump campaign did win a SCOTUS order that ballots postmarked before Election Day but arriving after November 3 be separated. Of course, Pennsylvania counties had already done that. Also, it only impacts about 10,000 votes.
– A different lawsuit in Michigan alleging mail-in votes were being counted improperly? Laughed out of court as baseless hearsay, based on one person being given a sticky note by some unnamed poll worker.
– The Trump campaign actually tried taking that moronic SharpieGate conspiracy theory to court. It didn’t go well.
– The “software glitch” you heard about in Michigan? Wasn’t a glitch of any sort. Here’s what happened: A change to a local race in October led to some, but not all, of the precincts in Antrim County changing the number of columns to record election results. When they merged all the precincts to tabulate the countywide results, a one-column-off error occurred – familiar to anyone who’s ever used a spreadsheet. The data was correct the entire time. The error was quickly found and fixed, but not before launching a thousand baseless conspiracy theories that the same error might of occurred in every county across the country.
– Other human tabulation errors also occur – what happens when folks are dealing with large amounts of numbers in a short period of time, including adding a fat-finger adding an extra digit on Election Night in Michigan and in Rock County, Wisconsin, as “reported” by The Gateway Pundit and retweeted by the President’s family. These were quickly found and fixed, but not before hatching even more baseless conspiracy theories.
– That Trump campaign press release about nefarious “out-of-state” voters in Nevada? Includes military families, who are none-to-pleased about being baselessly accused of fraud.
– Those dead Michigan voters the Trump campaign was railing about? They’re alive – the victim of having the same name of a deceased family member, or a dummy birthyear being entered into the system some time along the way.
– A Trump lawsuit in Georgia that alleged 53 mail-in votes arrived late and mixed in with regular ballots was dismissed, after the Trump campaign couldn’t produce any evidence behind its claim. Also, even if it had: 53 votes out of a 14,000 vote margin.
This is a PR Campaign, not a Legal Campaign
Almost all of these allegations fall apart under even the slightest bit of scrutiny. The ones that make it to court have all been dismissed. Even if they were to succeed, the votes impacted wouldn’t be enough to overturn the margin of victory for Joe Biden.
The Trump campaign isn’t trying to win the election in the courts. They know the election is over and they lost. So what is this all about?
Certainly, there’s a financial component. If you’re dumb enough to donate money to the Trump Defense Fund, the fine print notes that “60% to DJTP for deposit in DJTP’s 2020 General Election Account for the retirement of general election debt.” Yes, hard as it is to believe, a campaign that raised over $1 billion dollars is now in debt. They spent so much of it in payouts to Trump family members and at Trump-owned businesses, they didn’t have enough money left to run TV ads in August. Now they need more money, they say, for “legal challenges.”
Then there’s the political upshot of it. If Trump or one of his children want to run again in 2024, having the base believe the 2020 was “stolen” from them is a powerful counterpoint to decisively losing the election. But this only works if the party continues to support you, even after defeat.
That’s why Trump threatened the two Georgia Senators running in a January run-off that Trump would come out against them unless they signed onto a truly unhinged letter accusing the Republican Secretary of State of allowing voter fraud and calling for him to resign. There was no more evidence provided for this allegation than what was presented in the lawsuit that got laughed out of court.
Finally, there’s the continuation of lying and bad faith disinformation that Trump has peddled for five years. When confronted with any challenge, Trump throws a childish temper tantrum and invents a more convenient reality. This has come to be expected of him, but what’s disappointing is seeing so many Republicans go along with him, knowing it’s a lie. Or worse, finding a way to believe it’s true.
There’s a word for believing something without evidence. It’s called faith. Republicans have faith in Donald Trump, regardless of all the evidence pointing against him. That faith is unshakable, and as a result, it is now a requirement for being a Republican to believe that Donald Trump won in 2020 and the election was stolen, even if you can’t prove it and all legal efforts failed.
Which means starting in January 2021, it will be a requirement for being a Republican to believe, without evidence, that the duly-elected President, having won the Electoral College and a majority of votes, is illegitimate.
Sound familiar? It’s the original play from the Trump political playbook. It’s Birtherism 2.0.