The Conservative Case That Donald Trump Lost the 2020 Election
He had his opportunities to challenge the election in the courts, but the fraud claims melted under scrutiny.
As members of Congress gather today to finalize the results of the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump and his supporters are still insisting he won. Republican lawmakers in both chambers are preparing to object to the electoral tallies in key swing states, echoing the president’s claims of voter fraud. They won’t succeed. They don’t have the numbers. And they also don’t have the facts to support their claims. It’s worth pausing for a moment to understand what exactly they’re claiming and why they’re so wrong.
First of all, since it’s not uncommon for a political candidate to claim that an election was stolen from them, there obviously needs to be a high bar when it comes to proof. How could a candidate clear that bar? Well, first and foremost, they’d need to prove that any potential fraud could have cost them the election. So, if, let’s say, a governor of a state loses by 20,000 votes, but there’s strong evidence that there were 100 fraudulent votes, that shouldn’t be enough to overturn the election. That’s because voter disenfranchisement goes both ways. While the voters would be wronged if fraud changed the results of the election, changing the results of the election without enough fraud to change the results would also wrong the voters.
That puts Trump in an extremely difficult position right off the bat because Biden captured 306 electoral votes, while Trump only received 232. That means Trump would have to prove there was enough fraud to change the results in at least three contested states to overcome Biden’s lead. Maybe more. For example, if Trump proved that fraud cost him Wisconsin, Arizona, and Nevada, he’d STILL come up short.
If Trump did have evidence that there was fraud in three or more states, how could he prove it? Trump or his lawyers making a claim certainly isn’t proof. Neither are opinion pieces in the conservative media, particularly when claims of fraud are being rewarded with attention and traffic while admitting Trump lost just produces mostly angry comments. With that in mind, how would Trump prove he was cheated? Well, he’d have to prove it in the courts—and Trump has certainly tried to do that. At least 57 lawsuits have been filed, some of them by Trump’s legal team and some by other lawyers. Guess what? Other than inconsequential, temporary victories, none of them has succeeded. Liberal-leaning courts, conservative-leaning courts—it makes no difference because claims of fraud have gotten nowhere. Sometimes that has been because of a lack of standing or some other issue, but the real problem is that all these fraud claims melt under scrutiny in a courtroom. For example, in Michigan, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker wrote:
"The closest Plaintiffs get to alleging that election machines and software changed votes for President Trump to Vice President Biden in Wayne County is an amalgamation of theories, conjecture, and speculation that such alterations were possible. ...With nothing but speculation and conjecture that votes for President Trump were destroyed, discarded or switched to votes for Vice President Biden, Plaintiffs’ equal protection claim fails."
This is sadly typical of how the cases went. It isn’t as if there are judges seeing evidence of fraud and ignoring it, the Trump campaign just isn’t presenting strong evidence that fraud occurred. One of the ways you could tell that without even looking at the court filings is that the Trump campaign has adopted a conspiratorial style of arguing. Meaning that their only goal seems to be to throw out as many claims as possible, with little regard to whether they’re true or not, in hopes that people will be convinced that if there’s smoke, there must be fire. From there, the argument becomes that you have to disprove every one of their claims or it must be true that the election was stolen. This is the same way 9/11 conspiracists or people who think the moon landing is fake argue. It’s also completely backward because if you’re arguing that we didn’t land on the moon, that Al-Qaeda wasn’t behind 9/11, or that the election you just lost was stolen from you, you’re the one who has to prove your case in the face of strong evidence to the contrary instead throwing out discredited story after story. Want some examples of those discredited stories? Remember the guy who said he drove a truckload of ballots from New York to Pennsylvania? That guy believes there are shadow people in his house. What about the “suitcases” of ballots that were supposedly wheeled out in Georgia? It never happened. What about the 138,339 votes for Biden with zero Trump votes? That was a typo in a county that was corrected. What about all the states that stopped counting at the same time in the middle of the night? That didn’t happen. Different states stopped at different times because at some point, the people counting the ballots needed to sleep. Did you hear that a Supreme Court aide said the reason that the court didn’t take Trump’s case is that John Roberts screamed at everyone that it could cause riots? The Supreme Court hasn’t met in person in months, so that isn’t true. There are dozens and dozens of allegations like this that have been made or promoted by the Trump team that fall to pieces when you dig into them. Serious, credible people don’t try to build a case like this, cranks and conspiracy theorists do.
Speaking of which, that brings us to Sidney Powell and the “Kraken.” This is the idea that, according to Powell, the voting machines were rigged against Donald Trump. Powell has made a number of bizarre claims related to this. She says Biden got as many as 10 million fraudulent votes, that as many as 7 million votes were switched from Trump to Biden, that Brian Kemp, the Republican governor of Georgia was bribed by Dominion, and that Hillary Clinton rigged the 2016 primaries to beat Bernie Sanders, among others. The claims are big, but none of them is supported by the evidence.
For example, let’s just take one of her claims, that 7 million votes were switched from Trump to Biden. First of all, Biden received 81 million votes, so the idea is that almost 9 percent of his total votes were Trump votes that were illegitimately given to him. It’s hard to square that with the fact that Dominion is in only 28 states, and they’re not in every county in every state. What that would mean is that for her numbers to be accurate, you’d need to see an enormous difference between counties that used Dominion machines and counties that didn’t. Yet, the actual difference was negligible. For example, here’s an analysis from the Washington Post:
The average shift in the margin between the two major-party candidates from 2016 to 2020 in counties that used Dominion systems was a four-point shift to Biden. In counties that didn’t use those systems, the average shift was three points to Biden. The average increase in votes for Biden relative to Hillary Clinton was 29 percent in Dominion-using counties and 27 percent in non-Dominion counties. The average increase in votes for Trump from 2016 to 2020 was 19 percent in both types of county. The idea that Trump only lost, say, Pennsylvania, because of Dominion voting systems has to reconcile with the fact that Trump actually won more votes in counties that used Dominion systems (beating Biden by about 74,000 votes in those counties) but lost the state because he was beaten by 154,000 votes in non-Dominion counties. That same pattern holds in Wisconsin as well. In other words, there’s nothing to suggest that counties using Dominion systems looked significantly different from counties that didn’t.
Put another way, the claims Powell is making about the voting machines just aren’t true and the data, along with the recounts and audits that have been done completely refutes the idea that fraud was committed via the voting machines. Powell filed “Kraken” lawsuits in Georgia and Michigan and lost both of them. No wonder, since her claims are not serious.
Getting beyond all of that, some other people just don’t believe Joe Biden could have won. After all, he rather famously spent most of the campaign “hiding in a basement” while Trump was doing large rallies. So, how could Biden have pulled it out? Simple. The election turned out to be a referendum on the most polarizing president since Lincoln and for every person that showed up at one of his rallies, there were more people that desperately wanted him gone. This may not square with the rosy predictions of landslides made in some quarters of the conservative media before the election, but those predictions were largely based on telling people what they wanted to hear, not real election analysis. Trump’s approval rating stayed in the 40 percent to 44 percent range for the last three years of his presidency. This year also featured the coronavirus, a collapsing economy, and riots, all of which hurt his chances. Only one major pollster, Trafalgar, was predicting a Trump win and even they thought it was going to be extremely close. Furthermore, contrary to what you may have heard, Joe Biden’s numbers aren’t any more out of line with the last few presidential elections we’ve seen than Trump’s were.
Some skeptics have expressed incredulity that Biden could have outperformed Obama’s 2008 numbers by nearly 12 million votes, but Trump beat McCain’s 2008 numbers by an even larger 14 million-plus votes. Why would one be more plausible than the other?
Despite being the incumbent, Trump was the underdog in the 2020 election; the fact that he lost shouldn’t be a big surprise. It’s easy to say, “They must have cheated. That’s the only way they could have won,” but it’s much harder to admit that yes, even if Donald Trump did some good things on policy, his abrasive personality, poor character, Twitter trolling, and obsessive need to “own the libs” turned a lot of Americans off and cost him an election that could have been won.