by Jane Mayer published in The New Yorker
Read original on The New Yorker's website
For an average American, "election fraud" seemed t...Show description
Posted 586 days ago
As always, Mayer has produced a deeply investigative piece. As I'm sure most Americans were, I was really surprised at how "election fraud" seemed to spring up out of nowhere. Maybe I'm too young to remember elections of the past, or maybe it was a delusional president leading the effort, but I have never seen such contested elections of the basis of legitimacy.
Even comparing the Bush vs. Gore election, the argument was not about valid votes. It was simply about the counting. I don't remember the argument being about a bunch of fraud, nobody really considered the election "fake," but rather if we had counted the ballots correctly. The Biden vs. Trump election was a whole other story. Mayer quotes a politician that puts it incredibly well:
“What blue-state people don’t understand about why the Big Lie works,” he said, is that it doesn’t actually require proof of fraud. “What animates it is the belief that Biden won because votes were cast by some people in this country who others think are not ‘real’ Americans.” This anti-democratic belief has been bolstered by a constellation of established institutions on the right: “white evangelical churches, legislators, media companies, nonprofits, and even now paramilitary groups.” Podhorzer noted, “Trump won white America by eight points. He won non-urban areas by over twenty points. He is the democratically elected President of white America. It’s almost like he represents a nation within a nation.”
The call of election fraud works because people believe there is no way that they could have lost. This kind of works for both sides (the Left wonders at the backwardness of rural America, the Right wonders at the "socialist" metropolitan America). But what might make the Right's argument stick a little more is that it is tinged with a bit of racism and the belief in historicism. Whereas the Left laments the history of America, from the killing of Native Americans to slavery to mass-incarceration, the Right believes its history is what makes America. It believes it is the chosen people who are building the great nation, and it's therfore impossible that there is a majority who believe differently.
It's also crucial to note the timing of all of this. Funding to deligitimize elections, especially in more progressive areas, has been going on for decades. And it's not going to stop anytime soon. We believe in radical free speech in America, and the Left must come up with ideas of combating these election fraud arguments in the minds of normal people susceptible to the sway of propaganda and social media. As Mayer writes:
For now, though, conservative groups seem to be doubling down on their investments in election-fraud alarmism. In the next two years, Heritage Action plans to spend twenty-four million dollars mobilizing supporters and lobbyists who will promote “election integrity,” starting in eight battleground states, including Arizona.
Whether we want to believe it or not, this argument is becoming a reality.
More and more people are believing it, sadly, and we must develop a counterargument that relies on free speech. Talking about lies passes over the head of many, because trust has already gone out the door. We must come up with an emotional argument to win the support of independents and people in the middle. We cannot restrict the free speech of these people, no matter how crazy it seems, because that will ultimately backfire.