Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

A Movement of Lies and The Cowardice of Leading From Behind

In the months since the election, hard-core Trump supporters are increasingly living in a different world from the rest of us.  Many of those who stormed the Capitol on January 6th (as well as millions more who stayed at home) believe that Trump actually won the presidential election, and that Biden and the Democrats stole the election with the support of a shadowy conspiracy of powerful elites.  

Most of the claims that are being floated around "proving" the election was stolen are easily refuted by even brief research, and I've tried to do my share in rebutting these claims.  (HereHereHere. Here. And a collaborative compilation with Letters From Cato here.)  But one of the things that these last couple months have made clear is that most people do not sit down and evaluate claims like this on their own.  Most people trust what "their side" is saying.  And in this case, "their side" is led by President Trump who seems to be mentally incapable of admitted than he lost.  

As soon as his election night lead (which was the result of some key states counting election day votes, which leaned Republican, first and mail-in ballots, which leaned Democratic, later) began to disappear, Trump began to amplify and embroider any theory which came his way suggesting that he hadn't actually lost the election.  The increasingly closed world of right wing TV, radio, and internet content happily provided and amplified more theories.  And the result has been that a great many people on the right have allowed themselves to fall for the theory that with so many claims about election fraud floating around there must be something to it even if any given theory can be shown to be false.

This could probably have been counteracted early if a lot of other leaders on the right (people who, unlike the average citizen, know a lot about how elections and election law work) had spoken out.  However, nearly all Republican leaders have taken the cowardly political approach of "leading from behind".  Even though they know that Trump lost the election and cannot salvage that loss through legal maneuvering, governors, senators, and congressmen, as well as media figures, have played the "let's wait for the process" and "Trump deserves his day in court" game in order to avoid offending the voters whom they want to appeal to again in 2022 or 2024.  They've hoped the voters would eventually figure out on their own that Trump lost, or that someone else would do the hard work of breaking it to them, and that they would not have to be the ones who were disliked by voters for not "fighting for" Trump.  (How bad has this been?  Representative Meijer R-MI told the Dispatch podcast that based on his own conversations with fellow Republican lawmakers, the number who actually believed the election had been stolen was "in the teens", and yet 147 voted to object to electoral votes.)

But if all the party leaders sit around and wait for the voters to get over Trump on their own, the voters will not recover for quite some time.  People may react negatively (especially after all this time) to being told the truth, but as we saw with the storming of the Capitol, if you leave people thinking that the election is being stolen from the, they may act drastically.

Of course, central to all this is the fact that Trump himself is and always was wholly unsuitable to public office.  He simply does not have the integrity of character we'd want to see in a political leader.  If Trump were not lying to the public, claiming to have won an election which he didn't win, if he'd stepped forward once the votes had been counted and conceded, then other Republicans would not be having to figure out how to act when Trump is telling his voters that he didn't really lose.  But this is where we are, and our political leaders need to step up and act like leaders.

Politicians want to be liked by the voters.  Voters don't usually like people who tell them things they don't want to hear.  So it's easy to see why most politicians have learned to tell voters what they want to hear (or at least not tell them what they don't want to hear) and hope that someone else will do the hard work for them.  Politicians are rewarded for acting this way.  Say you have two GOP leaders.  One tells people that Trump has lost and should concede.  The other tells people that Trump may still win in court and we should wait and see.  Since GOP voters don't want Trump to have lost, they will of course like the one who tells them that they didn't lose.  Even if they eventually accept that Trump lost, they'll still often dislike the politician who told them what they didn't want to hear.  He didn't fight.  He was with the other side.  He didn't stick with them.

I don't know of any solution to this trap.  What I am saying political leaders should do is something which will make people like them less than someone who behaves without integrity.  (Nor will the other side give them any quarter for having integrity.)  But we've also seen the terrible results of political leaders deciding to sit back and not tell their voters hard truths.  The voters will not figure it out on their own.  They will listen to rabble rousers who tell them what they want to hear.  And when we let rabble rousers spread lies, those lies have consequences.


Tito Edwards said...

Did you vote for Biden?

Darwin said...


Certainly not.

Tito Edwards said...

Assuming everything in the post is true, what would help heal the country and restore integrity to the elections (in the eyes of Trump votets), is an in depth investigation of the contested states elections.

Grant some hard core Trumpists may not he convinced, but most Trump voters would regain confidence in the election process. Whether they find anything or not, it would be a healing balm.

That, in my opinion, would go a long way in restoring confidence.

Darwin said...

I do not have any objection to an investigation, and I'm certainly in favor of people having a way to come to a realization of the facts.

But here is my concern: Think of the big investigations that we've had in recent years, such as the Mueller investigation into the Russian election influencing claims. That investigation went on for a long time, generated a lot of divisive buzz, and then came out with a set of answers which didn't really make anyone change their minds.

We've already had 60+ lawsuits over the election, and the Trump team has lost them. That's the normal way we have for dealing with claims of election fraud. Moreover, there was a lot of fairly bad-faith behavior with those lawsuits where the legal team would make wild claims in press conferences and then go into court (where the lawyers could be disciplined if they made frivolous claims) and made very narrow claims.

So while I'd love to see an investigation resolve things and get people living in the same reality again, I am pretty skeptical that it would have the desire effect. And I certainly don't think that it would be just or legal to delay inaugurating the president on the constitutionally required date in order to pursue yet another investigation.

I wish I knew how we got back from here. That's why early on I spent so many hours researching these claims and writing all those posts about them. But increasingly, it seemed like people were basing their objections on what they wanted to believe, not where the evidence pointed.

Tito Edwards said...

Losing a case is when the court accepts the case and is drawn to a conclusion. The 60+ cases, I don't know the exact number, but I believe only one was accepted to be adjudicated. Rejecting lawsuits isn't the same as losing a lawsuit.

The investigation should be done by a third party.

If nothing is done, I suggest the GOP overwhelm the states in question with lawsuits to turn back 'mail balloting'. Otherwise, this will never end.

Darwin said...

I'd have to look through how many of the lawsuits were thrown out on the merits, but it was definitely enough to back up the conclusions I formed based on the ones that I read. I'd also put a lot of weight on the opinion of Andy McCarthy at National Review, a staunch conservative, Trump supporter, and star prosecutor who published dozens of pieces ripping the Trump lawsuits as without merit.

But like I said, I have no objection to an investigation into the voting. I'm just very, very confident that it wouldn't find significant issues.

I don't really have an opinion on mail-in voting one way or the other. I m fully confident that the GOP can win even with the early and mail-in voting that was allowed in 2020. We came very close, and with slightly better candidates it would have been a home run. Even so, we won multiple house races, did better in the Senate than expected (despite the runoff own-goal for which I put a lot of the blame on people like Lin Wood telling Republicans to protest by not voting.) The problem in 2020 was not mail in voting or urban centers, it was the extent to which Trump's actions had turned off the upper middle class suburban voters that for decades had leaned GOP.

Nate Winchester said...

Well, I guess we owe a lot of foreign countries a big apology then.

Darwin said...


I'm not sure I follow your point.

Nate Winchester said...

Only that all the signs our state department (and others) have used to mark a suspicious election in other nations were there November 2020. But hey, all those 3rd world nations had their explanations and recounts too so clearly we were the fools in ever demanding audits or redo of those elections.

So good that America has revealed to the world our elections are no better than the third world's.

(Didn't mean to take so long to respond - but since I did, the Lincoln project and Time Magazine certainly did their part to make a hash of this post.)

Darwin said...

"Only that all the signs our state department (and others) have used to mark a suspicious election in other nations were there November 2020."

Um, no. I think you're incorrect there. Our election in 2020 was pretty standard and there's no evidence there was any significant degree of fraud.