Donald Trump has never been able to prove the 2020 presidential election was stolen. And while it may be impossible to prove it wasn’t stolen either, there are several reasons for conservatives to accept the results and move on.
The vote count. Joe BidenJoe BidenManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE received seven million more votes than Trump: 81.2 million to 74.2 million. That the Democratic candidate received more votes than the Republican should surprise no one — that’s been the pattern for decades.
There have been eight presidential elections since George H.W. Bush won the popular vote in the 1988 election. Of those eight, only once did a Republican presidential candidate receive the most popular votes — George W. Bush in 2004.
While it’s the Electoral College, and not the popular vote, that determines the presidential victor, a party that struggles to win the popular vote enters a presidential election with at least one strike against it.
The Electoral College. Trump won in 2016 by taking three states by the slimmest of margins: Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Not one of those three states had voted for a Republican presidential nominee in decades. Yet they gave Trump the majority of electoral votes in 2016. In 2020 they all returned to their longstanding pattern of supporting the Democratic nominee.
The point is that 2016, when those three states went Republican, was the historical anomaly, not the 2020 election, when they reverted to Democratic support.
The polls. There have been allegations, as yet unproven, that Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic somehow colluded with foreign powers to skew the vote in Biden’s favor. But pre-election polls are not affected by voting machines, and almost all of the polls showed Biden winning the election — most by much wider margins than he actually received. In short, the polls clearly indicated a Biden victory.
The Trump comms. director. And speaking of polls, White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah resigned her position last December because of what she saw after the election. Her story was published in Politico on Jan. 7.
Farah said she was planning to go on television after the election to say it looked like Trump had lost but that the administration was proud that it grew its share of the minority vote. But she says she “was advised by the campaign to stand down. That wouldn’t be the message.”
She went on to say: “The results of the election almost perfectly aligned with our internal polling. …we always knew Pennsylvania was going to be a huge uphill battle, as was Arizona. North Carolina would be a squeaker. We’d win Florida.” The only state that surprised her was Georgia.
To reiterate: The White House comms director and many of her colleagues knew Trump was likely to lose the election before it happened.
The attorney general. Attorney General William BarrBill BarrJan. 6 panel recommends contempt charges for Trump DOJ official Appeals court questions Biden DOJ stance on Trump obstruction memo Michael Cohen officially released from prison sentence MORE addressed the issue of voter fraud on Dec 1, 2020. Barr stated, “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.”
Please note what Barr did – and didn’t – say. He did not say there was no fraud. Both the Justice Department and the states often find and prosecute voter fraud. But in the vast majority of cases those incidents involve only a few to several dozen votes. Not the thousands or millions of votes in multiple states that would have been needed to “have affected a different outcome in the election.”
No one was in a better position at the time to identify widespread fraud than Barr, and he didn’t see it.
States manage their voting process. The U.S. Constitution empowers the states to handle their respective voting processes. That’s a feature, not a bug, because it means that inefficiency, corruption, fraud or ignoring the law, as Pennsylvania did in 2020, has little or no direct impact on other states’ vote counts. Even if one or two states in question winked at, or even abetted, fraud, it would not have changed the results of the 2020 election.
The good news is that several states are considering, or have already implemented, election-integrity legislation — just as Florida did after its 2000 election debacle. And now the Sunshine State serves as a model for how to do elections right.
The down-ballot vote. Another reason to doubt that the election was stolen was the down-ballot vote. Nov. 3 was a very good election for Republican candidates across the country — just not President TrumpDonald TrumpBaldwin calls Trump criticism following 'Rust' shooting 'surreal' Haley hits the stump in South Carolina Mary Trump files to dismiss Trump's lawsuit over NYT tax story MORE.
The need for confidence in the voting system. A number of prominent Democrats, most notably Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublican Ohio Senate candidate slams JD Vance over previous Trump comments Budowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema Countering the ongoing Republican delusion MORE, refused to accept the results of the 2016 presidential election. And she’s still grumbling about it. That was a very bad precedent, and it opened the door for Republicans, led by Trump, to refuse to accept the 2020 results. Now he’s threatening that Republicans will not vote in 2022 or 2024 unless states investigate voter fraud.
That’s a terrible suggestion for Republicans and especially the democratic process. Because the best way to ensure your vote doesn’t count is not to vote.
Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MerrillMatthews.