2020 Election – Postmortem

Posted By Elgin Hushbeck

My overall view of the 2020 election crystallized in the two days following election day. Shortly after the election, when several states were still too close to call, I said it was basically a tie. Whichever side lost would not be happy. When the states were called for Biden, I considered the election over. When a friend asked about Trump not conceding, I wrote back,

“After all, Hillary and many other Democrats still claim Trump stole the election with Russians’ help.  The recount will take place. The states will certify their results. The electors will vote, and Biden will become the President-elect. Trump will leave, and Biden will become President on January 20th.”

Despite the riots at the Capitol, that is what will happen. Still, there are many questions and lessons to be learned following the election.

First, the question of fraud. Was there fraud? Of course, but that is not the main question. There are two other questions. The first and the most important question is whether or not there was enough provable fraud to challenge the election.  Even before the many court cases, the answer was pretty clearly no.  Fraud is extremely difficult to prove. As one of Trump’s lawyers summarized the situation, it would take two years to put together a normal fraud case; they had less than two months.  

In addition to lack of time, there were issues of jurisdiction and timing. For example, concerning state officials changing the timing and requirement for mail-in ballots, this may have been illegal.  Still, the time to bring the lawsuit was when they announced the change, i.e., before the election, not after your side lost. Other lawsuits were put together so hastily that they were full of errors. Overturning an election in the courts was always going to be an uphill battle, as it should be. It would be an extraordinary move that would require extraordinary evidence. It would be extremely difficult to do that in one state, but to have to do it in several was not going to happen.

That leaves the second question was there enough fraud to have changed the outcome.  Some see no difference in these two questions, but that is hardly a defensible position. Courts determine matters legally. They do not define reality.  Just because something cannot be proved in a court of law does not mean it did not happen. There have been many miscarriages of justice in history, where the innocent were convicted, or the guilty party set free.  The legal answer to the election question is Biden won and should become President.

As for the second question, the best answer at the moment is maybe.  We really do not know.  Some unusual things happen.  Perhaps, this was all due to COVID, perhaps not. This question is not important in determining who should become President; that is the legal question.  This question is vital for the integrity of the election process in the future. It is even more so for the publics’ confidence in the outcome of elections.

America has a long history of voter fraud and political machines.  Securing the integrity of elections was a major and valid component of the Civil Rights movement and the subject to two amendments to the Constitution. Nor are Presidential elections immune.  Many historians believe that Nixon probably would have won the 1960 Presidential election, except for fraud in Texas and Illinois.  In more recent years, Democrats have questioned the legitimacy of Bush’s election in 2000 and Trump’s 2016 election.

If Biden wants to be a unifier, one thing he could do is establish a truly bipartisan commission to make recommendations for improving election security. I am not hopeful. In recent years, the main push by Democrats has been to make voting easier at the expense of making fraud both easier and even more difficult to prove.  Still, given how close recent elections have been and the charges of fraud from both sides when they lose, securing the electoral process is the only way to restore confidence in the electoral system.

The final question is both the most dangerous for the democratic process and the most difficult to fix. That is the question of whether or not the election was fair. It was not even close. One expects both sides to be partisan; that is just the nature of things.  Two things were different this time; the first was the press coverage. 

The Press has for decades had a liberal bias. For example, in my book Preserving Democracy, I document how for the 2008 presidential election, the press coverage of Obama was 2-1 positive to negative. The situation was reversed for McCain. Still, nearly half the stories were neutral.  The positive bias towards Obama was explained at the time as normal since the winner usually gets better coverage. The problem with that explanation is that these numbers had not changed much from 2004 went the Republican candidate won. If the explanation was correct, then Bush should have gotten the 2-1 favorable coverage. Yet, his coverage was not that much different from McCain’s.

For Trump, almost all the neutral and positive stories disappeared as studies consistently showed that 90% of the stories or more were negative.  Not only that, but we also now know that a large number of them were false; many were little more than conspiracy theories. A huge amount of the coverage dealt with theories that Trump colluded with the Russians or was about the fire Mueller. Meanwhile, his many accomplishments were hardly mentioned.  

While the three Networks spend 2,634 minutes on the Muller probe, which in the end found no evidence of the collision, they spend just 9 minutes on the President’s tax cuts and another 9 minutes on Trump’s historic Middle East Peace agreements. These examples just scratch the surface of the overwhelming bias in the media’s coverage.

The other major difference this time was the censorship of Big Tech. Big Tech has for years tracked you, whether you want them to or not. It is as if someone was with you 24/7, taking notes on everything you do, except worse, as they can correlate data with all their millions of other sources of information. They literally know more about you than you do, as they never forget anything. They used this information to make billions of dollars by targeting ads. 

For a decade, the ability to track, has been increasingly shifting to influencing and then into manipulation. It is not just showing you ads you are interested in, but tacking and understanding you, so they can present you with the correct information at the right time that will get you to buy.  Increasingly they not only want to sell marketing companies effective ads but guaranteed purchases. In short, they know how to get you to do what they want. A 2012 study in Nature showed that manipulating search results can affect how people vote. Big Tech has only gotten better since then.

Following Trump’s win in 2016, many in Big Tech who control most of the news and information on the internet promised not to let that happen again. They were true to their word, not just shaping information but restricting and even blocking information that might help Trump. 

Thus when news of Hunter Biden’s laptop broke, Big tech blocked any mention of it, shutting down the New York Posts Twitter feed for daring to post the story. The major Networks spent just 21 minutes on the story, mostly casting it as Russian disinformation. This claim proved to be yet another false story from the networks. After the election, when it was safe to do so, the New York Post story was confirmed.

Did all this bias and suppression of the news affect the outcome?  After the election,  a poll of Biden voters in key states found that most did not know many of Trump’s major accomplishments.  These were accomplishments such as achieving several Middle East Peace agreements or Operation Warp Speed.  Nor did they know of significant Biden problems.  More importantly, 17% of Biden voters said they would have changed their vote had they known.  Perhaps the poll was off. Still, far less than a 1% switch would have changed the outcome.

The Democratic process depends on voters.  Voters, however, depend on hearing both sides of a debate. The results of the 2020 election are clear. The major news sources and tech companies were determined to stop Trump, and they did everything they could to stop him.  The election results were clear. Even with a 90% negative bias and suppressing and blocking of stories, they only just barely succeeded.

Will things change?  They already have.  In an article in The Atlantic,  CNN’s Jim Acosta, a strong and vocal critic of Trump, said he expects his style of coverage will change. “I don’t think the press should be trying to whip up the Biden presidency and turn it into must-see TV in a contrived way.” Why should they?  Their guy won. Their goal now will be to protect him.

Feb 1st, 2021

One Comment to '2020 Election – Postmortem'

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  1. Hannelore Hushbeck said,

    I think you hit the nail on head. Thank you for taking the time and courage to post this in this ever changing society we live in.

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