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

A National Moment

Posted By Elgin Hushbeck

There are times in a nation’s history where something happens that touch the national spirit and instantly galvanizes public opinion. These could be major historical events like the attack on Pearl Harbor or 911.  They could be moments of national pride, such as the Moon landing, or moments of tragedy such as the Challenger disaster, or in Britain, the death of Princess Diana.

At these moments, how a leader reacts is critical.  What a leader should do at such a moment is conceptually pretty easy.  Understand what is going on, and then tap into that sense of national unity to build a consensus that will help the nation do what it needs to do.

This is what most leaders do, or at least try to do; they seek to unify the country and build a sense that we are all part of the nation. FDR’s speech to Congress following the attack on Pearl Harbor unified the country, preparing it for what lay ahead.  Reagan’s speech following the Challenger disaster unified the country in the sorrow of the lost. But not all rise to the moment. A few seek to exploit it for political gain. This rarely ends well.  Following the Reichstag fire in 1933, Hilter used the event as an excuse to go after his political opponents and consolidated his power.

The riot at the Capitol Building was a national moment. In one sense, this was just another example of the political unrest and riots happening with increasing regularity. But this was something more; this was something different.  The video of rioters walking around the Senate Chamber shocked people in a way that similar footage of rioters walking around the streets of cities had not. The Capital is not just a building; it is a symbol of our government.  This was a national moment, and there was near-universal disgust and condemnation of the rioters.

As for what is going on, that is pretty clear.  We, as a nation, are not just divided; we are polarized. We have, for the most part, lost the ability to have a political discussion. And as such, increasingly, people are resorting to violence.  If the last election showed us anything, it is that we are split 50-50. There is only one peaceful way out of this problem; we must lower the rhetorical temperature and start talking to each other again.

How did our leaders do?  Trump, ever the egoist, could not see past his personal grievances to rise to the moment.  His statement the next day was a better, but too little too late.  Leaders rarely get do-overs.

As for Biden, as an incoming President, this was the softball of all softballs. A speech seeking to lower the political rhetoric and calling on unity could have set the tone for the start of his Presidency as the unifier. It would have rallied the country behind him right as he becomes President.

He did the opposite. Rather than seek unity, he used the opportunity to attack Trump and his supporters yet again.  For the majority of the speech, if you did not know the context, you could have easily thought it had been given in October during the heat of the election.

To make matters worse, he then went on to say,  “No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol.”  He says this as if we have not seen how rioters across the country have been allowed to take control of cities for days, or even weeks, in some cases. Such statements can only further divide the nation.

If all this was not bad enough, Biden then ended with a veiled threat, saying, “I hope it’s sensitized them to what we have to do.”  What we have to do?  He then talked about the Justice Department, being formed to  “take on domestic terrorism.”  Just what is he planning?

So rather than a speech on unity and lowering the political rhetoric, Biden used the opportunity to attack his political opponents and proposed going after them with the Justice Department.  So much for unity and healing the country.

Let me suggest an alternative message for the inaugural. While not a national moment, Abraham Lincoln became President at a time when the nation was polarized.  He concluded his first inaugural with the following plea,

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Sadly Lincoln’s plea was ignored, and the Civil War broke out.  Perhaps we should not ignore it now.

Jan 9th, 2021
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Listen to the Experts

Posted By Elgin Hushbeck

The constant message these days in the media is to listen to the experts. But the problem quickly becomes which experts.  They do not all agree.  This is even more clear with the recent publication of the Great Barrington Declaration, which, at the time of this writing, was already signed by 5,872 Medical & Public Health Scientists and 11,893 Medical Practitioners.

These health professionals look at both the dangers posed by COVID-19 but also consider the impact of government policies.  These policies are not free of impact; nothing of any significance ever is.  They have “have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies.” The dangers of COVID-19 needs to be balanced with effects of the shutdown. They write,

(to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.

As our knowledge of this virus has grown, and treatment methods improved,

we know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.

It is just a fact that COVID-19 will continue to spread until the population reached herd immunity. The only thing shutdowns can do is drag out this process.  A vaccine can help, but a vaccine is not required. In the end, we will need to reach herd immunity.  As such, these experts recommend,

“The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.”

In short, theses experts argue that our response should be driven by looking at both side and seeking what will result in the least harm, and not just what minimize the virus. 

To see the declaration go to https://gbdeclaration.org/

Oct 9th, 2020
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The More Things Change

Posted By Elgin Hushbeck

Quick question, which party is seeking the ability to discriminate based on race?

If you answered the Democrats, you are correct.  They are doing so in California, a state they have solidly control for a long time.  What they are trying to do is repeal the following provision of a state Constitution,

The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

This should not be a surprise. While they like to hide it, as I have written in the past,

The Democratic party still divides people into groups, where one is a member of a group before they are an individual. In recent years this has been formalized in the concepts of intersectionality. It is seen, for example, in Biden’s recent statement that a person is not Black if they don’t vote for him.  In short, the issue of race is still at the core of the Democratic party.

Voters added this provision to the California Constitution in 1996 with Proposition 209. I voted for that proposition, and it had the strong backing of Republicans, but faced opposition from Democrats.   In the upcoming election, Proposition 16 attempts to repeal it. Thus not too surprisingly, prop 16 has the strong backing of Democrats but opposition from Republicans. 

Prop 16 will allow Democrats to discriminate based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. Of course, they dress all this up with language such as,

Prop. 16 expands equal opportunity to all Californians, increasing access to fair wages, good jobs, and quality schools everyone.

But how can this be true?  How can you increase access for everyone by discriminating based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin? When the Democrats did this to support slavery and then later segregation, such discrimination was called wrong, and properly so.

A core of this effort is the Democrats’ desire to play group-politics. They want to pick and choose between various groups those they like (i.e., support them) and those they don’t. They want to be able to tell you, as a member of a particular group, that you should vote for them because of all the wonderful things they do for your group.

In the old south, Democrats told whites they should vote for them to support slavery. Once Republicans abolished slavery, they ran on defending segregation. In the North, Democrats played group-politics with various immigrant groups to create and maintain political machines. By the 1960s, Democrats realized that segregation was doomed. So they shifted to a national machine model with the Great Society and pressed on.  

While a lot changed, the more things changed, the more they stay the same. Machine politics thrives on the ability to distribute tax dollars to friends and punish enemies.  Thus under the Obama IRS, Tea party groups had their applications blocked and held up for years, as their members faced audits.  Meanwhile,  friends of Obama had their applications fast-tracked sometimes in days.  Other government departments saw similar behavior.

Yet for Democrats, doling out such favors has been more difficult recently because of their focus on intersectionality. The bottom line is that they want to discriminate, but are finding it harder to do so. So now they want to change the law to make discrimination legal again. Discrimination, in the name of equal opportunity!  That is the upside-down world of the Democrats.  The sad thing is, given that California is a Democratic stronghold, it will probably pass.

Sep 1st, 2020
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A Party of Division

Posted By Elgin Hushbeck

Whatever they may have been in the past, it is becoming increasingly clear that the current Democratic party is a party of division and even hate. This attitude is clear in a provision of H.R. 7608 recently passed in the house which says,

Sec. 442. Notwithstanding any other provision of law or policy to the contrary, within 180 days of enactment of this Act, the National Park Service shall remove from display all physical Confederate commemorative works, such as statues, monuments, sculptures, memorials, and plaques, as defined by NPS, Management Policies 2006, §9.6.1.

In 2017 I wrote an article on, History, The Confederacy, and Monuments,  where I wrote,

 “when it comes to monuments in cemeteries or places like Gettysburg, I would be very strongly opposed to their removal. As for the others, I see them as much more problematic.” 

I see history as both interesting and important. It is hard to imagine what Civil War battlefields would be like without all the “statues, monuments, sculptures, memorials, and plaques” for the Confederate troops.  

I have been to Gettysburg several times. It is always a moving experience. I have stood where the southern troop massed for Pickett’s Charge and looked across the fields to the stonewall where Handcocks troops waited for them.  I have stood at the angle and looked in the opposite direction. There are monuments there, and throughout the battlefield to commemorate, the units on both sides. To remove all the monuments for the confederate troops would be a desecration and an act of hate.  

As I said in my 2017 article, “I view the Civil War as two things: A victory, and over.” Yet now Democrats seem to want to light the conflict anew and divide the country once again.  Yet this time, it will not be over those who support slavery and those who oppose it. This time the conflict will be over those who value history and those who want to erase it.

Another key factor is that the meaning of symbols shifts over time. Those wanting to erase the Confederate flag from memory see it as a symbol of the racist past.  For some, it is. But for many others, it is something else. It is important to note that what we call the Confederate Flag is not the flag of the Confederacy. Rather it is the Confederate Battle Flag. For many, this flag is a symbol of regional pride, valor, and honor. It says one is a bit of a rebel, a theme that runs strongly throughout America, not just the South.

Yet, Democrats ignore all this. They say the flag is a symbol of racism and want it erased completely. Yet, how is removing battlefield memorials any different than the Taliban destroying statues with which they disagreed? With the Taliban’ destruction,

Political and religious leaders, as well as preservationists and museum directors from around the world, have expressed fury and sadness over the actions of the Islamic extremists

There is an old Soviet joke: The future is certain; it is that past that is unpredictable. This joke seems to be the motto of the modern Democratic party. They are always predicting a glorious future of peace, prosperity, and harmony.  Yet if one looks at their record, they would see something quite different.

I can understand why Democrats want to erase the history of the Confederacy, for it is their history. The Democrats were the party of slavery. They now want to shift the blame to America and see this as America’s great sin. While that is partially correct, it was not all Americans. Many Americans opposed slavery and fought and died to abolish it. The Democratic party wanted slavery, argued for it, and then fought the Civil War to preserve it.  It is an ugly part of Democrat history, so it is understandable why they want to erase it. If we insist on getting rid of the Confederate Flag because of slavery, why don’t we get rid of the party that pushed for slavery, argued for slavery, and fought for slavery?

In my earlier article, I talked about the experience of two combatants, Corporal Charles H McConnell of the 24th Michigan and Colonel John R Lane, of the 26th North Carolina.  While it is unlikely that McConnell was the soldier who shot and seriously wounded Lane, he believed he had. Despite that, the two became great friends. A 1903 photograph shows them together near the spot McConnell believed he had shot Lane. Nor is this is the only story of soldiers from the North and South, putting past animosity behind them and seeking peace and friendship.

The existence of the battlefield monuments is not a glorification of the Confederacy in its struggle to preserve slavery. The war is over.  They lost.  It is an acknowledgment of history, of what happened, and who fought. It is a sign of reconciliation and resolution. That what was once a place of war is now a place of peace.

Some likened this to pulling down statues of Lenin, following the collapse of the Soviet rule, or Sadam, following his defeat in Iraq. However, there is a key difference. Pulling down a symbol of a ruler when overthrown is one thing. It is something entirely different to do so 155 years later, and well over 120 years since the combatants themselves reconciled and became friends.  

In the immediate aftermath of the war, it was bad enough when the more radical Republicans sought to punish the South.  Lincoln has sought a policy of quick reconciliation and forgiveness, but his assassination ended that possibility. It is sad to think that 155 years later, some still harbor the old divisions.

Though perhaps, the motive is not division, but simply virtue signaling. “See how virtuous I am? I want to remove confederate monuments.”  I am not sure this would be a better explanation. It would mean they are willing to stir up old animosities and strife, for personal gain, and that is hardly a sign of virtue.  

Aug 18th, 2020
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