The Wall Street Journal’s Gerard Seib recently exclaimed he found it “stunning” that in a poll conducted by that publication, 57 percent of Republicans responded that they continue to believe that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump via widespread fraud.
I too would find that percentage stunning, if I were to believe it, which I don’t.
Many people continue to scratch their heads about why pollsters have been getting elections really wrong lately. Namely, there was near unanimity that Hillary Clinton would have won in 2016 and that four years later, Joe Biden would have won in a landslide, and riding his coattails, Democrats would make tremendous gains in both houses of Congress. None of that happened.
Part of the reason pollsters are often so clueless is because they don’t understand their audiences and their reactions to poorly constructed polls.
I remember an incident from over 30 years ago as if it were yesterday: while in my law school’s library, I stumbled upon an ultraleftist rag of a newspaper in which a quiz appeared about America’s role in world wars. Regarding Vietnam, there was a question and two answer choices that went something like this:
Question: Why did America choose to fight the Vietnam War?
Answer A. Because a communist takeover of South Vietnam was a direct existential threat to the national security of the United States; or
Answer B. Because America is a white supremacist nation and was intent on committing genocide so as to eradicate the world’s Asian population.
I agree with neither answer, but find choice B to be so odious that I would choose A, by default, given no other alternative.
Similarly, I don’t think 57 out of 100 Republican voters really believe in vote-counting caricatures who twirled their villain handlebar mustaches as they physically changed Trump votes to Biden votes, threw Trump votes in the river, and ran Biden votes through the machine five or six times when no Republicans were looking. They also don’t believe in magical reversing data on CNN and other networks because some corrupt producer yelled into the camera crew’s earpieces: “hey, these numbers are showing Trump in the lead, quick, get them off and put the phony Biden lead in there!”
However, I do think that the majority of Republicans remain angry that America has been sold a lemon named Joe Biden.
Consider this example, to illustrate: suppose that a patsy buyer (let’s call him, or her…Patsy) walks into a used car dealership, and a doubletalking, cigar-chomping salesman wearing a loud, plaid sports coat – let’s call him Conniver – pounces upon Patsy and causes the unwitting consumer to pay three times the fair market value of a particular jalopy on the lot.
Mind you, Conniver never misrepresented anything: not the car’s mileage, history of repairs, or even the fair market value. Yet, Conniver brainwashed Patsy into falling in love with the lemon, and made the sale.
Patsy later drove to a large family barbecue with the newly purchased vehicle. Patsy’s relatives are outraged that Patsy would pay so much money for a piece of junk. Some insist that Patsy’s signature on the bill of sale is forged. Others believe that the salesman must’ve drugged Patsy. Others yet can’t quite understand what Patsy sees in the car, but their gut tells them that the transaction is just plain wrong.
This brings us to the 2020 election. Politics doesn’t always go as scripted. Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson each won in 1948 and 1964, respectively, after ascending to the presidency because of their predecessor’s deaths in office, weren’t supposed to win. They grew so unpopular during their lone elected term that they did not seek a second one. George H.W. Bush wasn’t supposed to win in 1988 any more than he was supposed to lose in 1992. The policies of his son and namesake spelled a surefire Republican loss in 2008, but it was supposed to come via Hillary Clinton, not a little-known African-American junior U.S. senator from Illinois named Barack Hussein Obama.
In 2016, a rabble-rousing entrepreneur entertainer with no political experience wasn’t supposed to beat 16 intraparty rivals – including five senators and nine governors – and then send the vaunted Clinton Political Machine into retirement in the general election. But he did win. And then, he – Donald Trump – wasn’t supposed to lose in 2020 to a listless has-been version of a never-was. But again, he did.
Such things happen, and when they do, Americans get sore. The way professional wrestling fans get sore when the villain pulls out a blunt foreign object from his tights and, out of the referee’s sight, pummels our hero with it, who finally grabs it and hits the villain with it, but this time the referee sees it, disqualifies him, and awards the match to the bad guy.
From media manipulation to pandemic scapegoating to voting made ridiculously easy in cherrypicked regions, enough people really did vote for Biden in enough states to give him a legitimate electoral majority. Just like our wrestling hero really did hit the villain with a foreign object, which is grounds for disqualification.
And those wrestling fans, in their anger, might answer “no” to a question that asks: “was there even really a foreign object in the ring at all?” They don’t really mean it, but they know that the overall decision was just plain wrong. They can’t quite put their finger on why, they just know it, so they’ll choose whatever answer makes them feel better.
Therefore, the grim conclusion that Americans don’t have faith in our election system isn’t really as hopeless as it seems. It’s just that every now and then, people can’t stand to lose on a monumental fluke.