Trump Agonistes

One of the reasons that I write these posts is to try to inform the Trump-despising progressives among Civil Horizon’s readership, of whom there are many, of what the other side is thinking. I know the social and media contexts from which such people draw their hatred and hope that I can, to a small extent, open their minds to another, very different, way of seeing the world. I don’t think I’ve actually made much headway in that regard, but I feel compelled to keep plugging away at it.

Today is not the easiest day for me to make my case. The mini-riot at the Capitol yesterday certainly didn’t show Trump ‘s supporters in the best light. Even ignoring the now-apparent likelihood that some of the participants, and perhaps the instigators, of the rioters’ frightening and profoundly illegal behavior were Antifa troublemakers running a false flag operation, it’s clear that a fair number of Trump’s most fervent supporters behaved very badly. I hope they’re prosecuted and trust that they will be.

That said, it’s important that we analyze the anger behind the rioters’ behavior because it, like this past summer’s many Antifa/BLM riots, is indicative of the frighteningly deep political divide in our beloved country. If we make no effort to understand the divide in a fair-minded way, we won’t find a way to bridge it.

Begin with the fact that polls tell us that roughly 40% of the American public believes that the election was stolen. President Trump is certainly among that 40%. I am not, but, as set forth below, I think the matter is much murkier than it has been described as being in the Trump-hating major media.

If you believe to the bottom of your heart that the Democrats stole the election for Biden, you might well conclude that illegal action (in this instance, rioting) is fully justified to “stop the steal” of the most important office in the land. Allow me to explain why I think that so many people believe the election was stolen and why I don’t believe that that’s a fair description of what happened.

As I wrote in Legal Fraud? There are many ways in which, to varying degrees, it seems clear that the Democrats played dirty. These range from outright fraud committed by individuals to acts that, while they look deeply improper to me, were plainly legal. It’s by conflating all of these tactics into one undivided mess of bad behavior that Trump and some of his most ardent supporters conclude that he was robbed. In a sense, that’s a fair enough conclusion in a woulda/shoulda/coulda analysis of the election result, but it carries no weight in a legal or institutional context, which is what has driven Trump and some of his supporters to distraction – and some to criminal acts.

The different kinds of possible fraud or underhanded behavior are as follows:

  1. Individuals who illegally voted where they weren’t qualified to do so. There is loads of evidence that this happened, but in numbers that will never be known because they aren’t knowable.
  2. Ballot boxes that were stuffed or Trump votes thrown away. There is evidence that these things happened in some places, but again, in numbers that will never be known because they aren’t knowable.
  3. Improper counting/oversight of ballots. Same as in 1 and 2 above.
  4. Computerized voting systems that may have been hacked or programmed to overcount Biden votes. This has been alleged, in part on the basis of statistically anomalous results, but is far from proven.
  5.  States that improperly – and arguably unconstitutionally – changed their voting procedures in ways that enabled fraud of types 1 and 2 to take place on a massive scale. This is the most complex and interesting of the Trump claims. An argument can definitely be made that both Pennsylvania and Georgia are guilty of having enabled fraud in this manner, possibly intentionally on the part of the Democrats, and that their actions were unconstitutional on the federal level but a) as with frauds 1, 2 and 3 and for the same reason, we’ll never know the extent to which such arguably improper changes affected the result and b) the Trump campaign’s legal appeals failed not for lack of evidence that the changes had been improper or that some frauds had happened but because the courts were unwilling to seriously consider the evidence about frauds that they knew would be unquantifiable; for entirely sound institutional reasons, they wouldn’t even consider overturning an election in which some 160 million Americans voted based on unprovable speculation. The inescapable conclusion is that the Trump campaign’s fatal error was in not suing to overturn last-minute election law changes that had not been blessed by the state legislatures (as required by the US Constitution) in federal courts before the election, and
  6. The actions of the major media in actively suppressing information about the Biden pay-to-play scandal – the opposite of the supposed public responsibilities that give the media their special privileges – in the runup to the election, and certain behavior of the tech moguls – e.g., Mark Zuckerberg’s having given $400 million to election efforts clearly designed to augment participation – and arguably fraud – by Democrats, while plainly legal, created an overwhelming impression that the playing field was improperly tilted in favor of Biden.  

Trump, and something like 40% of the American public, see all these problems as one great big mass of undifferentiated cheating. In a limited sense, I agree with them – the Democrats – a group in which the major media and the tech oligarchs must surely be included – fought dirty, and their having done so almost certainly made a decisive difference in the result. But the result was the result – it’s not remotely provable that the election was won through illegal means, and the losing side (among whom I am numbered) will just have to live with the result.

Which leaves two further points that are worthy of comment.

On Trump’s post-election-day behavior, it’s fair to say that he hasn’t covered himself in glory. While at first I was pleased at his calling out the alleged frauds, on the theory that if he didn’t there would be no serious discussion about cleaning up future election processes, he erred seriously in continuing to make unsubstantiated claims and grabbing hold of wild theories of how the result might be overturned in Congress even after it became apparent that the courts wouldn’t seriously consider changing the result.

FWIW, I’m convinced that the reason that Trump behaved as badly as he did in recent weeks is, oddly enough, the flip side of some of his greatest strengths – strengths from which I think we have benefitted importantly from a standpoint of policy. He’s a man who keeps his own counsel and who isn’t afraid to break glass. The glass he broke with many of his presidential policies, particularly regarding China, I applaud. In this instance, though, he let his sense that he was cheated lead him down a rabbit hole that ruined his reputation among moderates, and even such conservative leaders as Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell. Innumerable conservative voters like me are also very disappointed in the lack of judgement that he has shown in this matter.  

My final point for today’s post is that the established media and the tech oligopolies bear much of the blame for the chasm that has opened between Americans, red and blue. I, for one, have come to truly hate The New York Times and its brethren. Their fiercely partisan coverage of the news and the disdain and dislike they unfailingly show for conservatives of all stripes might flatter their progressive readerships (and audiences) but they misinform the same people – as by insisting that there was no Biden scandal and, later, that there is no question but that the election process was entirely fair – as often as they inform them, thus deepening our divides considerably.

A large portion of the populace – myself included – has concluded that it simply cannot trust the major media companies’ presentations of the facts; and this loss of faith in such important institutions bodes very ill for the institutions through which we are governed.

M.H. Johnston      

14 comments to Trump Agonistes

  • Wch  says:

    Thank you for writing this.

  • Anonymous  says:

    “Mini riot”? They breached the Capital. You should be horrified. This is horrifying.

    • Rob A  says:

      Yet, when the president had to go to an underground bunker, due to the White House being assaulted by BLM, it was a highlight of derision for the media, Democrats, and half the country. Where were the outrage and horror when BLM was burning down cities and our Vice President-elect Harris was creating bail funds for them? When statues were being destroyed and Speaker Pelosi said, “sometimes people do things.” Who was horrified at the violence when President Trump was inaugurated? I can type a Tolstoy-like novel on the past four years. Yes, yesterday was bad, but you can’t reward political violence for four years and be shocked when you get a dose of your own medicine.

  • Lefeber  says:

    Quote of the day: “I, for one, have come to truly hate The New York Times and its brethren.” Make that two.

    • Rob A.  says:

      Amen.

  • DCS  says:

    Your arguments seem to heap contingency upon contingency. Perhaps it’ was a false flag attack, and a set of hacked voting machines, and massive irregular voting across multiple states and the host of other circumstances that you outline.

    Some may true, in part. Perhaps.

    I think it’s unlikely that they all combined to produce an egregious result as you describe.

    I think Biden won because lots of people don’t like Trump as much as you don’t like Biden and they voted accordingly.

    As for the riot, beinga good loser is as important as being a good winner.

    What you don’t do is break into the winner’s office and put your feet on their desk.

    That’s bad manners.

    • M Johnston  says:

      For the record, I didn’t assert that the illegal votes swung the election – that’s not knowable. I did imply that the legal but improper tilting of the table by the media probably made the decisive difference, because I believe it.

      • Rob A.  says:

        Mark,

        We’re being told by the elites that you have to sit down and shut up. One must tolerate fraud, but not widespread fraud. Neither has been defined, but any fraud is intolerable. If Biden had any honor, he could have called for a full audit of the Dominion voting machines and that audit be publically available. You would think after the Russian fake election influence, the Dems would be all about transparent and secure elections.

  • Anonymous  says:

    “Mini riot” is the most appalling understatement I’ve read all day. What happened yesterday – what Trump ENCOURAGED yesterday – was nothing short of horrifying. Can you fathom what the reaction would have been, both by the police/law enforcement, and by the Republican leadership, had these rioters/insurgents been Black or Brown? The arrest and death counts would have been a hell of a lot higher, that’s for absolute certain.

    • Rob A.  says:

      You mean the cops would have kneeled in support and obedience to BLM. Tell me of one BLM protester who was murdered by police for protesting. Where’s the Say Her Name crowd? Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran, was an unarmed protester. When the BLM “protesters” stormed and burned police stations to the ground in Minneapolis, the police retreated and let their station be overrun and destroyed. Will the Capitol protesters be bailed out by Kamala Harris and crew as they did for BLM?

  • Antifa Troublemaker  says:

    The mini-riot at the Capitol. Five deaths so far.

    RIP : One police officer, and four Antifa troublemakers running a false flag operation.

  • Tim Huban  says:

    Mark,

    Great points as usual. Notwithstanding the likely legal and illegal methods that were used to defeat Trump, the biggest reason why Trump lost can be attributed to the overwhelming liberal bias on the part of major media and technology companies. This includes network TV, major newspapers, Facebook, Google, Twitter and a host of other media outlets. These companies developed the narrative (Trump evil, Biden the savior of America) and every “news” story and every article was designed to reinforce that narrative. The major media and technology companies even had the same talking points on every story! All of Trump’s mistakes (and Trump, likely against all advice, provided a lot of ammunition) were highlighted and run over and over. Any positive news such as historic peace deals and evidence of any economic recovery were either omitted or determined to not be accomplishments of Trump. On the other side of this narrative, Biden was treated with kid gloves and the savior of the U.S., the centrist and the only man that could bring this country together. Any negative news on Biden (his son’s alleged illegal activity, Biden’s potential knowledge of this illegal activity, Biden’s misstatements and evidence of dementia, the accusations of rape and his proven propensity of plagiarizing to name just a few things) were either omitted of defended by the media. Biden was never asked tough questions and was never held to account for any of his answers or untruths. Statements were rarely fact checked and there was no follow up for details, or for that matter, truthfulness. Any deviation from the “narrative” was quickly dealt with harshly by the cancel culture. Non-conforming people were either fired or discredited. While democrats are praising this, I think everyone should be very worried about the broader picture here. Whatever narrative is decided, there will be heavy penalties if you go against it. And, although unlikely, it may at some point be a narrative that some democrats disagree with. There is no more debate, civil discussion, tolerated disagreements and most concerning of all, presentation of ALL the relevant facts without editorial slant. I am concerned that we are more like China than most people would be willing to admit. There is very little free thought anymore. This doesn’t seem like freedom and liberty to me…

    Unfortunately, Trump took all of the bait and sealed his own fate. The media was quick to pounce on all of his mistakes. Trump’s actions and rhetoric, particularly after the election, directly and negatively impacted the Georgia special election. His assaults on Georgia leaders and claims of fraud essentially persuaded enough GOP voters to stay home that, this alone was enough to defeat the two GOP candidates. Trump persuaded many GOP voters that he was going to ultimately win and it didn’t matter if they voted for the two ungrateful GOP senators. This gave democrats full control of the government and will likely result in the erasing of much if not all of Trump’s policies and accomplishments, with the exception of the judges he appointed. I am sure there was fraud during this election (both legal and illegal) but the most enormous fraud was from the major media and technology companies…and it is fraud because the average Joe/Joanne believes that “news” is accurate and unbiased.

    Tim

  • Vivian Wadlin  says:

    Two big problems we face (all of us, both sides of these issues) are:
    The government’s oversize influence on our lives makes politics a blood sport, and long-term thinking is out of style. Election cycles make it almost impossible to consider anything but the short-term. Our elected officials are usually so poorly educated that they don’t know the difference between what is good for the nation long vs. short term.

  • Anonymous  says:

    To Rob A. Where is the comparison between Ms Babbit and “say their name” victims? Ashli Babbitt, was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer inside the building as she climbed through a broken window leading to the Speaker’s Lobby.
    False equivalence (whether fostered by media or suggested by individuals) helps break down society deadening critical thinking.

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