by Roger Kimball
So what is the state of play regarding the 2020 presidential election? There seem to be two main positions.
One is that Joe Biden won the election, narrowly but with sufficient latitude that any challenge is bootless. A corollary of that contention is that the adults in the room, be they Republicans or Democrats, should get with the program and accede to the Narrative.
Over the past week or so, I have had many Republican friends – including some sympathetic to President Trump – explain that the fight is essentially over. Some acknowledge the political wisdom of Trump pursuing every legal recourse. Yet the assumption is always the same: the game is lost but, like a transmission from a distant galaxy, the news has not yet reached us. “To preserve our democracy,” both Left and Right say, we will soon need to draw a line under the election of 2020 and declare Joe Biden the winner.
If you are a Democratic mouthpiece – i.e., if you are a spokesman for the mainstream media – then you think (or at least you say) that Trump’s refusal to concede is “damaging democracy” and isn’t it just the kind of bad behavior you would expect of a man of “bad character” who should never have been president in the first place? Those on the Right, many of them, want or at least are willing to let the “process” play out but in their heart-of-hearts they have already conceded and are calculating how they might turn this unfortunate situation to their advantage.
The other main position – and let me hasten to acknowledge that it is mine – is that this election was riddled with voter fraud. Nor was it the usual taken-for-granted and (between us sophisticated men of the world) acceptable margin of fraud but a planned and systematic assault on the integrity of our election that overturned a convincing victory for Donald Trump.
But I believe the election was fraudulent for other reasons as well. Perhaps the chief reason has to do with the allegations put forward by Sidney Powell, a prominent attorney who is part of President Trump’s legal team. She has laid out her case many times in the last couple of weeks, including at an “opening statement” press conference on November 19 at which she, Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, and other members of Trump’s legal team offered a précis of their case.
Their presentation was widely, if not quite universally, condemned by the media. “Where is the evidence?” was one cry, but another, less articulate though more insistent was “Evidence be damned, just shut up and get Trump out of office!”
Suddenly, a lot of people were imitating the state of Missouri, responding to every allegation with the demand “Show me!” Tucker Carlson delighted Trump’s enemies and enraged his friends by pointedly asking what evidence Powell had. He later updated his comments, noting that if Powell is right, she has, almost single-handedly, uncovered what is perhaps the biggest political crime in our nation’s history.
It has not, let me admit, been entirely smooth sailing for Powell. Shortly after the election, she helped publicize the idea that “The Hammer” and “Scorecard” software allegedly written for our intelligence services and deployed abroad to intervene in foreign elections, was used in our election. Unfortunately, it is not at all clear that those programs even exist.
That revelation has to make even those of us who, like me, are on Powell’s side take a step or two back. If Hammer and Scorecard were figments of someone’s imagination, how about the allegations that Dominion voting machines are hackable by design, that they were deployed in Venezuela to assure Hugo Chávez’s victory, and that they have subsequently been used elsewhere to meddle with election results?
Speaking to Glenn Beck on Friday, Powell described what has just happened as “a global criminal conspiracy” that involves China, our own intelligence services, and various European countries. Beck was right that if even 25 percent of what Powell alleges is true, it would count as perhaps “the biggest” such crime in history. If.
The pressure to make these allegations disappear is enormous. Lawyers as well as front-line election canvassers working for Trump campaign have been doxxed, harassed, threatened. Several firms, demonstrating the courage and independent spirit for which establishment bureaucrats are famous, have withdrawn their services. Beck noted that Facebook had demonetized his show for the crime of carrying, without comment, the Giuliani-Powell-Ellis press conference from November 19. What are they afraid of?
Dominion was scheduled to answer questions from Pennsylvania lawmakers a couple of days ago. Company officials backed out at the last moment. Why? What were they afraid of?
Meanwhile, Powell promises that her team will begin making evidence of their claims available as early as this week. Her team has suits teed-up in all the swing states and hundreds of affidavits to back them up. Of course, an affidavit is just a sworn statement. It might or might not be true. To verify would, I believe, require further evidence. Does Powell have that evidence? She says she does. For now, though, we are all caught in a postmodern version of a Beckett play, Waiting for Sidney. Will she arrive?
Many big claims have been made, and not only by Sidney Powell. Another lawyer, the celebrated Lin Wood, has joined the fight. Like Powell, he believes that Trump won in “a landslide,” by “millions of votes” that, were the ballots accurately counted, would deliver Trump the popular vote as well as some 400 electoral votes. A resident of Georgia, he has just filed suit there.
One commentator who knows Powell weighed in on the state of play, noting that he believes Powell. He believes her and her fellow attorneys partly because of the abundant circumstantial evidence of voter fraud, partly because if she and her colleagues are wrong, or are deceiving us, the penalties would be severe.
“If these charges are false,” he noted, “their careers are finished.”
If defamation lawsuits get launched – and I don’t see how Dominion has any choice but to file them, or go bankrupt – Sidney Powell could lose her house and her license to practice law. She’d be a pauper. The same is true of Ellis, Giuliani, and anyone else on the president’s team. But only if the charges are unsupported and untrue.
That’s my emphasis, Kemo Sabe: only if the charges are unsupported and untrue.
I really do not know what is going to happen. The clock is ticking, loudly. Sometimes it seems that Trump would need a miracle akin to the “miracle of the lightning” or the “miracle of the rain” that saved Marcus Aurelius and his generals in their battles against revolting German tribes in the early 170s AD. In one case, a Roman army was besieged by the Iazyges when a bolt of lightning destroyed the Iazyges’ siege works and the Romans rallied. In the other, the Romans were surrounded by the Quadi and cut off from fresh water. In the dreadful summer heat, they were about to succumb when the heavens opened and a downpour snatched them from ignominious defeat. Those dei ex machina were stunning, unpredictable, salvific.
Can Donald Trump count on something similar? No. Could it nonetheless happen? You betcha.
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Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine’s Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art’s Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee).