Published: January 12, 2021
Some friends have asked whether I think Trump fairly won or lost the 2020 election. Yes I do think Trump lost fairly and Biden won. If it helps you to keep reading —> I voted for Trump in 2016. Below I’ve listed reasons for why I think Trump lost fairly. I have included links to videos and articles that helped convince me.
Donald J. Trump was not known as a man of moral integrity before he entered office as president of the United States. He was known as a rich playboy whose aggressive salesman personality and celebrity status (i.e. the Trump brand) brought him success. This brought a win-at-all-costs “salesy” climate to what should have been the more of solemn office of the presidency. There is a fascinating comment from Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank fame, that gives focus to some of Trumps 2016-2020 behavior. Corcoran knew Trump well before he became president. She is in “big exec” position very similar to his and calls him one of the greatest salesmen she’s ever known. Notice what she says in this video interview about Trump’s gift of winning sales by pointing out the weaknesses of others. This single observation brings Trump’s behavior during 2016 and 2020 into better focus. When Trump’s airline was competing with Panam airlines, he pulled this move by making hasty criticisms about the safety of Panam’s planes; a move which was seen to be below the belt in the airline industry. See here. Pointing out a weakness without substantial proof is something Trump has done in the past and continued to do in both elections. Before he even got into office in 2016 Trump was harping on the fact that the elections were unreliable. These unreliable elections eventually gave him the presidency.
Prior to being elected, Trump was called the P.T. Barnum of our era – a reference to his grandiose way of speaking and his ability to sell. His description of the first day of Trump airline sounds much like his political rhetoric. For example, see time marker 2:51 in the video above where he says “We got out earliest, we had better services than anyone else” better, better better. Classic sales rhetoric. When he ran for president it was much of the same “Its gonna be huge. It’s gonna be better than everyone else.”
These rhetorical moves, especially his penchant for hasty criticisms of opponents weaknesses, convinced many people, like those in the video here (from mid November), to trust Trump deeply. Here was a man for the people. His “attack others” strategy convinced millions that something was wrong with election security even though none of them were able to say exactly what. Already, Michael Pence (ever the virtuous one) was having to soften the presidents claims in 2016. Groups like the Brennan Center for Justice (and many others) have gone back and checked on these prior claims (leading up to 2016 ) and found them lacking. This behavior should have been a red flag leading up to 2020. His followers ignored it while his opponents waved it. Similar to the 2016 election, many claims Trump made about the 2020 election are turning out to be less than convincing. Situations that were imperfect or less than ideal were reported to the president or his staff. In their retelling of the story they became explicit frauds which were trumpeted as such across national airwaves.
As far as the 2020 election goes, I am confident in the election results because I no longer have reason to believe that Trump knows more about the details of the election than all of the governors, judges, election officials who do the work of counting votes. Below I give examples. Again, I suspect much of what has happened is that rumors and speculation were proclaimed by the one person that Americans still expect to be a source of sober truth – the U.S. president.
People are right to believe what the president says. One expects the president of any nation to have the best insider information on all sorts of events. When the president says there was an attack on our national computer systems, an alarming call from an international leader, a 2am strike on a terrorist compound, or even a national voting scandal, we are within our epistemic rights to believe him. This is why truth in the “oval office” is so critical. Unfortunately, as the weeks have rolled on, it appears that the president’s two claims—(a) winning the swing states by big margin, which were then (b) stolen from him—turn out to be interpretations of rumors. These were not the sober claims of the most “powerful man in the world” but instead the grand sort of claims we expect from a career salesman and reality TV star; a person who views everything he does as “huge, great, better, I have the best memory in the world.”
At some point America was waiting for the big security reveal; the forthcoming evidence of national fraud. As it turns out the president did not have evidence beyond rumors and speculations flying about the news almost all of which have been debunked. Unfortunately, for many American’s, Trump=truth so no matter what the actual details of the rumors turn out to be they will believe Trump. What is terrifying about this is that even if in a court of law, a claim by the presidential team was shown to fail as genuine evidence of fraud—those inclined to believe Trump will continue to believe him rather than the courts. Once we’ve been caught in a web of conspiracy, we allow it to re-narrate any and every detail. In one cartoon, a person makes it to heaven and asks about the 2020 election. God tells him that Joe Biden won the election. The character thinks to himself, “Hmmm the conspiracy goes higher than I thought!”
Above I have framed the 2016/2020 election fraud claims as a product of the presidents salesman-win-at-all-costs-everything-I-do-is-great perspective. What are some of the more concrete details that caused me to disbelieve Trump’s claims?
Republicans are often the ones exposing the presidents errors. When people on your “side” are saying you are wrong, it carries more weight than when your opponents say it. This is a simple point. Many of the people who disagree with the presidents claims are people who voted for him; republicans who were in the senate, state government, voting industry, security industry and so on. Many of the people listed below, Lindsey Graham, Gabriel Sterling, CHris Krebs, Alyssa Farrah, Geoff Duncan are all republicans who voted for Trump. They are also people who say he is dishonest about the election.
People who work in the trenches, and who know all the boring details of vote counting, overturn the presidents stories. My thoughts began to galvanize when I heard Gabriel Sterling (a republican and Trump voter) explain minute by minute what was going on with the famed video footage out of Georgia; footage that was evidence of fraud according to Rudy Giuliani. (Here is a more recent minute by minute explanation – the whole video.) Sterling is a person who is on the inside. Hockey players have seen enough zamboni ice machines that they might be worth listening to if they say something seemed “off” about one of them. When the zamboni mechanic comes out and explains that the odd behavior has a reasonable explanation – you listen to the zamboni mechanic. People like Sterling are the ones that the politicians have to go to in order to find out what actually happened. He, by contrast, knows so much more than individuals who have mere suspicions and are hunting for evidence to support fears of fraud. Political volunteers sit at tables watching votes being counted at a distance. Sterling, by contrast, visit the sites, works with machines, and talks on the phones to the election managers. Notice how in the video link above how Sterling (again a republican) walks people through minute by minute explanations – because he doesn’t have to guess about what is happening. What appeared to be suspicious moving of boxes from under a table turn out to be business as usual when we have more of the video explained to us. Furthermore, he says the president’s people (Giuliani) had the above video all along, selectively used it, and in so doing deliberately misled the nation.
Many republicans, like Lt. Gov Geoff Duncan of Georgia (who campaigned with/for Trump) reject Trump’s claims about fraud in the Georgia election. Geoff is closer to the data than Trump; he can consult workers in his state. He said if he could spend 5min with every Georgian he could convince them the results were solid.
Chris Krebs, a republican that Trump put in charge of election security (for the 2020 election) has openly asserted multiple times that the election was very secure. He has also asserted that to actually pull off mass fraud would be extremely complicated. Trump fired him. Let that sink in – Trump fired a veteran national IT security professional who he put in charge of this very thing. Krebs (see above) suggests that the move to paper ballots was a good move that made this election more secure. Paper ballots are more secure because you can develop a paper audit trail back to the voter, which you can’t do with digital only systems. Here is another video of Krebs.
There is no actual evidence of fraud with Dominion voting machines. In many locations where Dominion machines were used, Trump won. If I’m not mistaken, in all places Dominion machines were used paper ballots allowed for the checking of votes. Subsequent recounts have shown the voting machines to have worked accurately. In some of the battleground states, Dominion machines were not used at all.
Jake Ward of NBC suggests that Trump misconstrued a report he gave about the Defcon Conference hacking event in 2019. Hackers bought voting machines in 2019 off Ebay and hacked them. Yes, some of these machines have been hacked – then again, hackers who can sit in front of a machine and play with it usually can hack just about anything. I did instructional design for some folks in IT security so I have a sense of what they are capable of. But hackers aren’t wandering through election warehouses and aren’t allowed in on election day; its a different scenario than the Defcon free for all. Nor is it the case that thousands of election machines were connected to the web with IP addresses waiting to be hacked.
In the video above, Jake speaks to a security expert familiar with the Defcon event who suggests that (a) there is no evidence the machines were changed OR hacked in the 2020 election. (b) However, many states have added paper ballots which are more secure because they can create a paper trail back to the votes. There’s nothing to hack. The main problem is people fill them in wrong, but thats not fraud. If you vote for three candidates when you are only supposed to vote for one (thats on you). Republicans, prior to 2020, ignored calls for election security and only raised this cry of alarm after Trump’s loss. Like it or not possibility of an ATM or voting machine being hacked does not equal – massive widespread hacking… especially in a context where there are so many vigilant eyes.
Something appears to be recurring in each rumored fraud case I have looked at. The employees and experts who have hands on knowledge of how voting procedures work, step forward and make good sense of the situation. Actual evidence of fraud, fails to be forthcoming. Machine or voting foibles (which occur in every election) are explained by the people with actual working knowledge of the systems – often in long boring detail that have the hallmark of mundane events.
Homeland Security Department has called this the most secure election in history. More has been done, probably, in this election to verify the results than ever before. More people voted than ever – approximately 159 million. Votes have been recounted and show the voting machines to have worked well. Senator Mitch McConnell suggests that the election was not uniquely close (1976, 2000, 2004 were closer).
Mail in ballots, which were used because of COVID; not as an attempt at fraud. The move to use more mail in ballots is not some strange in 2020. This is exactly what we would expect in a nation where everyone is social distancing during COVID. Normally, people stand shoulder to shoulder in long lines (crowd into rooms) waiting to vote. Thats what I did in 2016. In one of the most contested elections in years it makes sense that nobody wants voters to stay home for fear of COVID. The use of mail in ballots makes sense. I do suspect that Trump was upset about the push for wider use of mail in voting because the kinds of people who care less about social distancing, and are thus less likely to need mail in voting, were those who would support him. In other words, mail in voting would be more likely to draw in more democrat votes; Trump knew this.
Mail in ballots have been widely used and weren’t contested by many politicians until Trump looked like he was losing. Mail in ballots are secure because the ballot can be checked against the voters registration bar code, or the signature that is already on file from when the voter registered. You can’t just get a mail in ballot from a vending machine and send it in. Mail in ballots have already been used for years in many states. They weren’t seen as a liability until they posed a threat to Trump’s victory. This is a deeply suspicious form of “ad hoc” behavior.
The president has been proven to have wrong data. Consider the publicized call of Trump to secretary of state Brad Raffensperger to find him votes. The Georgia secretary of state initially didn’t think the call was appropriate and didn’t want to take the call. In this video Raffensperger shares his thoughts. Trump insists over and over that he’d won hands down. These kinds of claims in combination with the lack of fraud evidence are perhaps what disturbs me most. Trump has convinced himself something went wrong or is just bluffing in hopes that he can find hard evidence to support his suspicion. His tone of voice is unmistakable. He is pestering GA election officials but even in a private conversation no hard data is forthcoming. GA election officials have to inform the president that his data is just incorrect. This wasn’t Trumps first call trying to find someone to help him find evidence. This phone call illustrates how Trump and staff are asserting there is fraud (presumably based on rumors/worries) but THEN looking about for hard evidence to back such claims up. The hope was that Georgia was going to give them hard facts (and 11k plus votes) to support their case. This failed to occur.
The President was caught fishing for evidence he didn’t have. (This is a repeated of a point above about Sterling) On the phone call, you can hear Trump talking about the infamous video of poll workers taking boxes from beneath a table after hours (GA video). I really began to suspect the president’s stories when I saw GA election official Gabriel Sterling on spend like 30min going line by line debunking the rumors about the GA election … see here… In contrast to suspicions floated by politicians, here was a guy with play by play knowledge of what was going on – on phone calls – see in the video, not just general details. The contrast between actual knowledge of voter center events versus mere rumors was so clear after I heard Sterling’s explanations; after I saw his frustration over internet rumors.
Voter fraud was eventually found! However, it was not the grandiose claims of fraud floated to the public. Instead it was the sort of fraud you’d expect. Three dead people were found to vote in PA, not thousands… Ironically, they were votes for Trump. Two dead voters were found to have voted in Georgia. This is the sort of thing you’d expect in every secure election with hundreds of millions of voters. Low level mistakes. I believe one mistake was found in connection with the Dominion machines; a user error. The “thousands” style numbers touted by the president have never surfaced.
In state after state, AZ, GA, PA evidence of mass voting fraud failed to move beyond rumor.
Over sixty failed court cases. It is common knowledge that there were over 60 court cases filed by Trump and other republicans all of which failed in court (except 1 perhaps?). These cases were heard, in many cases, by conservative judges. Issues like poll watchers not being able to observe the voting process where shown to be largely unsubstantial (see this example here from PA). In nearly all cases, both republican and democrat poll watchers were there to observe vote counting in the manner allowed by law. Those who suggest many of the court cases were thrown out on grounds of standing are right but this doesn’t mean the suspicion of voter fraud in multiple states is correct. Rumor and suspicion are just that. In the U.S. justice system we say someone is innocent until proven guilty. We ought to apply this practice to the claims of voter fraud. We ought to hold that there was no fraud until an actual case can stand on its own two feet and defeat counter evidence, rather than assuming there was fraud in the absence of such. A few poll observers being unable to watch vote counting to their satisfaction, but within the bounds of legality, does not equal evidence of actual fraud that occurred in the events they were unable to observe. Finding a door unlocked is not evidence that you were robbed.
Those who want to believe the president, must believe that 60 state level judges, along with justices of the supreme court, multiple state legislatures, security advisors, the president’s own supporters and many others are less competent than Donald Trump to evaluate the facts of the matter. Trump is more competent than all these people to judge on matters of his private life or relationship with his wife – his knowledge (absent evidence) does not by default overturn the collected knowledge of scores of people who had greater access to the events of voters than he did.
Some data scientists suggested that a downturn in scatter plot graphs of votes showed an anomaly. A math professional recreated the plot and ran the same plot for Biden. It too showed the same downturn thus invalidating the claim. See the explanation here.
The New York Times contacted all 50 states looking for evidence of voter fraud. At taht point int he process there was no evidence of fraud. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/10/us/politics/voting-fraud.html
Alyssa Farrah – white house communications director, stepped down in early December. She states that she still supports the policy platform and successes Trump accomplished as a president. However, she also states unequivocally that Trump has lied to the nation in the claim that the election was stolen. She suggests she was asked to stand down when she was prepared to say – we had a great run, we made great gains but we lost.
Trump’s die hard supporters, in the place to know the truth, disagree with the president. Republicans like Lindsey Graham, Trump’s most ardent supporter in the Senate, and his golfing buddy came out in public and said, “It’s over, Biden won.” He’s not alone in saying “I wish Trump won but he didn’t. Democracy means that we accept the vote of the people. Overturning the triple checked votes of tens of millions of American’s against the word of the very people who run this election all on the grounds of suspicion would unsettle the American democratic experience forever.”
Notice Lindsey said that there were thousands of felons, under age voters and so on who voted. Graham says he asked for evidence and none was given.
Things certainly did go wrong. The Brennan Center article here reviews what went wrong in the 2020 election. However, nothing close to the fraud claims have turned up. See https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/election-lessons-2020
President’s refusal to concede and listen to all reason should be a red flag. The very day electoral college votes were to be counted the president riled up a crowd of supporters crying the vote was stolen and offered to walk to the capital building to demand justice. See that video here. There was enough time between the presidents speech and some of the events of storming for people to make it between one event and the other.
Trump did not say “go storm the capital.” I don’t believe Trump expected that to happen. I absolutely believe Trump is personal responsible for building the distrust, tension, and sense of national crisis which fueled this action. It is naive to think that when the most symbolic person in the nation (the president) cries for help in the face of injustice, that thousands won’t rush patriotically to his aid. Had trump conceded the election this never would have happened.
Fueled with months of rage his most ardent supporters stormed the capital. Trump did say he would march with them, that he would never conceed, that only the “strong” would get justice. Trump did not go with them. Rather than immediately call them to stand down, the president tweeted unclear messages suggesting they go home in peace, but that they were essentially in the right and that a great injustice had been done against himself and them. If I’m not mistaken the federal government prevented National Guard troops 90 min from shown up when they were called for by D.C. council members and others despite furious language in the heat of the moment. Hints in the video show it was perhaps held up in connection with the president, again showing where the problem lies here – even in a moment of national crisis.
The night of Jan 7, 2021.. politicians in Washington (including Trump’s right hand VP) and many republicans parted with the president and affirmed the electoral college votes.
Here is my final concern. A man of great charisma (who before he was elected in 2016 was called the P.T. Barnum of the late 20th century for his ability to wow people despite lack of substance) became the most powerful man in the world – went around the country crying BEFORE the election that if he lost the election it was because the system was broken. His victory was the test of truth – period. After he lost he cried that the election was stolen. He went around the country riling up loyal fans. He pressured his own VP (a man of much more clear integrity and faith) to do what he (Pence) had no authority to do – overturn election results. Pressuring people to do what they can’t/shouldn’t do – is a red flag.
The problem is that thousands of people in America have decided that Trump’s own words are all the evidence they need to decide what is true. What evidence “means”, for many people, is decided based on what Trump says and not vice versa. To be fair, American’s should be able to deeply trust the president – but in this case he appears to have taken advantage of that and misled them. There is a massive epistemic failing here.
Again, what bothers me is that the thousands of election workers —people closest to the evidence—voices don’t matter. The boots on the ground who know how the systems actually work, and what happens when real errors occur in the process – their voices don’t matter. Trump says it – it must be true. Trump and republicans are accusing thousands of people of felony level fraud – with no substantial evidence. Imagine if you or I were doing a job, and someone accused your department of felony level activity without substantial evidence.
A Valid Complaint in Pennsylvania. – During the electoral college certification of votes, Pennsylvania politicians insisted that it was unconstitutional for the PA supreme court to change the deadline on vote acceptance. It was on this point that they wanted to object to the counting of the PA electoral college votes. Their complaint was that this is a power that only the legislature has. This does strike me as a legitimate constitution problem. But that isn’t a matter of voter fraud. If during a COVID pandemic, the supreme court of PA overstepped its boundaries, and more people were able to turn their ballots in, the voters should not be penalized for following the call of their Supreme Court! They voted. They voted for Biden. Again this is not fraud. It is not like 50k voted for Trump and those ballots were flipped for Biden. It means that because of a fumbled-Covid-context move by the PA government more people got their votes in, and they voted for Biden. PA will have to fix its Judicial-Legislative woes, but that does not mean the nation did not vote for Biden.
In the end this was a case of bellicose claims without evidence. America, the half that voted for Trump, got what they deserved. They elected a bellicose man who would stand up against the opposition. The problem is that he was willing to stand up against everyone, including his supporters when they didn’t agree with him. Unfortunately, many people slipped into the massive epistemic failing of assuming Trump=truth. When the real truth about the election surfaced from all corners and bi-partison testimony, the actual evidence was ignored because Trump=truth. Sadly, with no major evidence emerging, and the shame of an insurrection on his hands, I suspect millions of American’s still believe Trump=Truth.
Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (NIV)
Proverbs 9:16-19 (KJV)
16 These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.