F&L 2020: Is The Election “Rigged”?

The entire point of calling this “The Not Fake News” is to address commonly held misconceptions wherever they exist — “commonly held” because there’s no benefit to disproving something nobody believes in anyway, and “misconceptions” because there’s already a huge chorus of media outlets all voicing the same truths, so who needs one more?

In the past, people were obliging enough to present memes that could easily be demonstrated as false. However, now that our social media corporations are taking those down almost as quickly as they go up, it’s difficult to capture one long enough to dissect it, much less to spread the actual truth behind the meme. The danger of this is that rumors are started by that first glimpse, but without permanence there’s no space for discussion or disproof. Even the original poster won’t be sure what it was they started off trying to say.

Six memes suggesting that mail-in ballots were improperly dumped or disposed of were addressed in this fashion; four depicted the same two events, each of which happened after the 2018 midterms and neither of which involved any ‘live’ ballots. The fifth involved a set of military ballots discovered in a trash can; that’s still under investigation, but there appears to be no malfeasance at this time. The sixth involves private organizations in California operating ad hoc ballot drop boxes; these were removed immediately on request and the ballots involved, by all reports, have been properly forwarded. As a result, The Not Fake News has provisionally concluded that there is no real evidence of widespread ballot mishandling.

Other venues are widely reporting allegations of voter suppression. And yet, with varied jurisdictions across the country reporting record voter registration numbers — Travis County, Texas, is showing a whopping 97% rate among eligible residents — this too seems an unreasonable fear. It’s three weeks before the election, most states are mailing out truly vast numbers of ballots, and long lines are already popping up at early voting locations. As a general rule, I think we can also presume that any voter suppression will also be the exception rather than the rule.

And yet, court cases continue in battleground states across the country, as Republicans oppose drop boxes in Pennsylvania while Democrats oppose the need for “security envelopes”, each side contesting minor points of law with the fervency one would expect from a well-paid lawyer. In one sense, this is precisely as it should be; our system is designed for adversarial challenges of this nature, and it’s robust enough to handle them. In another, particularly considering that the balloting is actively underway, such contention is egregious (as it will largely be dismissed out of hand). The danger to the electoral process is minimal at this point, and is largely limited to the chance that an unnecessarily inflamed public tends to overreact to uncertainty — in short, that we’re setting up conditions for protests and even riots in the not-at-all-unlikely event that vote counting should take several days to provide results.

This is particularly worrying in the present situation, where the President is calling on volunteers to become poll-watchers without specifying that they need to do so within the established legal framework. Particularly now in the time of COVID-19, the normal staff of volunteers — traditionally elderly — is depleted by people staying home out of not-unjustified fear of contagion. As such, replacements should indeed be actively sought; so far, so good. But failing to specify that they should apply to their local election offices for training and official access generates the unpleasant vision of armed militias staking out polling places in case mass protests arrive to intimidate potential voters — themselves, ironically and all unwitting, becoming that very intimidation they would so vehemently oppose.

What’s curious here is that none of these even remotely comes close to the impact of major news events on elections, which is what decided 2016. Trump was chosen in the primary not because he was well-liked, admired, and respected, but rather because he got so much free airtime from the networks. The Clinton campaign lost ground once internal emails became public about their treatment of Sanders — who was on-track to lose anyway, mind you. And Comey’s investigation announcement days before the election surely swung a few voters.

This year has been even more subject to manipulated media releases. Tens of millions were spent to coordinate candidate drops after, instead of before, Super Tuesday, which led to a Biden coronation. Since then, once or twice a week there’s been one thing after another — Trump’s tax returns, Burisma, more investigations, more emails, and now a Feinstein hug. Division, scandal, and artificially generated hate are everywhere.

(This is not, I should add, in any way a dismissal of those legitimate judgments against partisan policies of intolerance and ignorance. The government has no place in someone else’s bedroom, for example, and the Religious Right — with whom this writer shares faith, if little else — needs to do something about their fascination with sex. There’s a great big stick in your eye, my friends. -Editor)

If we can accept that a few million Russian-made memes could influence the election in 2016, it’s pretty disingenuous to suggest that the present wave of deliberate propaganda from our major media would have no impact whatsoever.

So, yes, the election is rigged. Of course it’s rigged. The error here lies in the misguided belief that sometimes the election isn’t rigged. It’s always rigged. The deck is always stacked; the voters are always manipulated. And by “the voters”, make no mistake: I mean you.

Compared to that, a hundred thousand dead people voting in Chicago don’t matter worth a hill of beans.

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