Arizona 2020 Recount Complete: The Way Forward for the Right-Wing


Sean Rayford

Save America, indeed

By Rob Mullins, Editor

Two weeks ago, the Arizona State Senate released its audit of the 2020 election results. The findings were not surprising: Donald Trump really did lose Arizona by a more significant margin than initially recorded. Perhaps I should rephrase: this should not surprise anyone. Donald Trump is unpopular, and conservative values are unpopular. The Democrats did not steal the election from the most popular president in recent memory. In fairness, the report shed light on inconsistencies, illegal ballots, and rules and regulations that states ignored under the pretext of the pandemic. What are the implications of this? Ideally, not many because the American right-wing ought not to be shocked by its inability to win over large swaths of the population.

In national polls, trends indicate that left-wing values and politicians are more popular than the right-wing. For example, a 2021 Gallup poll suggests that an average of 49% of voters over 18 self-identify as Democrats, significantly up from Republicans’ paltry 40%. This explains the Left’s fixation on direct democracy; the masses’ will be expressed clearly through a popular vote unhampered by archaic institutions like the electoral college, which acts as a bourgeois check on the sole distributor of legitimacy: popular consent. They advocate these policies, it is important to note, not out of any reverence for democratic values, but instead with full knowledge that if the name of the game in acquiring political power is a popularity contest, the Left wins and wins big. The critical debate of our era revolves not around the veracity of this but understanding why and how to fight it.

It may seem shocking to learn that the popular vote winner does not always win the presidency. However, the runner-up in the popular vote has won the electoral college twice in the last two decades, in 2000 handing the presidency to George W. Bush and Donald Trump in 2016. Even though Clinton trounced Trump in densely populated cities and large blue states, Trump’s multiple narrow upset victories in key battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan earned him a decisive victory in the electoral college, where he triumphed over Clinton 304-227.

With this perspective, it makes logical sense that Democrats would move to obliterate the institution that has now twice denied them the presidency. Who knows how many more times this will happen? Case in point, fifteen progressive states across the country have signed onto the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an agreement wherein a bloc of states collectively pledge their electors to win the popular vote. The deal will go into effect if and when enough states sign on to collectively apportion 270 electors, the amount necessary to win the electoral college. Right now, the count has stalled with 195 pledged electors and 68 more possible electors pending action within state legislatures.

In 2020, Democrats earned their victory over Trump because they mobilized on a massive scale worked the hardest they have in decades to get the vote out, and in many states, these efforts paid off. In addition, most states amended election laws and ordinances rapidly to make accommodations for voters during the COVID-19 pandemic. These stalwart efforts to increase turnout and temporarily expand mail-in voting have laid the basis for Republican claims of massive-scale voter fraud. And what a sorry sight it is to behold; positions on the controversial election vary widely within the Republican camp, it is hard to choose which among them is the worst, either in its adherence to reality or its implications for the country moving forward.

From the outset, the most laughable perspective would be claims of fraud from Trump devotees who cannot conceive of an electoral result that isn’t a resounding victory for their “God-Emperor,” as he is affectionately and somewhat idolatrously referred to in such circles. What makes this position so ludicrous is that the nearly unanimous mandate from the people that such supporters envision Trump to possess secretly did not even materialize in 2016; he just happened to squeak by against a historically unpopular and notoriously corrupt opponent who carried double his weight in baggage after decades spent in public service. Advocates of this side of things are likely to rail against the “Deep State,” and with a straight face insist that a hackneyed crew of bureaucrats, politicians, campaign operatives, among others with a wide range of conflicting interests and incentives, somehow subordinate all of their individual motivations to the collective goal of repressing the power of a tough-talking neoliberal president whose only departure from the status quo of the last 20 years is that he’s a little mean to Jim Acosta at press briefings.

Make no mistake, the deep state exists, just not in the Trump fanatics’ conception of it. It is rather unfortunate what a worthless meme this phrase has become since it represents the synthesis of decades of legitimate concerns about the increasing powers of the federal government to encroach on the liberties of the private citizen. Truly, one has a right to be concerned about the amount of power Congress delegated to federal intelligence agencies in the passage of bills like the USA PATRIOT Act, which allowed the FBI to wiretap American citizens to produce evidence of a crime without a search warrant in blatant violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. To me, this makes the veracity of theories if Barack Obama actually wiretapped Trump Tower irrelevant in the sense that it doesn’t matter if this one specific example of such overreach occurred because the possibility of such misconduct ought to arouse suspicion and fear in people who understand what this means for our rights. Ultimately, Trump loyalists dealt a blow to their credibility when they fixated on the petty details of misuse of broad powers rather than point out the problem with vesting such broad powers in the state at all.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are those Republicans, such as Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney, who have come out in opposition to the prevailing narrative of their party. As increasing overtures are made to court a populace that harbors doubts about the legitimacy of the last election, these few have had the courage to stand up for their conviction in the fundamental fairness of American democracy. They denounce and reject those who would challenge the results of the election or raise questions over any inconsistency in results whatsoever. To do so, they say, is unpatriotic, unsportsmanlike, and in the specter of the late great Joseph McCarthy, fundamentally un-American. When espoused by figures like Romney, there is an impressive continuity in character that flows from a genuine desire to transcend that which divides America, even in the face of a disappointing defeat. A noble sentiment, no doubt, but a naive one.

Ultimately, this position misses the mark as well because it fails to account for the prerogative of Republicans to question results and investigate inconsistencies in reports. This was done in the name of ameliorating tensions and with the hope of forming a working relationship with the incoming administration. In a sense, Republicans relinquished the weapon of electoral review as a way to extend an olive branch to their opposition. As nice as that is, it’s illogical because when afforded the same opportunities, the Left takes no prisoners, or in this case, they do. The first two years of the Trump administration were stymied by congressional Democrats who maneuvered impressive amounts of power despite being in the minority through the investigation of alleged misconduct. Now, it appears congressional Republicans have traded that ability off, but since this prospective truce offers them no proportional benefit, it is ultimately useless.

The last view is one broadly held among establishment Republicans, as well as those on the fringes of mainstream acceptability. In public, they carefully toe the line of claiming enough widespread fraud such that the result of the election hinges on the balance, but this is ultimately the party line being pushed. And it has worked; numerous polls indicate that a whopping 60% of Republicans believe pervasive fraud tainted the results of the election. Without passing judgment on the merits of the claim, this view warrants the most attention, both for its captivation of an overwhelming majority of the Republican base and because of the implications of such an assumption.

It is important to make a distinction between the two groups, however. Party operatives, especially those looking to increase turnout or raise funds, engage in a cynical and irrational manipulation of the public when they use the fraud narrative as the impetus to encourage turnout or donations. They are essentially engaging in bad faith, the election was rigged, so the solution is to vote harder? These officials are just the most recent iteration of the pernicious right-wing grift that has emerged at the height of Trump’s power and unfortunately persisted despite his exile. Party officials who keep this going are looking to keep GOP coffers out of the red and advance their own ambitions and that of local candidates. This is the most inconsistent perspective since it claims the election is rigged and the system is rotten, but at the same time, they want to achieve reform from within the rotten, corrupt system.

The more important subgroup here comprises the majority of voters. Those were typically not working within the party, who genuinely believe that the 2020 election was fraudulent and illegitimate. To reiterate, this is the view held by slightly over 60% of Republicans polled, and this number has held steady for several months. This belief in an illegitimate democracy was at one time a fringe view, but the popularity of the belief among the Republican base has catapulted it into the mainstream regardless of legacy media and social media’s combined attempts to suppress it. These groups have already begun to clash, and this trend will not reverse as time goes on. In future articles, I will attempt to probe both paths forward open to Republicans: continuing the pre-Trump path and losing worse progressively or the winning path of embracing the increasingly raucous right-wing populist movement while shirking off unnecessary and unjustified reverence for democracy in America.