Democrats and journalists think Republicans who doubt the 2020 election results are crazy. So do some Republicans. “We are the party of Lincoln,” Rep. Liz Cheney said last month. “We are not the party of QAnon or anti-Semitism or Holocaust deniers, or white supremacy or conspiracy theories.” But questioning election results is so common that it can hardly be considered deviant.
There has often been reason to be suspicious of the official results in an election system rife with corruption and incompetence. The U.S. Supreme Court ended the 2000 Florida recount crisis by ruling in favor of George W. Bush. But a July 2001 Gallup survey found that only 15% of Democrats believed Bush had won the election “fair and square.” Pollsters stopped asking that question after 9/11, but liberals have waved the bloody shirt ever since. A 2012 New York magazine piece was headlined, “Yes, Bush v. Gore Did Steal the Election.” The Intercept in 2018: “Democrats Should Remember Al Gore Won Florida in 2000—but Lost the Presidency with a Pre-Emptive Surrender.”
Four years later, as Politico reported this past December, “even after [John] Kerry conceded the race, accusations about shenanigans in Ohio emerged on several fronts.” Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a co-chairman of the Bush campaign, was accused of “garden-variety voter suppression.” Rep. John Conyers of Michigan issued a report in 2005 on what Politico described as “voter suppression tactics reminiscent of the Jim Crow era: flyers directing voters to the wrong polling places; voting machine shortages in college towns and heavily-minority neighborhoods; people forced to stand outside on Election Day for hours, in pelting rain.”
I grew up in Ohio and heard stories from friends consistent with these claims. Mr. Bush’s margin there was 118,000 votes, more than Joe Biden’s in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin combined. But more than a few hard-core Democratic activists still think Mr. Bush stole two elections.
Republicans thought the 1960 election was stolen and filed lawsuits in several states, including Illinois, where plaintiffs alleged that Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley’s machine had arranged for dead voters to support JFK. Richard Nixon believed he had been cheated but didn’t overtly back the challenge, which withered.
Often the losing party quietly accepts defeat and licks its wounds. But not always, and not lately. Andrew Jackson and his supporters spent John Quincy Adams’s term campaigning against the “corrupt bargain” by which the House chose Adams over Jackson in 1825. And Rep. Nancy Pelosi tweeted in 2017: “Our election was hijacked. There is no question. Congress has a duty to #ProtectOurDemocracy & #FollowTheFacts.” A special counsel’s investigation found no evidence of such hijacking.
I believe Mr. Biden won the election fair and square. But given this history, no one should be surprised that many people don’t.
Mr. Rall is a political cartoonist and author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.”
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