With no apologies for being the turd in the punchbowl, I want to share my reading of yesterday’s election. There’s a lot of undisguised celebrating going on – even among the nominally and professionally impartial – and I have already had to respond to a fair number of “See I told you there was nothing to worry about!” pokes. However . . .
Lest anyone for a minute believe that yesterday’s results – the Democratic sweep and thump of #Trump – provide assurance that our elections are now secure and that no one is targeting 2018 or 2020 for votecount manipulation, please understand that that is seriously wishful thinking. There are very good reasons that entities with capacity to interfere with the counting process in these particular contests would have taken a pass, which it appears they did.
1) The actual victory margins in key contests were large – altering outcomes would have brought the smell test very much into play.
2) The prizes, significant as they may be, were a drop in the bucket compared to what is on the table in 2018. Given the now-heightened scrutiny of our election processes (and of course concerns about “the Russians”), it would make little strategic sense to trigger red flags now – thereby putting urgency into the effort to button-up election security before 2018. Indeed it would have been a gross strategic blunder.
3) Virginia had decertified its paperless machines (DREs), so that, unlike GA-6 this summer, voting was entirely on paper and recounts/audits would have been in play in the event of “issues” with the count (anomalous results, exit poll-votecount disparities, etc.). In fact, five state legislative elections are being recounted, with control of the Virginia House of Delegates in the balance. Election administration at the state level was, crucially, under Democratic control. New Jersey, although using DREs, was simply too big a margin – a Guadagno win would have failed the smell test spectacularly.
Even for those contests within smell-test range, the overarching analogy here is to the pool shark: missing makeable shots is part of the hustle, indeed essential to the hustle. Same for a poker cheat. If you win every hand, either no one will play or they will start making you play in short sleeves. You save those up-sleeve aces for the big pots.
We’ve been around this block many times. People can’t wait to say “There! You see, it’s all good now!” When Democrats win, whether it’s Obama in 2008 and 2012 (the mechanisms for which are explained in detail in CODE RED or in E2017 this Tuesday, the reflex assumption is that it proves U.S. elections are safe and secure. This is, ironically, because virtually every piece of evidence collected over the 15 years of the computerized vote-counting era points to distortions or manipulations favoring the more right-wing candidate or position. If some champion of the Right is so good at rigging, goes the thinking, and if elections could still be rigged, why would he/she/it ever, in a competitive election, allow the Democrat or left-winger to win? Ipso facto, Tuesday’s result prove rigging is not possible, so the thinking goes.
Strategically, rigging Tuesday night would have been idiotic, but we will have to spell this out over and over again, so strong is the desire to seize upon any apparent evidence that things are on the up and up.
Yesterday’s results should do nothing to reassure anyone about the security of our elections or diminish by a hair the urgency of our efforts to restore public and observable vote counting. We have seen way too many aces drop out of sleeves to think for a minute that this game is being played straight. If we do, we’re the perfect mark.
To me, ironically, the takeaway from yesterday is that this is more or less what elections in an observably counted United States would look like: Unadjusted Exit Polls, for the first time in 15 years, spot-on wherever conducted; no “red shift;” no head-scratching, against-interest, right-wing victories.
But anyone who draws the conclusion, based on yesterday’s results, that 2018 won’t be rigged is someone I’d love to play poker with.
Yesterday’s results speak volumes about the truth of our country and are worth real celebration. Then . . . back to the task at hand.