Losing the Contested Election Narrative

Jason Killmeyer, It’s mid-October and the leaders of the American Left – Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, media luminaries such as Mike Allen of Axios, and political operatives such as George Stephanopolous – are making their final pre-election maneuvers to help ensure the correct outcome in November.

Many on the Right are strangely describing the story suppression and opinion-pushing by Twitter leadership as censorship, versus what is really is: overt activism as practiced in the new age. As we watched the narrative battle over contested election scenarios evolve, the Left has largely prevailed. Polls show that Americans incorrectly believe that the expansion of vote-by-mail and third-party ballot collection was driven primarily by COVID, despite the already historic number of lawsuits to expand these practices filed in the courts well before the pandemic had begun.

As Democrats successfully tested the California model in 2018, using expanded third party ballot collection efforts to flip long-time Republican-held House seats in the weeks after Election Day, it was then time for a national rollout. That’s why well before COVID we saw articles appearing in national outlets instructing Americans that they no longer should hold an expectation that their elections can be decided on, well, Election Day. And, to be clear, that expectation has stuck. Support for the historic expansion of vote-by-mail or third-party ballot collection efforts, long a concern of street-level partisans, has been successfully mainstreamed and sold to the American people.

Attempts to clean up our notoriously inaccurate voter rolls are now labeled “voter suppression,” and with presumed racist intent. Despite the opportunity for rampant, Tammany Hall-style corruption through third-party ballot collection, we are assured that those concerns are only held by bad faith actors. So, the institutions of the Left have closed ranks, and expert opinion now suggests that the only shenanigans we can expect as it relates to our election are from any Republicans who raise concerns about these processes or attempt to contest the results they produce. And Jack and the other industry titans already have a plan for that scenario too, which received a practice run this week with the suppressed NY Post story.

Beyond that, we’re watching those same institutions again fail to prepare the American people for the fact that the result may not go the way they want. But this year they’ve done so in a more dangerous fashion, by deliberately conflating an authoritarian effort to ignore the election results that they fear from President Trump and the legitimate, and entirely typical, actions by the Right to contest ballots or otherwise participate in the legal battles in contested states both sides are armed to the teeth for.

They’ve done so while also hinting that these battles may be decided by a Supreme Court that is “packed” by Mitch McConnell, according to a brand new definition of that term invented and faithfully mainstreamed about 10 days ago. Worse, they’ve hinted that Judge Amy Coney Barrett, despite a stellar legal record, will feel indebted to the president who nominated her, and may be unable to render judgment fairly. These dual attempts to cast into doubt the legitimacy of a determinative Supreme Court decision call the entire transfer of power into question. And depending on how the Court rules, that’s their very purpose. Donald Trump was criticized for saying that the only way he could lose the election is if it is rigged, and they have setup a very similar scenario in which a major portion of the country will believe that his victory can only be ill gotten.

What we witnessed Twitter and Facebook do this week are not the end, but the beginning of how these massively powerful actors will wield their power to shape public opinion. Wait and see what happens if the voters don’t deliver the outcome they’ve been maneuvering to make more likely: we may see a collapse of the Fourth Estate’s credibility that truly impedes our functioning as a democracy.

We spend a lot of time focused on outrage at the nakedly partisan motives of the press, forgetting that they are the Left’s most powerful institutional actors. A healthier country with a healthier press would have a more balanced understanding about the risks to our election processes and the likely scenarios in which the election will be contested. But that is not their interest. When we look back on the lessons learned from the 2020 election, we’ll marvel at just how heavy the lifting was done by the consensus makers as they shape the brave new world of a somehow even more drastically bifurcated media environment.

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