Ask a thousand Trump supporters for their opinion on whether the former president should continue to dwell on the result of the 2020 election and you’ll probably receive a thousand different answers.
Well, that’s not true. You’ll get only two actual conclusions, one “Yes” and one “No” -- along with a thousand rationales to accompany the affirmative or negative response. After nearly a year of the back-and-forth over Trump’s controversial COVID-era journey to November 3, 2020, there is no simple solution to this dilemma, even if the various proponents insist that the matter is crystal clear in their favor. One way or another, the ultimate decision on whether to let go or keep the grudge alive rests with the former president himself.
Seeing as it’s October now and only a couple states vote in 2021, a lot of folks are already looking to 2022 and the crucial, potentially country-saving congressional midterm elections next November. Commentators are therefore turning up the volume on the wisdom of Trump living in the past.
In a piece titled, “Time for Trump and GOP to get over 2020 election”, Michael McKenna wrote at The Washington Times:
“[W]hy is time being wasted worrying over something that can’t and won’t happen? Every second spent on the 2020 election is a second that can’t be spent trying to defeat the truly disruptive elements of President Biden’s agenda. Every minute spent indulging the fantasy of a stolen election is a minute stolen from working on the 2022 and 2024 elections.
“Every hour wasted looking backward is an hour that can’t be spent moving forward. In ‘The Shawshank Redemption,’ two prisoners are talking about the nature of hope. At the end of the exchange, one says to the other: ‘It comes down to a simple choice, really. You get busy living or get busy dying.’ Those obsessed with relitigating the past are busy dying.
“It’s time to put the 2020 election in the rearview mirror and get serious about the challenges ahead. Mr. Trump and the party he leads will never become politically healthy if they remain tangled in pointless grievances. The party and the man both need to get back into the fight and stop worrying about yesterday’s game. The 2020 elections were lost. In the wake of a loss, you rarely get better by blaming the referees, the weather, the other side cheating, etc. You get better by becoming better at the game.”
I included McKenna’s Shawshank Redemption blurb because the 1994 classic remains one of my favorite films, with both a pertinent message and a satisfying conclusion. The philosophy behind the saying, “Get busy living or get busy dying” applies to so many aspects of life. In essence, every moment counts and there’s not a lot of room to waste time by worrying about what might have been.
This is definitely applicable to politics, where the next campaign arguably begins before the last one finishes. I remember on Election Night, 2016, thinking that it would be a fun ride with Trump at the helm for four years, but we’d better get started on his re-election effort right away. You could see the opposition assembling as events played out in real time, beginning with the fact Hillary Clinton wouldn’t concede the election until everyone had gone home from her “victory” party.
Witnesses to the “With Her!” candidate’s behavior that night indicated she was too angry -- and perhaps too inebriated -- to go on stage and issue a perfunctory “The people have spoken” speech and then make plans to go on vacation to sulk and reminisce. And scheme.
Hillary and her junta never actually gave up, mind you, her concession notwithstanding. Instead, they initiated and then, with plenty of deep state assistance, fanned the flames of “Russian collusion”, which tarnished Trump’s ability to govern from day one. It set a precedent for 2020, too.
Of course, Donald Trump never officially gave up either, and to this day, he has not conceded the 2020 election. Trump continued to campaign even after the votes were counted (including, it appears, lots and lots of ballots that weren’t legitimate). He kept the subject alive right up until January 6th, which brought hundreds of thousands of fervent supporters to DC to register their disapproval of the election’s integrity. And for some, they hoped to convince Vice President Pence to act on his own to stop the House’s certification.
Everyone knows what happened next. A small group of agitators got out of hand and a riot ensued. Hundreds -- or even thousands -- of decent people got wrapped up in the melee and besieged the Capitol with Trump flags. It was both beautiful and horrible at the same time. A handful did minor damage to the building. A good many of them are being persecuted by federal law enforcement today. Some are essentially political prisoners now. A shameful spectacle, all of it.
How does this relate to whether Trump should stop obsessing over the 2020 election? The longer Trump and Republicans talk about the stolen vote count, the more opportunities exist for the sensationalist establishment media to rerun the video from January 6 and tie the imagery to Trump and his tens of millions of backers who weren’t in Washington DC that day.
What’s done is done and you can’t un-ring the proverbial bell. January 6 will always be linked to Trump and you can bet your bottom dollar that the absurd establishment media will run numerous “Where were you on that day?” type remembrances from lawmakers of both parties in a few months. Liz Cheney will probably get a full hour on 60 Minutes to describe her emotions and be credited for leading the ten Republican turncoats to join with Nancy Pelosi and every Democrat to vote to impeach the outgoing Trump for a second time within a year.
Not to be left out, Mitt Romney will draw additional praise for being the only Republican to have voted to impeach Trump both times he was brought before the Senate jury. What a dubious “honor”, which has left the 2012 GOP presidential nominee as the most reviled loser in conservative politics. But liberals hold Mitt high as a “principled” man who votes his conscience, even if his wisdom for doing so stems from slightly above his lower extremities.
In part, Trump continues with the “Election was stolen” personal crusade to spite the fools like Cheney and Romney who tossed in the towel even when the legitimate observations of vote count funny business were still being reported. The two sides will never see eye-to-eye, so again, it’s up to Trump to determine when is the proper moment to cease mentioning 2020 and move on.
Here’s thinking Trump fuels the 2020 heat two reasons. First, he knows a high percentage of his 2020 voters would be infuriated with any sort of capitulation or backtracking and would then refuse to support him again in 2024 (should he opt to run) after being betrayed. These are the “lost cause” proponents who intend to sustain the fight until they win, no matter how unlikely or implausible the chore may appear.
To put it bluntly, this contingent is counting on Trump to uphold hope and keep the issue in the forefront until someone with power declares him the winner.
The second reason Trump clings to 2020 is to bolster his case for complete audits in every state. McKenna mentioned that the recently wrapped up Arizona audit confirmed that Biden won the state, just as “fat face” former Fox news commentator Chris Stirewalt insisted was the case on Election Eve last year.
The fact is, the Arizona audit brought up many, many issues with the way Maricopa County counted the ballots and discovered enough irregularities to keep lawyers busy for a long, long time. These issues will need to be thoroughly explored and explained for Arizona voters to have any confidence in future elections, and would not have been brought to the forefront without such an extensive assessment.
Several states are either conducting similar audits or are debating doing them. In my opinion, the whole country needs an audit; if for nothing else, to reaffirm that state ballot systems actually work the way they insist it does.
One way or another, there are tens of millions of good citizens who don’t believe their vote will count in the coming elections, and they have solid reasons for the skepticism. States must do everything within their power to get to the bottom of the inconsistencies and outright fraud that took place in the days after Election Day, when healthy Trump leads disappeared within a matter of hours.
Is McKenna right? Should Trump drop the subject entirely and simply move towards 2022 and 2024? My answer is a qualified “Yes.” (See above) Similar to former Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, I believe that the former president (and maybe future candidate) needs to focus on Biden and his multitude of failures, issues that the public cares about and will draw distinctions between the two worldviews.
Elections are always about the future, never about the past.
But Trump should also push for auditing the 2020 results. If it means continuing to insist that he won by a landslide, so be it. Sooner or later, people will make up their own minds. It doesn’t seem like it will benefit Trump to be seen as a sore loser who can’t let go, however. The system produced a winner. It’s well past time to examine the metrics and let bygones be bygones.
2016 GOP primaries