Misconceptions of the 2020 Election

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Free image/jpeg, Resolution: 4000x3000, File size: 2.34Mb, The United States Capitol, government seat, usa, washington dc

Although there are still developments regarding the election at the time of writing, a tremendous amount of things have happened that can be addressed. Millions of people are questioning the legitimacy of the election, Americans are severely divided, and many are blaming the Libertarian candidate for ruining the outcome. Same old, same old.

But things are much more blatant this time. Businesses in certain cities were boarding up their storefronts in case of riots if Trump were to win again. There are allegations of voter fraud (some credible, some not so much) that, if proven, could affect the result. Social media platforms are ramping up efforts to reinforce the official narrative stop misinformation. Large media corporations are tripping over themselves with claims that contradict one another. And if Biden does become the 46th President, we will see inauguration day marked as the official end of the COVID-pandemic.

Regarding Jo

By the time all of the votes have been counted, it looks like Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian Party candidate, will have received somewhere around 1.2% of the vote. This isn’t good. Yes, it’s the second most votes any Libertarian candidate has achieved, above Gary Johnson’s 2012 run and below Gary Johnson’s 2016 run, but that can hardly be regarded as any sort of victory. Turnout was higher than ever for the two main candidates, and lower for third parties. Part of it is due to the media paying less attention to third parties this around.

Another part is due to Jorgenson’s infamous “actively anti-racist” tweet. One could argue that only a closeted racist or right-wing snowflake could get offended at such a statement. But that would be a foolish thing to say.

A political campaign is to be judged on its ability to earn votes. A Libertarian Party campaign must also be judged on its ability to spread the libertarian message and encourage people not just to cast a single vote, but to stick around. I consider myself to be reasonably immersed in libertarian circles, and I listened to several of her interviews on the shows I routinely listen to. But the only thing I remember from her campaign was that single tweet. Not a good sign.

Turning to her defense, the accusations that her voters somehow cost Trump the election is moronic nonsense. All of these accusations are based on the idea that if her voters didn’t vote for Jo, they would’ve voted for Trump. This would be true for some of her voters, but others would’ve voted for Biden, or another third party candidate, or not at all. So even if each of her voters actually went for their second preferred candidate, it’s unlikely that this would have helped Trump in any meaningful way, if at all.

Of course, this implies that she or her voters are somehow to blame for their decisions any more than any other voter. When people complain about third party voters, what they’re saying is “If more people had voted for my candidate instead of a different candidate, then my candidate would have won.” Well duh. Thanks for stating the obvious.

But why do Jo’s voters deserve more blame than any other voters? If more independents had voted for Trump instead of Biden or not at all, then Trump would have won. And if these same people had voted for Hillary instead of Trump, we would’ve had Hillary in 2016. But that didn’t happen. A vote needs to be earned.

Regarding the Lesser Evil

Over time, even as a libertarian, I have become more sympathetic to the idea of voting for the lesser evil. Libertarians (and everyone, for that matter), should always be thinking tactically regarding politics. We all live in a less than ideal world, and it is our responsibility to do what we can to improve the situation. This means we can’t simply cast a vote, or not cast a vote at all, and blame the rest of the world for not following along. It is much along the lines of game theory. One’s actions need to take into account how others will act.

The two main candidates are not exact replicas of each other. One of them is worse than the other. How much worse, and how one determines which is worse, depends on how you weigh the issues. Then it’s a matter of where you draw the line. Of the two candidates that have a chance to win, there is an argument to be made that voting for the lesser evil (and encouraging others to do so) is a correct choice if one is marginally better than the other.

This is not to say that voting for the lesser evil is a good choice. It is true, as they say, that voting for the lesser evil still results in an evil. And most of the time, the two evils are so outrageously awful that voting third party (or not at all) is the tactically best option. The point here is to reframe the perspective. It is not about making a choice and then feeling good about yourself for maintaining ideological purity. It is about tactics, and determining the right course of action.

Regarding Allegations of Election Fraud

The trouble with political events like this election is that a tremendous amount of people who normally have little to no interest in politics begin paying attention to these tribal moments and flood the internet with their takes, confidently asserting what they clearly have no knowledge of.

This has made talk of election fraud difficult to sift through. Quite a bit of it seems to be nonsense that can be easily explained. News organizations calling a certain state early is not fake news. The New York Times called California, Oregon, and Washington all for Biden the minute the polls closed, because they were that confident that Biden would prevail in these states, because Democrats always do.

Calling a state for Biden when it is leaning Trump with 20% reporting is also not any sort of propaganda or dishonesty. Most counties tend to vote similar to how they have in the past. If a candidate were to do poorly in counties that he would normally do well in, it can be predicted based on these early results how he will do when all the results are in, and that is often enough to call the state early.

What is worth remembering (for both sides) is that media outlets calling the election for a candidate is not any kind of official declaration. I could call the election for Jo Jorgensen in this article. That wouldn’t make it true.

While sifting through these allegations of fraud, there are a few things to consider:

  • People who don’t understand the election process are sharing things without verifying them. As always, be sure to look into things before you mindlessly repeat them.
  • Be humble. If you are unfamiliar with the process, take the time to understand it and become familiar before making confident assertions.
  • The government being accused of voter fraud is the same government with an extensive history of regime change in other countries. To be suspicious is to be rational.
  • Claiming there is a “lack of evidence” is a stupid claim. There are a few concerning red flags. Evidence is what you may find at the conclusion of an investigation, but is not required to start one.
  • If you believed your opponent was “literally Hitler,” would you cheat if it meant defeating him?

The two most reasonable allegations thus far are concerns regarding Benford’s Law and the Bellwether counties.

Benford’s Law (best explained here) has been used before to detect fraud. In certain important counties in swing states, Biden’s data appears to violate this law.

Bellwether counties are counties that routinely predict the winner. If you were to know the results of these counties, you could predict the winner. This election, most counties were wrong. This measurement has been cited before as evidence that the Kennedy vs. Nixon election of 1960 was possibly fraudulent.

Regardless, this election has not been a good sign for the health of the United States. How much longer can this continue, when one side sees the other as an enemy?

This point needs to be made repeatedly to those upset at the outcome. If this system is not working out, perhaps we need to decentralize. If we can agree to disagree, we can go our separate ways without violence. Or, we can continue fighting, as things become increasingly violent, while elections are decided narrowly, as things get worse. The enemy are not those that disagree, but those that seek control.

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Nathan A. Kreider is author of the Misconceptions column for Being Libertarian, and has written for the Austrian Economics Center, the Foundation for Economic Education, and the Liberalists. He also occasionally publishes a blog and video content, including short book reviews, which can be found on his website, nkreider.com. He can be contacted by email via [email protected]

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