It will all go according to plan—unless we stop it.
Strictly speaking, a coup is an illegitimate change of government by violent means. But what if you can do it without violence? To win without fighting is best, Sun Tzu says. An ostensibly (“mostly”) peaceful ouster from power is preferable to the use of force because it can much more easily be sold as “our democracy” at work.
National polls consistently predicted a huge Biden blowout. That they were wrong (again) is demonstrated by the facts that (a) the 2020 popular vote is, so far (California is not fully counted), a mere two-point spread, hardly a blowout; (b) Trump got a higher share of the vote than last time; and (C) Trump received far more total votes than last time.
But it’s the swing states that matter. Here (again) Trump was supposed to lose—if not necessarily bigly in every case, at least widely.
But throughout the day, the president consistently outperformed the polls. He crushed his 2016 performance in Florida. He also outperformed in Iowa, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas. Senators he was supposed to drag down with him, including Joni Ernst, Lindsey Graham, and Mitch McConnell, won handily. Even Susan Collins, who was supposed to be sure goner and lose by at least three, won by nine. A party that was “certain” to lose the Senate has kept it and gained (so far) six seats in the House.
Looking at states no one expected Trump to lose, his overperformance is even more stark. The polling average for West Virginia was Trump +17; he won it by 39. Kansas was estimated at +9; the result was +15.
Throughout the day the president was also outperforming his expected result in key states such as Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. He even, for a time, looked like he was within striking distance in Virginia, a state Hillary Clinton won by five points in 2016. At one point the New York Times’s “meter” had Trump’s chances in North Carolina at 92%. The needle was also sliding in the president’s direction in Arizona and Georgia, among others.
And then, suddenly, the counting stopped in at least five states (or parts of states): Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin; all but one with a Democratic governor (coincidence, surely!). When has that ever happened? Well, it happened in Broward County, Florida, in 2018, when a dodgy Democratic election official appeared to be intervening, illicitly, on her party’s behalf. The process only got back underway when the state’s (Republican) governor intervened and had her removed from the process.
But getting back to last night, some time in the wee hours, additional ballots were “found” and added to early totals which had Trump ahead. To no one’s surprise, those votes were overwhelmingly—literally as much as 100% in some batches—for Biden. According to Nate Silver, no one’s idea of a Trumpist, one tranche of 23,277 votes that turned up in Philadelphia were “all for Biden.” Absent some kind of harvesting or fraud (or both), that’s a logical and statistical impossibility.
Through the night, all such ballots came from heavily Democratic areas posting unusually, improbably high turnout. 85% in Milwaukee? A city that turned out at only 61% in 2016, and even with Obama on the ballot in 2012, at 71%? But 85% for Sleepy Joe? According to one report, seven Milwaukee precincts returned more presidential votes than they have registered voters. Turnout in Wisconsin overall is alleged to have been 89.25%, more than five standard deviations for the state’s mean turnout since 1960—another statistical impossibility.
One might also wonder why this urban Blue wave materialized only in close states. Milwaukee was way up but not Cleveland? Philly but not St. Louis? Granted Ohio and Missouri are Red, but their big cities aren’t.
How It’s Done
We’ve seen this movie before. This is how they beat Scott Walker in Wisconsin in 2018, Tom Foley in Connecticut in 2010, and Norm Coleman in Minnesota in 2008.
Why stop the count? Because that’s the only way to know how many votes you need to “win.” Sure, you can just brute force things by backing up a truck full of ballots. But that looks bad. You might even end up counting more votes than there are registered voters in the state. Better to eke out a narrow win. As Joseph Kennedy, Sr. allegedly said to his second son, “I’m not paying for a landslide.”
Speaking of the Kennedys, veteran political observer Theodore H. White—in their company on election night 1960—explained how it’s done. In Illinois, the race came down to
downstate (Republican) versus Cook County (Democratic), and the bosses, holding back totals from key precincts, were playing out their concealed cards under pressure of publicity as in a giant game of blackjack….
The AP ticker chattered its keys once more and reported: “With all downstate precincts now reported in, and only Cook County precincts unreported, Richard Nixon has surged into the lead by 3,000 votes.”
I was dismayed, for if Nixon really carried Illinois, the game was all but over. And at this point I was jabbed from dismay by the outburst of jubilation from young Dick Donahue, who yelped, “He’s got them! Daley made them go first! He’s still holding back—watch him play his hand now.” I was baffled, they were elated. But they knew the counting game better than I, and as if in response to Donahue’s yelp, the ticker, having stuttered along for several minutes with other results, announced: “With the last precincts of Cook County now in, Senator Kennedy has won a lead of 8,000 votes to carry Illinois’s 27 electoral votes.”
Later that evening, Kennedy told his friend Ben Bradlee of an early call from Daley, when all seemed in doubt. “With a little bit of luck and the help of a few close friends,” Daley had assured Kennedy before the AP had pushed out the count, “you’re going to carry Illinois.”
Is that what happened last night? Sure looks like it. Plus ça change.
To say nothing of other considerations, it’s hard to believe that an eight-point win in Ohio would be coupled with losses throughout the rest of the upper Midwest, or that historically deep purple Florida would go strongly for Trump while Georgia and North Carolina would not. Are those states really so unrepresentative of the American electorate?
Stop the Steal
The thing could (but will never) be proved. Those who ran the operation are also in charge of all the potential investigating agencies. There’s zero chance they will use any of that power to uncover their own malfeasance. Think a Biden Justice Department will look into it?
Expect instead a media typhoon of propaganda insisting that the results are all legit, that any anomaly you think you see (or saw) is a “conspiracy theory,” or at any rate innocently explainable by mundane process details too boring to get into. Twitter is already slapping warnings on the accounts of those who point out irregularities. How long before they start outright suspensions?
Will it work? That depends on the president and his allies and what they do. The odds and the forces arrayed against them are immense.
What would I have them do? I’m no expert but the crew at Revolver has some good ideas: (1) challenge the late-night “finds” in the courts; (2) hold rallies in contested states; (3) urge GOP officials in close states to expose shenanigans and, if necessary, to refuse to seat Biden electors in the event of a fake count; (4) mount a campaign to marshal grassroots public opinion in the president’s favor. Convince the people that if in fact the election is in the process of being stolen, the president and his allies are going to fight the steal on their behalf. If middle America wants to prevent this election from being stolen, it will have to be willing to act—now. I know they are willing, but they need to hear from the President and his best surrogates. I’d get Trump on Tucker, tonight, to explain his plan.
But in another sense, the Democrats’ plan won’t “work.” Even if the steal can be made to stick, half the country won’t accept it. That is, they’ll accept the reality that power is now in the hands of a party that took it by fraud. But they won’t believe that the election was fair or the outcome real. They will believe, or be confirmed in a belief that’s been brewing for a long time, that the system is rigged, the process is fake, the ruling class are liars, the government is illegitimate, and that they themselves are subjects and not citizens—anything but a free people with a say over its own destiny. If the ruling class can get away with this, they will be able to get away with anything. And they will know it.
The irony will be that those who, over the last four years, have bleated the loudest about “our democracy” will have been most responsible for killing it off.
Michael Anton is a lecturer at Hillsdale College.