‘This Is Not a Fraud Case’

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Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

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Fifteen days after President Trump lost the election, there is no indication that any significant voter fraud took place.

That hasn’t stopped the president and his supporters from making all kinds of claims to the contrary. Over the past two weeks, there has been a whole lot of shouting, a deluge of legal filings and plenty of denial from Mr. Trump and his allies.

Law firms that originally agreed to represent the Trump campaign and the Republican Party have withdrawn from the litigation. The lead counsel who has taken over in a Pennsylvania case, Marc Scaringi, said before he took the job that Mr. Trump’s legal effort “will not reverse this election.”

Even if Mr. Trump’s complaints had some merit (which, again, they do not), they would be unlikely to change the outcome of the election. A losing candidate facing a close margin — maybe several hundred votes — could hope for some luck in a recount.

That is not the situation faced by Mr. Trump, who would need to reverse the outcome in at least three swing states to reach 270 electoral votes. Even in this fanciful chain of events, he would need to overcome a deficit of at least 45,000 votes across the three closest states.

Of course, reality isn’t stopping Mr. Trump, whose Twitter feed is so packed with fantastical claims that it’s starting to look like a carton of cigarettes, plastered with warnings from the social media company that his statements are “disputed.”

Even so, from statehouses to the halls of Congress, most Republicans have refused to acknowledge Mr. Biden as the next president, fearing Mr. Trump could stir up a backlash from the party’s base.

Spewing disinformation into the public domain clearly influences how a sizable portion of Americans view current events. Look at the “debate” over mask-wearing, a scientifically proven way to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Yet, just as virus deniers cannot not wish away a pandemic, all the political machinations of Mr. Trump and his supporters cannot change the outcome of the election.


Now that the campaign is behind us, we asked our reporters for some final thoughts from 2020. Here’s Adam Nagourney with a re-examination of a common assumption.

It became clear by the summer that this election was going to be defined by the coronavirus — and in particular how President Trump responded to the pandemic. The explosion in Covid-19 diagnoses and deaths was the daily backdrop for the contest. It constrained the normal practices of a political campaign, from the attenuated party conventions to the rallies that Mr. Trump was forced to delay and downsize. And the president contracted the disease and spent three days in the hospital.

Mr. Trump and Republicans may long believe that were it not for the coronavirus, he might now be preparing for a second term. (OK, stipulated, some of them are preparing for a second term anyway, despite Mr. Trump’s loss.)

Perhaps that’s true. But it also seems worth considering that in the end, even in defeat, Mr. Trump may have gained some support because of his handling of the virus. Yes, he minimized its danger and spread, and mocked the basic protective measures — wearing a mask and social distancing — with his language and his crowded rallies. In so doing, he defied scientists and public health experts and may very well have contributed to the spread of the virus. But it was clearly a refreshing let’s-move-on message for his supporters, many of whom lived outside the urban areas that were first hit hard by the disease. His criticism of Mr. Biden’s calls for a mask requirement helped feed what has long been a powerful strain of criticism of Democrats as elitist and controlling.

Mr. Trump has always been a showman, and he understands that there are few things Americans like more than the inspirational comeback story. When he was hospitalized with the virus, most analysts thought it would hurt him politically, not only by pulling him off the campaign trail but also by demonstrating how dangerous his actions were. But if he had won, we might have said that his road to victory began when he bounded out of his hospital room to greet supporters at the gate, and then when he returned to the White House in a triumphant ceremony: the helicopter alighting on the White House lawn, the walk up the steps to the portico, the defiant ripping of the mask from his face.

None of this is meant to suggest that his dismissive posture toward the coronavirus — a threat that is now exploding again as the nation enters the colder months — was a political positive for his campaign. But it may not have been quite as unambiguously negative as many of us assumed.



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