An experiment in alternate history: part two

Play along once again as I try to picture how things could be different today….

Imagine a scenario in which Donald Trump won the election back in November 2020. Almost instantly challenges are filed in six states claiming that ballots were excluded because of minor discrepancies making them irregular and suspicious. Lawyers appear before judges demanding recounts and the reversal of decisions made by vote counters, but judges refuse to involve themselves in the election process. As a result, Donald Trump is certified as the winner of the 2020 election and is inaugurated for a second term on January 20, 2021.

Does Joe Biden fade into the background, as Al Gore did a score of years earlier, or does he remain in the public light, insisting that the election was stolen from him? If he takes the second course, how does the mainstream media respond to his accusations? Do they insist that the 2020 election was the fairest election in history, or do they cast aspersions on the election officials who discarded irregular and suspicious ballots? Do they label Biden’s position the “Big Lie” and repeatedly ask why anyone believes him, or do they support him with suggestions that somehow the democratic process was corrupted by a refusal to include ballots that were irregular and suspicious?

Imagine a rally supported by Joe Biden and the Democratic Party—I’ll pretend it happened on January 7 rather than January 6—questioning the official tally from the election and demanding that Congress refuse to accept the results of that election. How many people would turn out to protest in that case, and how calm would they be? If a small number of the demonstrators breached security at the Capitol and entered the building, how much damage might they cause? Would an investigation be held the summer after the demonstration? Would the patriotism of every American present at that demonstration be questioned by political leaders and by the media? Would Biden and other political leaders be held responsible for the actions of their supporters if federal property was damaged or if people were injured or killed?

After a close election, and with an evenly-divided Congress, how successful would President Trump be in continuing to pursue his policies? Would all his political appointments be meekly accepted by Congress, or would opposition be registered against advisors who were viewed as overly favorable to Trump and his policies? How much support from Congress and from the media would Trump be given as he continued negotiating agreements with China, with Russia, and with other governments, all designed to put American interests ahead of internationalism? Would Trump be able to generate a plan to repair and improve America’s infrastructure, a goal he stated during his first term and reiterated during the campaign? And what would be the effect of American military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan be during Trump’s second term? Would he continue to withdraw American soldiers from those battlegrounds, or would he leave some of them in place to support the governments America helped to form in those nations?

How would your life be different today if Donald Trump was still President of the United States? I’m curious; I really want to know. J.

Nobody expects the American Inquisition

Galileo (1564-1642) was celebrated from 1650 to 2000 as a genius who challenged the scientific thinking of his time, using his own observation to correct long-standing mistakes in physics and astronomy. He affirmed the earlier work of Nicholas Copernicus, whose writings indicated that the earth is not stationed at the center of the universe, but instead revolves once a day and travels once a year around the sun. Galileo was challenged by church researchers who quoted a half dozen Bible verses out of context to indicate that the earth is stationary and unmoving. Galileo never said or believed that the Bible is untrue. He simply indicated that the Bible is not a science textbook and that its description of the earth remaining in place is a poetic statement, not a scientific declaration. The real challenge to Galileo’s teaching came from scientists affirming the astronomy of Aristotle and Ptolemy, neither of whom was a Bible scholar (or even a Christian). Galileo became famous for his defiance against the prevailing opinions of his day. He suffered house arrest (but no further punishment) for is stubbornness. During the modern era of western civilization, Galileo was frequently regarded as a hero who risked his safety and reputation to speak the truth, defending genuine science from its detractors.

Galileo can no longer be considered a hero. Postmodern western thought has returned to the insistence that the majority must be right and that the most prominent scientific authorities may and should tell the rest of us which science to believe and which to ignore. No doubt in another generation or less, Galileo’s name will be reduced to one of the apparently nonsense words in Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody just like Scaramouch and fandango.

How else can one explain the strange ways science is being defined and practiced at the present time. COVID-19 has not been around long enough for scientists and medical professionals to know whether those who have recovered from the disease maintain resistance to reinfection—all experiments that indicate that natural immunity is acquired from infection and recovery are dismissed as preliminary and uncertain. On the other hand, vaccines developed since awareness of COVID-19 happened are treated as thoroughly tested and totally reliable. Accounts of people contracting COVID after inoculation are dismissed as anecdotal, and at the same time we are assured that those who did get sick after inoculation were not as sick as they would have been had they not received the vaccine. Those who have been vaccinated are free to go maskless, but those not vaccinated must continue to wear their masks—not for any good reason, but merely because some scientific experts say so.

In fact, it seems that our medical officials—those who make proclamations telling us how to live our lives—suffer from the same problem as the legendary man who borrowed his neighbor’s bucket and was then sued for returning the bucket in damaged condition. The accused offered a three-part defense: first, he never had the bucket in question; second, it was already damaged when he received it; and third, when he returned it there was nothing wrong with it.

Not only in medicine do we see such contradictory logic. Political science has fallen prey to the same peculiar thinking. We have been told that the Presidential election of 2020 was the fairest and least corrupt election in all of history. Statistical anomalies about the vote count must be ignored. Efforts to study voting patterns from last November are labeled as “bogus.” Americans are not to be suspicious that, given situations resulting from the pandemic, unprecedented voting results came from a few urban areas in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. In each case, community organizers were allowed and encouraged to register voters, assist those voters in applying for absentee ballots, assist the same voters in filling out their ballots, deliver those ballots to be counted, and then oversee the counting of those same ballots. These individuals, on the day that the ballots were counted, even filled in missing information on the absentee ballots that would otherwise have invalidated the ballots. In the precincts where those organizers worked, heavy vote totals favored Candidate Biden, while in all other precincts of the country vote totals resembled those of the 2016 election. Yet we are told that questioning those results is unscientific, undemocratic, anti-American, racist, and otherwise deplorable. Moreover, state legislatures that try to correct the shortcomings that have been perceived in the regulations rushed into law on account of the pandemic are likewise accused of being racist, undemocratic, and otherwise worthy of scorn, insult, and hatred.

And so it goes. I read today that true science proves that gender is a function of the brain, not of the chromosomes or the organs one possesses at birth. Fraudulent studies that affirm global climate change are gently ignored, while studies that reveal that climate change may be part of the planet’s natural cycles, may be exaggerated in the minds of some scientists and their audiences, and may even be beneficial to some environments—all these are dismissed as unscientific and unacceptable in the post-modern world.

I do not use the word “post-modern” as an insult. Many things about modern thinking bother me; many things about post-modern thinking appeal to me. All the same, if post-modern science means trusting a small elite of self-proclaimed authorities, ignoring all the evidence that contradict their claims, then post-modern science is not for me. Give me Galileo and his stubborn adherence to the facts. Genuine facts beat fake science every time. J.

Unnecessary division and stereotyping

In any conflict, significant problems result from defining that conflict by its extreme positions. Most Americans are involved in neither Antifa nor QAnon. Treating every liberal as an Antifa activist and every conservative as a QAnon activist only widens the divide, deepens the problem, and increases the potential of violent confrontations.

According to the mainstream media, QAnon focuses upon people in power who use that power criminally for personal financial gain and for illicit sexual activities. Some people in power have done such things since ancient times—consider the Caesars of the first century. According to the mainstream media, QAnon believes that most people in power—most Democrats, many Republicans, and various business leaders connected to politicians—are part of a massive conspiracy to conduct this criminal behavior while hiding it from the public. Evidence of such corruption exists—the names Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein come to mind. The MeToo movement began as a way to identify criminals, support victims, and change the culture of abuse by the powerful. If that movement has been harnessed by radical conspiracy-theorists, that is first of all unfortunate, and second a hint that the conspiracy to protect powerful criminals may be even stronger than most of us realized.

Most Americans—and that includes most Republicans, most Trump supporters, and most conservatives—reject the concept of an evil cabal masterminding sexual abuse and financial corruption in and beyond this country. The attempt to portray every liberal politician and community leader with those crimes is wrongminded and pointless.

Most Americans—and that includes most Republicans, most Trump supporters, and most conservatives—support law and order and oppose the “really futile and stupid gesture” performed in the Capitol building January 6. The attempt to portray every conservative politician and community leader as guilty of those crimes is wrongminded and pointless.

Yet some Americans want to punish every citizen who demonstrated in favor of the President that day, even the vast majority who did not enter the Capitol, did not threaten police officers or any other person, and did not damage any property. A movement in Congress wants to punish every Senator and Representative who opposed the electoral college results submitted to Congress January 6, claiming that those votes supported insurrection and violence. After spending two months assuring us that this election was the fairest and least corrupt election in the history of humanity, the mainstream media wants to label every individual who suggests that election fraud occurred as anti-American, terroristic, and dangerous.

The election results cannot be overturned. But investigations into election fraud must continue. Slowly, patiently, carefully, and meticulously, investigators must continue to analyze election day happenings in Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. Anyone who believes that no election fraud occurred should support those investigations, because they could conclusively demonstrate that no election fraud occurred. Only those who fear that their side won through election fraud has reason to oppose, hinder, or end these investigations. If election fraud did occur, those guilty should be punished, and new procedures should be instituted to prevent fraud from being repeated.

Meanwhile, those who threatened or harmed police officers or any other individuals in Washington DC on January 6 should be arrested, tried, and—if convicted—punished. Those who damaged property during those events should also be arrested, tried, and—if convicted—punished. Those who merely trespassed on government property without threatening or harming individuals and without damaging property should be fined for their trespass and then released. I write this having just seen some so-called shocking and disturbing video footage from the Capitol building, including the Senate chambers. For the most part, the trespassers were courteous toward law enforcement officers. They were respectful of government property. They hurt no one and damaged nothing. They took pictures of government documents. They said some dirty words. They left quickly after having arrived. If this is insurrection, then we need to teach other citizen groups seeking change in the country to practice their insurrection with the same gentleness, respect, and courtesy.

And maybe both sides can clean up their language, at least while the cameras are running. J.

Animal House DC

In November, when commenting on the results of the election, I borrowed a quote from the movie Animal House, saying, “It’s not over until we say it’s over.” If anyone read those words and thought that I was advocating violence, disorder, and disobedience, I sincerely apologize. I was calling for court filings, investigations of election fraud, and challenges to the election results in certain urban areas where suspicious results were announced. I in no way intended for anyone to respond to the words in the movie that closely follow my quote—namely, “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on someone’s part.” And the next line was, “We’re just the guys to do it!”

Last Wednesday a few dozen people made a really futile and stupid gesture. What they did was wrong, both legally and morally wrong. Hurting, endangering, and threatening people is wrong. Hurting, endangering, and threatening police officers and news reporters and members of Congress is wrong. Breaking windows in government buildings is wrong. Entering private offices is wrong. Scattering papers or removing them from those offices is wrong. I hope that the dozens of people who are guilty of these crimes are found, arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and punished under the laws of the United States. Anything less would be disappointing.

Beyond the criminal nature of these actions, they were also really futile and stupid because they tainted President Trump and all of his supporters. They gave ammunition to the mainstream media that has been telling people for more than four years what a bad man Donald Trump is and what bad people all his supporters are. Often the media has had to lie to pursue this theme; in this case, the media scarcely needs to exaggerate. The symbolic nature of this trespass into the United States Capitol clouds the reality that far more damage was done in numerous demonstrations across the United States in 2020, demonstrations that the same media carefully described as “mostly peaceful” and characterized as noble efforts to end the evil of racial prejudice and discrimination.

The gathering in Washington last Wednesday was mostly peaceful. Even many of the people who followed the wave of criminals into the Capitol largely walked through the halls in an orderly manner, carrying their flags and banners and taking their own pictures to prove they were there. They wanted to express their support of the President and their outrage that the election was stolen. They wanted to remind the Democratic party and the mainstream media that millions of American citizens still believe in the positions held by President Trump—not racist positions, not white supremacist positions, not anti-freedom positions, but genuine patriotism for the United States and a genuine desire to provide a better life for all its citizens.

The election results are certified; they cannot be changed. Investigations should continue. People who witnessed fraud must report what they saw. People who confessed to fraud must be interviewed to gain the whole story of what happened—whose orders were they following? Physical evidence of election results needs to be preserved and examined. For the good of the United States and all its citizens, we need to know what happened, who is at fault, and how repetition of this fraud can be prevented. That really futile and stupid gesture could result in reduction of our freedom as Americans. Members of the government might seek to establish limitations on the right of the people to assemble peacefully, to say and to write what they believe, and to address their concerns to the government. The chorus of voices insisting that November’s election was legal and fair—the least corrupt election in history—must not be allowed to drown out genuine dissent. Defending truth and freedom should not be equated with rioting, insurrection, violence, and other crimes. If that happens, the America we know and love might indeed be finished. J.

Reducing election fraud

The current delay in counting votes in this week’s election has many Americans wishing for a better way. Surely the process can be improved to guarantee that every vote counts but that fraud and deceit are prevented.

When the Constitution was written, a system of checks and balances was established to limit governmental power. One of those checks and balances is called “federalism”: some aspects of our government are centralized (military, foreign affairs, printing money) but many are divided among smaller jurisdictions—states, counties, and municipalities. Local leaders often make better decisions than can be made by a central government. Methods of voting have always been determined on a local level rather than by the national government.

The growth of national government in replacing local decision-making is one of the important tensions in American history. Many concerns that were once local now have national guidance, including police protection, highways, and public education. According to an old political adage, once you allow a camel to stick its nose into the tent, the rest of the camel is sure to follow. For this reason, wiser minds prefer not to allow federal guidelines and regulations to control voting throughout the United States.

If not for that caveat, though, some guidelines might be in order. Namely:

  • Ballots should only be mailed to voters who request ballots by mail; no government should mail ballots to all registered voters.
  • A clear and reliable method of identifying voters should be in place to reduce election fraud through identity theft.
  • While votes should be counted only on election day, those who oversee the vote should be allowed and encouraged to process early votes and mail-in votes to speed the counting of those votes on election day.
  • Poll watchers from both political parties—as well as watchers not affiliated with either party—should be present whenever ballots are processed and counted, and they should be well-trained to observe, to document any inappropriate activities, and to report such inappropriate activities to the proper authorities.

Elections will continue to be close and will continue to evoke strong emotions in many people. Cheaters are still going to find ways to cheat. While the judicial branch has historically removed itself from the electoral process (another check and balance from the Constitution), inevitably judges will need to decide cases where cheating appears to have happened. A more uniform way of conducting elections might reduce opportunities for election fraud. J.