Saturday, November 25, 2023
A recent column observed disconcertingly that election denial appears to have been a successful strategy for Donald Trump. But how exactly? Larry Kudlow, his former White House economic adviser, points out that many voters like Trump policies, which is true. How does “stop the steal” advance their cause? One might also ask how and why collusion continues to work for Democrats. Both began as a set of claims but became something else, a litany, an article of devotion, a thematic glue to hold together a standard stump speech.
My inbox is as revealing about collusion as it is about stop the steal, with some Democrats clinging to whatever they heard first, including the legend of the Moscow hotel room, long since debunked by the U.S. Justice Department. The harder-working insist, “Didn’t Trump do business with Russia, didn’t Russian lobbyist Natalia Veselnitskaya gain entry to a Trump Tower meeting by promising ‘dirt’ on Hillary, didn’t Mike Flynn share confidences with the Russian ambassador, didn’t a report by Senate Democrats claim without citing any source that an ex-Manafort consulting partner was a Russian intelligence officer?”
The same is true on the GOP side. They point to isolated cases of vote fraud, inevitable in any election. They point to states and localities changing their election laws in questionable ways, to dishonesties about the Hunter Biden laptop, though neither amounts to vote fraud.
One difference: Collusion enlisted a broad, voluntary effort by the establishment, including the news media. Mr. Trump, who mostly prosecuted stop the steal from his own mouth, didn’t fabricate evidence, as the Hillary Clinton campaign did, since evidence was largely beside the point for his purposes.
His behavior was bad but included nothing like the organized malfeasance of CIA veterans lying to the public about the laptop, or the FBI protectively putting a collusion fabricator on its own payroll while knowingly trafficking in the false Steele dossier. Vladimir Putin knows the truth about the secret “Russian intelligence” that justified the FBI’s improper actions in the Hillary email case. The American people don’t. A government report on the episode remains classified, a high official emphatically tells me, because it’s “embarrassing.”
As even the Justice Department special counsel takes pains to point out, Mr. Trump’s colorful lying about 2020 was perfectly legal in itself. Democrats can be expected to cling to Jan. 6 as a precious heirloom, but whatever else that day was, it was also a mishap. Organized malcontents with genuinely insurrectionist motives were present but Democrats should look at some of the people who show up at their own events. Crowd control by the Capitol Police was the pivotal failure, without which a great deal would be different today.
Holman Jenkins. As usual, all quite true.