This latest Republican election conspiracy theory is out of control

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If you’re looking for an object lesson in yet another difference between Republicans and Democrats, check out New Jersey and Virginia. Both states hosted recent gubernatorial races. Both races were close. In New Jersey, the Democratic Governor Phil Murphy won re-election. In Virginia, the Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin won. The difference? The transfer of power from the Democrat to the Republican in Virginia was peaceful, cordial, civilised and thoughtful. In New Jersey the post-election atmosphere remains hostile, peevish, angry, sulky and accusatory.

Even though it’s clear he’s been defeated, the New Jersey Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli (as I write this) has yet to concede. He’s proving himself to be what most Republicans are: small-minded, paranoid and fractious.

Monday was the last day for mail-in ballots in New Jersey. There are tens of thousands of provisional ballots remaining to be counted. The victorious Murphy campaign estimates there could be 57,400 provisional ballots, while the defeated Ciattarelli team insists there could be 70,000 provisional ballots. Does he really believe all of those uncounted ballots could be for him?

Whichever it is, Ciattarelli lost. His ungracious refusal to accept this obvious fact exposes an aspect to the Republican psyche that is characteristically immature. One saving grace is the Democrat was also the incumbent. At least he doesn’t have to come and physically throw Ciattarelli out of the building.

Back in Virginia, in the runup to the election the Republican echo chamber was full of lies about how Democrats were going to steal the election. The narrative was that the only way Republicans could win was by a huge margin. Donald Trump warned that because of the “margin of fraud in Virginia” the Republican victory would need to be overwhelming. Well, it wasn’t.

In fact the election was very close, 50.7% to 48.5% (not including other candidates), and if fraud had been at play on the scale the Republicans are alleging it should have been easy indeed for Democrats to sneak in the necessary votes for a victory — had they been cheating. They could have done what Trump wanted Georgia to do, “find” the necessary votes. They didn’t, because they weren’t cheating, never tried to and probably couldn’t if they wanted to.

Prior to the election Steve Bannon, who is still flouting the law by refusing to answer a Congressional subpoena, was telling his followers that Democrats were going to steal the Virginia election. Fox News gadfly Tucker Carlson was darkly hinting the same. So was former Speaker-of-the-House Newt Gingrich. Everybody was preparing for a just-in-case Democratic win. When it didn’t happen they gathered up their tin hats, their red-faced, red-hatted, red-baiting stifled outrages and tucked them back in their post-election closet with Hunter Biden, Hillary’s emails and the hordes of “illegals” storming the border.

Also, when one contemplates the 2020 election, it’s easy to forget that we in fact also lost part of that one, too. Our 2018 margin of victory shrank. The 2020 Democratic majority in the House is smaller than the 2018 majority. Had we been “stealing” the election would that have happened? Why is it, then, if we could cheat the presidential results we didn’t do the same for Democratic House members? Why didn’t we cheat our way to a more decisive Senate win?

Like all conspiracy theories that require the Monolithic Foe to be at once all-powerful and oddly incompetent, this one doesn’t stand the test of careful scrutiny either. That’s why conspiracy theories are full of the sound and fury of loud slogans, and not the calm and reasoned examination all such matters require for the truth to emerge.

So at least one important narrative in the Virginia election is being widely missed. In a way the Virginia gubernatorial election was a triumph of the American system. The peaceful transition of power is perhaps the most important Constitutional principle that America has gifted to the world. Like all things beautiful about the American experiment, the Republicans of today are trying to destroy that too. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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