Analysis | The candidate who curiously outperformed the bellwether counties? Trump. – The Washington Post

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It is definitionally true that any claim by former president Donald Trump of suspicious voting in the 2020 election is dubious. That’s in part because there’s no credible evidence of any suspicious ballots being cast in that race. It is also in part because Trump’s most self-serving assertions should always be considered with skepticism.

So when Trump last week produced a lengthy document that purported to outline evidence of fraudulent or questionable votes in that contest, one could be forgiven for treating it as unserious. It was mostly a rehash of things that had been adjudicated many times before, things that Trump was treating as unresolved not because they weren’t resolved but because he didn’t like the resolution. It included a number of things you’ve probably heard about before, from suspicious voting machines to the nonsense of “2000 Mules.”

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I raise this now because of a new article by Michael Anton at Compact, titled, “The Regime’s Failing Jan. 6 Lie.” In case it’s not obvious from the title, the focus is on undercutting the idea that the investigation into the riot at the Capitol is well-founded and appropriate in scope.

As part of his argument, Anton echoes Trump. In short: Maybe the riot happened because super-suspicious stuff happened! For example:

“How plausible is it, really, that Joe Biden got 10 million more votes than Barack Obama? That Trump became the first incumbent since the 19th century to gain votes (8.4 million) and still lose his reelection bid? The first to win all the bellwether states and 18 of 19 bellwether counties and still lose? The first to gain House seats (14) and still lose? The first to see his primary vote exceed 75 percent (he got 94 percent) and still lose?”

“To all of these and many other questions and doubts, the ruling class has but one response: Shut up, white supremacist.”

Well, I don’t think I can speak for the ruling class, but I can offer a more fulfilling response to those questions and doubts: All have been answered, multiple times, in a completely satisfying way.

How did Trump gain votes? Because turnout was low in 2016, a contest between two unpopular candidates. How did Joe Biden outperform Barack Obama in 2008? In part because the population grew by nearly 10 percent and in part because Trump spurred millions of people to come out and vote against him. How’d Trump do so well in the primaries? Because his party often locked out other candidates. How did Republicans gain seats even as Trump lost? Because lots of people simply voted against Trump and not other Democrats — and lots of Republicans voted for Republican House candidates but not Trump.

None of this is that confusing once you remember that Trump was a deeply polarizing president, by his own doing.

But now we come the most ridiculous — and one of the oldest — purported examples of Trump’s having been robbed in 2020, that assertion about “bellwether counties.” Trump included it in his recent 12-page document: “Eighteen of the 19 counties who consistently vote for the winning candidate voted for me, yet we’re supposed to believe that Joe Biden won the Election?”

Yes, we are, since that metric is incredibly dumb.

What we’re talking about here is 19 counties in a number of states — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin — that since 1980 voted with the ultimate winner of the election each time. In 2020, though, they mostly voted for Trump, despite Trump losing. The sole exception, circled below, was Clallam County, Wash.

You’ll notice, though, that this is fairly arbitrary. Why since 1980? What’s the significance of that 10-election period in particular? Why are these counties supposed to be significant beyond that they happen to have fit this pattern?

But that’s sort of beside the point. The point, instead, is that if it is suspicious that these counties should fail to match the election results, the contest we should be worried about isn’t 2020. It’s 2016 — the election that first brought Trump to power.

After all, in that election (and, of course, in 2000), more voters preferred the Democrat to the Republican. That these “bellwether” counties happened to vote for the candidate who won only because of the vagaries of the electoral college doesn’t seem particularly important in that light. It’s a fluke.

If we ignore this definition of “bellwether” in favor of looking at counties that consistently voted with the popular vote in each election since 1980, we see that there were six jurisdictions that met that definition. In each, Biden won in 2020. The bellwethers held.

We could also simply update our list of bellwether counties to reflect the new results. There are three counties that voted with the eventual winner for each of the past 10 elections, including Clallam County. The others are Winnebago County, Ill., and Pike County, Miss. If those three counties end up voting against the winner of the 2024 election, it does not mean that that winner had somehow cheated. It means, instead, that the constitution of the term “bellwether” had again shifted.

Again, this is all trivial to determine. These are not mysteries that elites demand remain unanswered because they are too frightening. They’re puerile claims offered by the incurious, by people who are more interested in seeming like bold truthtellers than in actually telling the truth.


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