Michael Pakaluk: For the integrity of future elections, we must ruthlessly follow evidence for all claims of election irregularities, and – until then – withhold judgment.
My goal here is to say some words to readers who are disturbed by the election, but to do so starting from non-partisan, Catholic premises solely. I want what I say to be embraceable by all Catholics with sound criteria.
As regards the election: It is important for all of us to give at least minimal acknowledgment of the fact that, legally, it is not over. I am insisting on this, not as a matter of wishful thinking or, worse, resentment, but from a concern over mere citizenship.
The election ends, when Congress in joint session counts the electoral votes and declares the results, on January 6, 2021. That is the law. Prior to this, there are two important deadlines, December 14th, when the state electors vote, and December 8th, the so-called “Safe Harbor” deadline, after which, if states follow procedures for contested elections, the vote tabulations can no longer be contested.
Why is it important to insist on this? Because that is our constitutional procedure. It is the procedure by which the valuable role of the Electoral College, which the Founders deliberately put in place, is honored. Obviously, too, the procedure honors the rule of law and the authority of Congress.
And importantly these days, it puts the media in their place. The media do not “call” the election, as if they were first-base umpires, and what they say has the force of law. They make projections and predictions. That’s all. On this point, even they, in their official language at least, remain cautious and correct: “AP projects” or “FOX news predicts.”
Yes, I understand that back in the good old days votes were tabulated on Election Day and the American public liked to go to bed knowing who won. The media’s predictions played a valuable role then. I understand statistics, and the force of necessity that large numbers can carry with them. I understand, too, that we’d all like the election to be settled, and that deliberately leaving its results open can have the appearance of mischievously not accepting the election.
It’s presumably for this last reason that Archbishop Gomez on behalf of the USCCB last Friday issued a statement, which appeared precipitous to some, saying that “The American people have spoken” and “we recognize that Joseph R. Biden, Jr., has received enough votes to be elected the 46th President.”
But these are not the good old days. Millions of votes were not counted and could not be counted by Election Night. COVID precautions affected almost everything about the election.
Moreover, the conditions for fraud were rife. I do not mean merely the increased opportunities this year for votes from the dead, double counting, and vote harvesting. I mean also the active presence of a frenzied, at times seemingly demonic animus that many felt for defeating Trump. There are people who act on such animus, yes.
Forensic accountants in financial matters speak of the “Fraud Triangle”: opportunity, incentive, and rationalization. You ignore this cluster at your peril. When all three converge, a reasonable person is on the lookout for fraud. The first two, as mentioned, seem satisfied for this election. What about the third? There are plenty of rationalizations at hand: “Trump won in 2016 by a fluke or a conspiracy, so he must be stopped from doing that again;” “Biden will win by a landslide anyway, so this intervention changes nothing;” “Biden should win by a landslide, so this intervention makes things come out the way they should;” “Whatever it takes to defeat a racist, fascist, xenophobe is warranted;” “Trump has been trying to block votes from being counted, and this will merely equalize his efforts.” And so on.
Maybe you haven’t noticed that the elites just spent four years trying to prove that Trump’s last election was illegitimate, and four months pounding in your ear and mine that Biden would win by a landslide.
Then there seems to be enough suggestive evidence, both statistical and concrete, at least to warrant some investigation. But we know that the mainstream media have no inclination to pursue even legitimate concerns, but will rather suppress them (think: Steele Dossier, Hunter Biden/Tony Bobulinski). Their instinct is actually to censor them. Even to raise these concerns, they think, is mischievously to call into question a legitimate election.
Because they suppress them, concern for fraud will find an outlet in sources outside the liberal mainstream, like LifeSite News and The Epoch Times, which then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – additional evidence that only crazed conspiracy theorists can doubt the vote totals.
And yet we live in a culture where, to a reasonable person, the shunned child on the margins saying the emperor has no clothes might just possibly be right. This is the same MSM, recall, that will not follow up concerns that abortion is killing an unborn child, and will never cast doubts on whether someone’s thinking that he is a woman, or she a man, makes it so. Let’s just say that, on the big issues, it’s demonstrable that truth is not their forte.
Laws and procedures exist for the good reason that they are, at times, indispensable. Now seems such a time. Let’s rely on them, then, and say: The media does not “call” elections, and the people have not spoken until their Electors and Representatives have. Reasonable persons with sound criteria have a good reason to be at least wary about the vote tabulation so far, while major players in our society seem so unconcerned with truth, and so invested in a partisan political result, that they can have no claim to a general trust in their fairness and judgments.
Therefore, the best path forward for this election, and for the perceived integrity of future elections, is to follow out the evidence ruthlessly for all claims of election irregularities, and correct them if discovered – until then, withholding final judgment.
Michael Pakaluk, an Aristotle scholar and Ordinarius of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, is a professor in the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America. He lives in Hyattsville, MD with his wife Catherine, also a professor at the Busch School, and their eight children. His latest book, on the Gospel of Mark, The Memoirs of St Peter. His next book, Mary’s Voice in the Gospel of John, is forthcoming from Regnery Gateway.
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