by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
If questioning the results of a presidential election were a crime, as many have asserted in the wake of the controversial 2020 election and its aftermath, nearly the entire Democratic Party and media establishment would have been incarcerated for their rhetoric following the 2016 election. In fact, the last time they accepted the legitimacy of a presidential election they lost was in 1988.
After the 2000 election, which hinged on the results of a recount in Florida, Democrats smeared President George W. Bush as “selected, not elected.” When Bush won re-election against then-Sen. John Kerry in 2004, many on the left claimed that voting machines in Ohio had been rigged to deliver fraudulent votes to Bush. HBO even produced and aired “Hacking Democracy,” a documentary that added fuel to the conspiracy theory fire of conversations about the 2004 results. But nothing holds a candle to what happened in 2016 after Donald Trump’s surprising defeat of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Rather than accept that Trump won and Clinton lost, the political and media establishments desperately sought to explain away Trump’s victory. What they settled on was a destructive conspiracy theory that crippled the government, empowered America’s adversaries, and illegally targeted innocent private citizens whose only crime was not supporting Hillary Clinton.
With baseless claims of hacked voting totals, illegal voter suppression, and extensive media manipulation, the Russian collusion hoax had it all. But more than anything, the belief that Trump stole the 2016 election had the support of the most powerful institutions, individuals, and even government agencies in the country.
“You can run the best campaign, you can even become the nominee, and you can have the election stolen from you,” Clinton told her followers in 2019.
“I know he’s an illegitimate president,” Clinton claimed of Trump a few months later.