“Trump didn’t believe his election lies,” went a headline at the respectable news and commentary site Slate.com.
I was arrested by this statement of the obvious.
Politics is a strategy game, like war or litigation: The truth gets spoken only if it’s useful. I doubt legions of Democratic elders believed the guff about Donald Trump being a Russian plant. Millions of voters see politics as nonstop mendacity. Even to many nonsupporters, the difference between Mr. Trump and his enemies was the difference between night and night. Mr. Trump once touted his own reliance on “truthful hyperbole.” In the 2020 election and in Joe Biden’s Ukraine entanglement, you could be sure something happened but it wasn’t what Mr. Trump said happened.
In one ironical way I can sympathize with Trump supporters who question how Mr. Biden could have won an election in which he barely participated. The race was one of Trump against Trump, in which Mr. Trump defeated himself by a nose.
After 2016, a deluge of articles and books pointed to Hillary Clinton’s 77,000-vote margin of defeat in three decisive states, blaming, plausibly, James Comey’s late actions or, less plausibly, Russia’s dabblings in Facebook and Twitter . These legends live today and are treated respectfully. The same books could be written about 2020. Mr. Trump’s Electoral College failure was even smaller, 44,000 votes in three states. This legend is not going away either, however much Mr. Trump muddies it with absurd claims. No evidence suggests large-scale vote fraud. The “but for” argument is the one that will endure.
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