Despite Pat Buchanan’s record as a Trump-supporter sans pareil, his most recent column, on why Trump’s challenges to the Biden victory are both futile and possibly harmful, is profoundly unsettling. It is also based on questionable assumptions.
“It seems a certainty that not enough electoral votes could be flipped from Biden to Trump to overturn’s Joe Biden’s electoral vote victory,” Buchanan declares. Even more ominously, Buchanan suggests that Trump is dragging out his legal challenges when his party should be turning to more urgent matters. While Republicans are “devoting time and resources to the ballot count in battleground states,” Buchanan argues, “a last crucial battle is shaping up in Georgia, where the stakes are second only to the presidency.” Presumably, the longer Trump focuses on himself, haggling over votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and other states that he in all probability lost, the harder it will be to marshal Republican forces for Georgia’s critical senatorial runoff races in early January, precluding the possibility of reining in a leftist administration.
Although Trump may have gone overboard in his rhetoric about a “corrupt election” that had been stolen from him, the more important question is whether he should be pursuing legal challenges to Biden’s apparent victory.
Trump certainly has a legal right to do so, but for Buchanan, the more relevant question is strategic: Are Republicans putting themselves in a good position by engaging in massive litigation for a battle they may well lose? Like Buchanan, I, too, would be surprised if Trump’s lawyers came up with enough disqualified votes to flip the election. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of votes that will have to be thrown out or changed to give Trump an electoral victory. The odds of achieving this may be stacked against the president.
Yet despite the improbability of winning their case, Trump and his lawyers have taken a wise and necessary action. It seems “irregularities” have abounded in this election and unconstitutional acts were committed. One example of this comes from my home state of Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Wolf circumvented the state legislature and induced the Democratic State Supreme Court to permit late mail ballots, including those without legible postmarks. The legal actions of the Trump team against these irregularities will put the opposition on notice.
Such notice is particularly timely, given the nearness of the showdown in Georgia and the need to make sure that Democratic wards in Atlanta and Savannah behave properly in collecting and tallying votes. The present litigation will drive home the message that the counting of ballots going forward will take place with observers from both parties present, something that Democratic wards prevented while validating and counting votes after the presidential election. The court procedures pursued by Trump’s team will make it harder for the Democrats to cheat, even if the Democrats’ media and high-tech lap dogs try to cover for them.
Buchanan also offers a misleading comparison between Richard Nixon’s defeat in the 1960 presidential race and what has just befallen Donald Trump. In 1960 Nixon lost to JFK, partly because of 8,858 votes that the late Richard Daley pulled out of various cemeteries to allow Kennedy to win Illinois and thereby the election. Nixon declined to contest the results in Illinois because he also would have had to flip Texas to win. Presumably for the sake of civil peace, Nixon accepted defeat without a legal challenge.
What makes Buchanan’s comparison misleading is the omission of the changed conditions in the U.S. since 1960. When Kennedy and Nixon ran for the presidency, there were few significant differences between their parties. Democratic court historian Arthur Schlesinger penned a short book in 1960 entitled, Kennedy or Nixon: Does It Make Any Difference?, to prove that the two candidates stood for different things. Supposedly Kennedy had “ideas” while Nixon had only a “method” of governing.
Having read this pamphlet, I’m not sure the stated difference indicates much of a distinction. On social and cultural matters, the two national parties back then were hard to distinguish, although admittedly the Democrats were allied to labor unions and the GOP was not. Further, the Republicans showed a white Protestant sociological profile, outside the almost uniformly Democratic South. Growing up in Connecticut, I recall that Italians were generally Republican because the Irish ran the Democratic machine. But I would be hard pressed to identify any ideological differences between these partisans. Nor do I recall any between my Democratic father and more Republican mother.
The same is obviously not the case in the presidential election we just experienced. The country is deeply and perhaps irrevocably split between groups that are culturally and morally in conflict. In 1960 Richard Nixon could withdraw from the presidential race, knowing that four years later he might run again for the same office in a country that would remain pretty much the same politically. The withdrawal of Donald Trump from the presidential race would have much deeper consequences, particularly if the president-elect grows more senile and is succeeded in power by a far leftist vice president. Kamala Harris has made no secret of her desire to defund the police, and she idolizes Black Lives Matter. She also plans to ban opinions that she doesn’t like as “hate speech” and then seize guns from “bigoted” owners through executive orders. Kamala would spearhead a transformative administration that Donald Trump is still standing in the way of. May he continue to stand there!
Paul Gottfried is editor in chief of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is also the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years, a Guggenheim recipient, and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents.