I’ve never thought that Jill Stein’s recount campaign was likely to over turn the election of Donald Trump. I don’t even think it’s likely to change very many votes unless something really unusual and unexpected is unearthed. That’s possible. Never believe anyone who tells you anything is impossible. But I’m also no naive fool, pinning my hopes on a chance of some kind of miracle. I know the chances of an overturn is slim to none. Indeed, I’m not even a person who would be particularly happy if an overturn due to the recount were to happen. I don’t look forward to the ensuing chaos and conspiracy theories which would abound as society starts to wonder how much we can even trust our entire electoral system.
That said I decided to donate to Jill Stein’s recount campaign. And I’m doing it for three reasons.
First is that I am deeply concerned by the people trying to STOP a recount. I don’t think their attempts necessarily imply shenanigans occurring in the ballot box, but I do think what they are doing is deeply un-democratic. In so far as Jill Stein is using the letter of the law to launch completely lawful recounts and paying for it with real money from her supporters who are all rational adults able to make up their own mind on how they spend their money I don’t understand why anyone would agree that it’s ok to try and undermine that process. The idea that states are jacking up the price and various groups are launching law suits and doing everything else in their power to slow down or otherwise throw a monkey wrench into basic citizen oversight of our elections is disgusting to me.
And I think it sets a really bad precedent. Let’s say you believe that this election was fully above board and nothing went wrong which is what I mostly believe. Whose to say the next election is so clean? How do we know it won’t be the case that there will be more significant compelling evidence of election fraud that demands a recount? And if that happens, how horrible will it be that society has decided that it’s ok to put a million impediments in the way of that necessary recount so that we can’t know what actually happened possibly until it is too late or possibly ever? A lot of people are concerned that Stein’s recount attempt damages the people’s trust in our institutions, in particular our election system. But surely setting this precedent that it is ok to do whatever you want to try and crush such a recount attempt is even more damaging to our democracy. What’s more trust in our institutions is ridiculously low anyway. Maybe having reliable quick effective recounts helps restore some of that trust. But how will that happen if the recounts are blocked and prevented before they can even take place.We should not start to treat recounts as an enemy that needs to be stopped at all costs. Recounts need to be seen as a necessary double check of our democracy. We should have more recounts not less. What’s the rush? Why don’t we try to get the thing right?
Secondly, I’ve heard just one too many elitists smugly declare how much they hate Jill Stein and suggest that she’s running a scam and imply that she’s stealing the money without presenting one shred of evidence. We already know the cost of recounts in Wisconsin alone are nearing on $4 million. We already know with the law suits launched against this effort that it will likely cost more in lawyer fees. If this is a scam for the money then it is a pretty bad one since it looks unlikely she’ll make any from it. And if it’s a scam for something else, influence, mailing lists or whatever I think that requires some degree of evidence. It hardly seems to be such a big gain for her that it’s worth putting yourself out there for a few email addresses. Anyway, they’re suggesting she’s a duplicitous opportunist working only in her own evil cynical political purposes. Well that’s a fine thing to accuse provided you can show it to be true. But they haven’t even been able to present circumstantial evidence let alone anything solid or convincing. They can’t even show she’s benefiting in any tangible way. Nor can they show a pattern of sinister behavior. No, they just have their deep dislike of Jill Stein and their anger at Stein for what they see as her costing Clinton the election to go on. They tend to make a silly argument along the lines of: “well since our analysis shows that it can’t over turn the election, and she must know that, therefore she must be doing it cynically for her own interests”. But that’s not any kind of argument at all. The one doesn’t follow from the other. There are lots of possible reasons she could be doing it besides the ones they posit. She could for example be deep down one of many election reform advocates who truly believes that a huge and deep problem in our democracy is the flawed way in which our elections are run. She could be a person who was convinced of this during the past elections and decided that this time she was going to do something about it. She could actually believe this and believe that by launching recounts she can effect the democracy for the better and help cleanup our deeply flawed system or at least start moving in that direction. She doesn’t have to think the election outcome will change in order to believe that recounts are in fact a good idea.
And neither too do the people supporting her have to be delusional or unaware. The same smug people who decry Stein as an opportunist at the same time talk down to those voting with their money for Stein’s recount treating them as children who don’t know what they are doing. And this pisses me off to no end. What makes you think you’re so much better than them? You, the same smug people who are often the very same people who were also wrong about so very many things leading up to the elections it amazes me that anyone takes them seriously at all about anything. But no we’re supposed to be distrustful of Jill Stein and think of her as the enemy for asking that we actually count the ballots instead of trusting computers that have the potential for error or manipulation.
Some argue that the evidence of Stein’s villainy lies in her choice of three states won by Donald Trump that could go to Clinton. Some even go so far as to claim, again without even a tiny bit of evidence, that Clinton is secretly behind the recounts. But Stein launched their campaign prior to Michigan being called meaning that she could not have known with certainty whether it would go to Trump or Clinton but she was already determined to do a recount there because of what she perceives as problems in the election process in those three states and because of how close the election was there. Now you might not believe those arguments of irregularities are credible or at all interesting, but you should have to show that Jill Stein also believes that those irregularities are not meaningful and can’t make a difference in order to even have an opening to argue that she is in the bag for Clinton. That said were it up to me I would have also done recounts in more states that were close including some that went for Clinton and were close. A cynically politically minded person would have probably done at least one such state just to provide cover for the argument that she’s trying to win it for Clinton. It seems that Stein is either not that savvy or not that cynical and actually believes in what she’s doing.
The last reason I am supporting the recount effort is the simplest of all. I think we deserve to know. I think it’s our right to get as close to as accurate a count as we can possibly get. I think that matters. Yes elections are about winners and losers but they are also about measuring accurately the popular will. It will matter historically if Trump won by 20,000 or 5,000 or 50,000 or 200 votes in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and Michigan. We need to be able to look back and accurately gauge where and how he won and why. If we’re basing that on inaccurate data we should correct that data. That way we reduce the likelihood of us drawing the wrong conclusions about how this came about and why. And it matters to the voters in those states whether their ballot was counted and counted accurately. It would matter to me personally that my vote even though it’s only one vote and won’t make any difference was counted in the right column. That matters to people. It really does.
Also, having this oversight, having this system where a recount is both possible and effective just inherently reduces the likelihood of shenanigans that mess up election outcomes. If you are a person who wants to steal an election which case is more appealing to you, a case where you know for sure that a county won’t count the paper ballots or the case where there’s a chance of a third party candidate or any candidate gets the urge and has enough popular support that the paper ballots might be counted.
If we want to take seriously the idea of making our election work we should take seriously the systems we’ve already put in place to help secure that election like those that trigger recounts. We can and should come up with much better systems too, but if we just mock and attack anyone who attempts to even use the systems we already have I’m not sure how we can ever expect to get anywhere better.