A republic is only as strong as its institutions. Much as patriotic Americans may revere the Constitution, it’s merely a document with no life of its own. The Constitution lives — or dies — through the institutions it created and enabled. If those institutions redefine their purposes to suit their own tastes, the document that created them can retire.
America’s institutions — whether public or private — have become a source of deep embarrassment. Not a single important institution in American life can point with pride to its performance in the 21st century.
Silicon Valley has become America’s censor. Wall Street and the banks help big businesses crush their small competitors. Mainstream media spouts sensationalist propaganda and suppresses news. Hollywood kowtows to Chinese Communists and American progressives. Academia promotes segregation and speech codes while opposing due process.
Public health quarantines the healthy, strangles small business and crushes childhood. The judiciary seizes powers never granted to it. Congress holds show hearings, political attacks, and omnibus patronage programs rather than helping the American people. Presidents weaponize the bureaucracy and wage endless wars without clear plans or objectives.
Those are just some of America’s most obviously debased elite institutions. In recent weeks, the Supreme Court has signaled that it will not weigh in on the debacle of the 2020 election. Its narrow, technical justifications ignore the dire straits into which institutional failure has driven the American republic.
Views of the 2020 election are so divergent that compromise is impossible. One view is true, the other false. One will be enshrined as unassailable, the other derided as a conspiracy theory. In a healthy republic, the institutions charged with preserving the republic would take great pains to ensure that the true narrative is the one enshrined. Our institutions either shut down inquiry or refuse to speak. That’s an unsustainable state for a republic.
Somewhere between one-quarter and one-half of all Americans are certain that we held a free and fair election with record turnout. America chose Joe Biden by a comfortable margin. Anyone questioning that result is intentionally undermining faith in America’s institutions.
Somewhere between one-quarter and one-half of all Americans are certain that the election was a sham. Ineligible voters, fraudulent ballots, insufficient verification and validation efforts, secretive tallies and computer hacks all played roles in the farce. The entire effort was rigged to favor a weak, corrupt, careerist much more attuned to elite institutions than to the citizenry.
There is nothing that the Supreme Court — or any other institution — might do to convince many of those Americans that their perceptions of the 2020 election are wrong. But there are things that might convince them that serious people and serious institutions undertook a serious inquiry to ensure that the facts support the results we are about to enshrine.
Instead, what we get is a sleight of hand that fools only those who wish to be fooled. Courts rule that plaintiffs lack standing, that lawsuits were timed poorly or that lawyers were unable to compile complex factual records in a matter of weeks. Even if those rulings were all correct, they say only that illegality and fraud have not been proved as a matter of law — and that the reported results are therefore presumed to be both legal and valid.
That’s enough to head down a slippery slope of flawed logic. If fraud has not been proved to the standards of law, there cannot have been meaningful fraud. If there was no meaningful fraud, the election must have been free and fair. If the election was free and fair, the rules and procedures for conducting it must have been credible. Only an agitator or a conspiracy theorist would question the reported results.
Every step of that reasoning is backwards. Electoral procedures that fail to safeguard and validate ballots lack credibility even if they’re legal. The same is true with tabulation procedures. When election procedures lack credibility, the results they produce must be scrutinized for irregularities and anomalies.
When irregularities appear in the data, they must be understood as errors or stories. If they skew heavily in one direction, they’re almost certainly stories. If those stories remain unexplained, rational observers should conclude that they’re signs of manipulation.
Such considerations are central to understanding the 2020 election. Joe Biden may have won legally while factually losing. That’s news only because of the stakes; any competent lawyer knows that the rulings of American law often diverge from the facts.
To date, no American institution has stood with President Trump, his supporters, and their claims. Without institutional support, he cannot be inaugurated. Joe Biden will become the next president. If Biden’s presidency is little more than a legal fiction, the country over which he presides will have ceased to be a republic.
That’s how republics fall. America deserves to know whether ours will still be standing on January 21.