Even now – after the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president, after the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, after the myriad lawsuit dismissals – Rand Paul can’t bring himself to say that the 2020 election was not, in fact, stolen.
In an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, the Kentucky Republican was asked just that question by George Stephanopoulos. And here’s what he said:
“Well, what I would suggest is – what I would suggest is that if we want greater confidence in our elections, and 75% of Republicans agree with me, is that we do need to look at election integrity and we need to see if we can restore confidence in the elections.”
Well, senator, no.
Here’s why: It is a FACT – based on a total lack of objective evidence and the rejection of lawsuit after lawsuit filed by former President Donald Trump and his legal team – that there was no widespread election fraud in the 2020 race. (Which, by the way, makes it a lot like all the other presidential elections that experts have studied in search of fraud.)
That FACT is not overridden by the opinion of Republican voters who say they don’t have faith in the process. The reason they don’t have faith in the process is that Trump – as well as his enablers like Paul – spent the last three months (and, really, the last four years) telling their supporters that the whole election system was rigged against them. So is it any wonder that so many Republicans – contra objective evidence – believe that the election wasn’t entirely above board? Of course not!
Paul didn’t stop there, though. After Stephanopoulos said that President Joe Biden won a “legitimate, fair election,” the Kentucky senator interrupted to say this:
“I think where you make a mistake in – hey, George. George. George, where you make a mistake is that people coming from the liberal side like you, you immediately say everything’s a lie instead of saying there are two sides to everything.
“Historically what would happen is if said that I thought that there was fraud, you would interview someone else who said there wasn’t. But now you insert yourself in the middle and say that the absolute fact is that everything that I’m saying is a lie.”
This is a classic appeal to both-sider-ism by Paul. His argument goes like this: I can say anything I want and it’s not the job of the media to litigate whether it’s true or not. Instead, there should be another guest on the show who says the opposite of what I am saying – and then the viewers can decide who is right and who is wrong.
Paul is right that journalism, for far too long, worked like this. Person A said something that was wrong – based on the facts. Person B disputed Person A’s claim, pointing to established facts. The moderator said something like “Well, a lot of heated views on this subject. Stay tuned,” or something. And that was it.
Which, candidly, did a disservice to viewers and readers. Because while there are absolutely issues – immigration, abortion, education, health care – where reasonable people disagree and can cite facts to back up their respective arguments, whether or not the 2020 election was stolen is not one of them. The FACTS make clear it was not stolen. And opinions that suggest otherwise are just that: Opinions. And facts ≠ opinions.
What Paul does in his responses to Stephanopoulos’ questions then is to reveal the utter lack of seriousness in his arguments about the 2020 election. A lot of Republicans think the election was stolen? No kidding! And Paul’s false claims about the election should be treated the same as objective facts about the election? Really!
The rottenness of Paul’s argument – and the clear bad faith that serves as its architecture – should be evident to anyone who reads what he said. That it isn’t – and that Paul will just keep repeating it – speaks to the challenges of our current political (and cultural) moment.