More on that 2020 election conspiracy

It’s clear the intent was to influence, not protect, the election.

February 25, 2021

It’s time to dive a bit deeper into that Time Magazine piece on the 2020 election conspiracy.

A couple of weeks ago, we touched briefly on the much-discussed article by Time’s Molly Ball, who shed light on what she describes as “the inside story of the conspiracy to save the 2020 election.” As we noted, the content of Ball’s piece makes it clear that the conspirators’ motivation was to “save” the election, and the country, from a Donald Trump victory.

Yet Ball’s tone makes it clear that she sees the conspirators, including ring-leader Mike Podhorzer (of the AFL-CIO), not as ill-intentioned meddlers trying to sway the election’s outcome, but merely as responsible citizens doing their duty to protect the integrity of the system and ensure an accurate result.

There are many problems with this view, which become apparent when one takes a full accounting of the conspiracy’s many layers and dimensions. In particular, there’s one section of Ball’s story that strongly dispels any claims that the motives here were pure. Be sure to read to the end of this special edition of MORNING SOURCE, where we’ll share and address that smoking-gun passage.

But now, let’s take a closer look at the various ways in which the election conspirators worked to undermine — not enhance — security and voter confidence in the 2020 election.

Changing the voting rules.

We noted this two weeks ago, but it’s worth fleshing out a bit here. In the not-too-distant past, there was a bi-partisan consensus that mail-in voting was especially susceptible to fraud and error.

A commission led by former President Jimmy Carter (a Democrat) and former Secretary of State James Baker III (a Republican) warned Americans of this reality in a 2005 report. As John Lott, Jr., explained last April in the Wall Street Journal:

"‘Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.' That quote isn’t from President Trump, who criticized mail-in voting this week after Wisconsin Democrats tried and failed to change an election at the last minute into an exclusively mail-in affair. It’s the conclusion of the bipartisan 2005 report of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker III."

Despite this (or perhaps because of it), part of the conspirators’ strategy was to greatly expand the practice of voting by mail. Some states, including Nevada, went so far as to adopt universal mail-in balloting — which was an especially reckless move here, as the Silver State has notoriously unclean voter rolls.

Here’s Ball:

“They got states to change voting systems and laws and helped secure hundreds of millions in public and private funding. They fended off voter-suppression lawsuits, recruited armies of poll workers and got millions of people to vote by mail for the first time.

"The institute’s work helped 37 states and D.C. bolster mail voting.”

In other words, all across the country, the conspirators succeeded in convincing states to embrace a system of voting that was well known to be risky — and they did this in the name of “protecting” the election.

Private philanthropists were also recruited to assist in funding the new system of election administration, with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative alone chipping in $300 million, as Ball reports.

All of these efforts received nothing but praise from Ball.

As James Freeman, writing in the Wall Street Journal, summed it up: "Changing the rules of a game right before it’s played normally inspires skepticism, if not cynicism. But a new Time magazine report celebrates a well-funded effort to change voting processes … before the 2020 elections."

Convincing people to take advantage of mail-in voting.

Of course, the implementation of widespread mail-in voting, Ball points out, “wouldn’t be worth much if people didn’t take advantage.”

Which necessitated another front in the conspirators’ battle.

More from Ball:

“Part of the challenge was logistical: each state has different rules for when and how ballots should be requested and returned. The Voter Participation Center, which in a normal year would have supported local groups deploying canvassers door-to-door to get out the vote, instead conducted focus groups in April and May to find out what would get people to vote by mail. In August and September, it sent ballot applications to 15 million people in key states, 4.6 million of whom returned them. In mailings and digital ads, the group urged people not to wait for Election Day.”

The results?

“In the end, nearly half the electorate cast ballots by mail in 2020, practically a revolution in how people vote. About a quarter voted early in person. Only a quarter of voters cast their ballots the traditional way: in person on Election Day.”

Remember that a shift of only about 44,000 votes across three states would have resulted in an Electoral College tie (and thus a likely Trump win).

And get a load of this line that Ball slips into her story:

"It was crucial for voters to understand that despite what Trump was saying, mail-in votes weren’t susceptible to fraud."

Again, that would come as a surprise to Jimmy Carter, James Baker, and just about any honest election observer — at least prior to the Democrats’ rabid politicization of this issue.

Recruiting the big-tech companies to help stamp out “disinformation.”

This is another big one, and another example of rank dishonesty, not only on the part of the conspirators, but Ball, too, for failing to challenge the premise.

Ball writes of the conspirators:

“They successfully pressured social media companies to take a harder line against disinformation and used data-driven strategies to fight viral smears. …

"The solution ... was to pressure platforms to enforce their rules, both by removing content or accounts that spread disinformation and by more aggressively policing it in the first place.”

The biggest of big names were targeted, too:

“In November 2019, Mark Zuckerberg invited nine civil rights leaders to dinner at his home, where they warned him about the danger of the election-related falsehoods that were already spreading unchecked.”

Let’s talk about that “disinformation.”

Here’s Freeman again:

“Ms. Ball makes no mention of the fact that the most consequential use of this censorship tool in 2020 was an abusive blocking of true information. Accurate New York Post reporting on Biden family influence peddling was suppressed by Twitter and other media outlets.”

In other words, by “disinformation,” what Ball and the conspirators really mean is “accurate information that was inconvenient to the Biden campaign.” The consequences of this were enormous, as polling found that nearly 5 percent of Biden voters wouldn’t have voted that way had they been aware of the Hunter Biden scandal — enough to tip the election to Trump.

Jonathan Tobin put it well: “[T]here is something profoundly wrong with a system in which Silicon Valley oligarchs, big business, union bosses and lefty agitators can effectively shut down free discourse and freedom of the press during a presidential election in order to ensure their candidate wins.”

Building the desired expectations about the slow vote-counting process.

One of the consequences of widespread mail-in voting was that huge numbers of votes were going to be counted well after election day. This posed the twin problems of eroding security and undermining voter confidence, as it raised legitimate questions as to whether the ballots indeed had been mailed on time — especially since some states, including Nevada, relaxed postmark-date requirements — and sowed sincere doubts in voters’ minds about the integrity of the vote-counting process.

Naturally, the conspirators embarked on a preemptive campaign that could easily have been dubbed “Nothing to see here.”

Ball explains:

“They executed national public-awareness campaigns that helped Americans understand how the vote count would unfold over days or weeks, preventing Trump’s conspiracy theories and false claims of victory from getting more traction. …

"Protect Democracy’s election task force issued reports and held media briefings with high-profile experts across the political spectrum, resulting in widespread coverage of potential election issues and fact-checking of Trump’s false claims. The organization’s tracking polls found the message was being heard: the percentage of the public that didn’t expect to know the winner on election night gradually rose until by late October, it was over 70%. A majority also believed that a prolonged count wasn’t a sign of problems. …

"The data [Podhorzer] shared with media organizations who would be calling the election was ‘tremendously useful’ to understand what was happening as the votes rolled in, according to a member of a major network’s political unit who spoke with Podhorzer before Election Day."

These were Democrat-aligned groups that were both briefing the media and “educating” the public that a slow-vote count was no reason for concern.

In reality, there are legitimate problems with votes still being counted for many days after an election. Voters had every right to be skeptical of such a system. Yet the conspirators went to great lengths to make sure anyone who raised such concerns was of the minority view, and thus marginalized. Naturally, a dutiful press corps was more than willing to play along.

As Freeman put it:

“[A] hallmark of respected elections is reliably prompt reporting of definitive results. ... Material numbers of ballots outstanding and uncounted after Election Day is a menace to the objectives of certainty, public confidence, and reliability that everyone should want to achieve.” 

Exploiting the Black Lives Matter movement.

One of the conspirators’ more shameful tactics — especially in light of their claims that they were simply trying to protect, rather than influence, the election’s outcome — was to try to harness the energy of the Black Lives Matter protests and channel it toward voter turnout.

We assume we don’t have to tell you which party they figured would stand to benefit.

Again, we’ll let Ball put it in her own words:

"The racial-justice uprising sparked by George Floyd’s killing in May was not primarily a political movement. The organizers who helped lead it wanted to harness its momentum for the election without allowing it to be co-opted by politicians. Many of those organizers were part of Podhorzer’s network, from the activists in battleground states who partnered with the Democracy Defense Coalition to organizations with leading roles in the Movement for Black Lives.

“The best way to ensure people’s voices were heard, they decided, was to protect their ability to vote.”

So Ball would have us believe that these organizers weren’t political or partisan, but at the same time (in the same paragraph!) acknowledges they were part of Podhorzer’s clearly left-wing network? You can’t have it both ways.

Protecting the ability of citizens to cast legal votes is certainly fine, even noble. But we have to wonder … why single out this particular group of voters? Especially when there’s ostensibly no partisan motive?

Enlisting support from the establishment business community.

Ball also documents how the leaders of the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO worked together on this “election-protection” effort.

"Agreeing that their unlikely alliance would be powerful, they began to discuss a joint statement pledging their organizations’ shared commitment to a fair and peaceful election. They chose their words carefully and scheduled the statement’s release for maximum impact.”

Much the way the recruitment of a few nominal Republicans to the cause allowed the conspirators to cast their project as bipartisan, so too did enlisting the support of some national business leaders help further build the illusion of credibility.

Here’s the Federalist’s Joy Pullmann on this facet of the conspiracy:

“The ‘conspiracy’ leaders purposefully reached out to people dressed in Republican clothing, like Chambers of Commerce, to use them to help cloak Biden’s coronation in ‘bipartisan’ colors. These double agents’ mission was to convince Republicans to quietly accept the election results, fear violence from leftists, and to provide internal pressure at key postelection choke points like certification votes in cities and states. It all worked.

“It is certainly no coincidence that from 2020 to 2021, Republicans’ satisfaction with big business plummeted 26 points to 31 percent. The Wall Street Journal says that’s likely due to corporations increasingly choosing to ‘bypass the political process and intervene directly to transform highly contested parts of American life.’ No kidding.”

The tendency of many business associations to undercut their own members’ interests and causes in exchange for acceptance among the “in” crowd is a subject for another day. But suffice it to say that this aspect of the story, while grating, is hardly surprising.

Repelling efforts by Republicans to bring oversight to the vote-counting process.

Morning in Nevada PAC President Adam Laxalt was among those who called out election officials in Clark County for refusing to allow meaningful oversight of the process by which votes were counted.

The problem wasn’t limited to the Silver State — and indeed, it turns out that subverting transparency was all part of the conspirators’ plan.

From Ball:

“It was around 10 p.m. on election night in Detroit when a flurry of texts lit up the phone of Art Reyes III. A busload of Republican election observers had arrived at the TCF Center, where votes were being tallied. They were crowding the vote-counting tables, refusing to wear masks, heckling the mostly Black workers. Reyes, a Flint native who leads We the People Michigan, was expecting this. For months, conservative groups had been sowing suspicion about urban vote fraud. ‘The language was, “They’re going to steal the election; there will be fraud in Detroit,” long before any vote was cast,’ Reyes says.

“He made his way to the arena and sent word to his network. Within 45 minutes, dozens of reinforcements had arrived. As they entered the arena to provide a counterweight to the GOP observers inside, Reyes took down their cell-phone numbers and added them to a massive text chain. Racial-justice activists from Detroit Will Breathe worked alongside suburban women from Fems for Dems and local elected officials. Reyes left at 3 a.m., handing the text chain over to a disability activist.”

Ball talks about “reinforcements” from the left and doesn’t question the legitimacy of their political activism at all. She just assumes their intentions to be benign. Nor does she address the many reports of perfectly legal Republican observers being bullied at vote-counting places across the country.

On the other hand, for all the breathless, unmistakable innuendo, you won’t actually find anything concrete in Ball’s reporting demonstrating that these Republican observers she mentions did anything whatsoever to prevent legal votes from being counted.

So apparently, we’re all supposed to be outraged by the idea of Republicans wanting to ensure there’s oversight and accuracy in the vote-counting process. The horror!

Preparing street protests by left-wing activists.

And just in case the outcome wasn’t what the conspirators desired, they were ready with a backup plan.

“We wanted to be mindful of when was the right time to call for moving masses of people into the street,” said Angela Peoples, director for the Democracy Defense Coalition.

Here’s Ball again:

“As much as they were eager to mount a show of strength, mobilizing immediately could backfire and put people at risk. Protests that devolved into violent clashes would give Trump a pretext to send in federal agents or troops as he had over the summer. And rather than elevate Trump’s complaints by continuing to fight him, the alliance wanted to send the message that the people had spoken. 

“So the word went out: stand down. Protect the Results announced that it would ‘not be activating the entire national mobilization network today, but remains ready to activate if necessary.’ On Twitter, outraged progressives wondered what was going on. Why wasn’t anyone trying to stop Trump’s coup? Where were all the protests?”

So the left was ready to take to the streets if things didn’t go their way. The lack of self-awareness really is stunning, isn’t it?

The motive, exposed.

What’s most obnoxious about all of this may be the incredible chutzpah on display among those who claim they were doing all of this simply to ensure that the genuine results of the election were upheld — rather than to help bring about a particular outcome.

We promised at the outset that we’d wrap up with the proof that this claim is insincere, and so here it is. And as with just about everything that exposes the falsehoods at the heart of Ball’s narrative, it’s right there in her story itself.

Ball notes that the conspiracy’s architect, Podhorzer, started with the premise that the two most likely outcomes of the election were, in Ball’s words, “Trump losing and refusing to concede, and Trump winning the Electoral College (despite losing the popular vote) by corrupting the voting process in key states.” And it’s clear from the story that others involved in the effort began with that same assumption.

Think about that. The conspirators say they set out merely to defend the genuine results of the election, but admit that both of the scenarios they considered plausible involved Joe Biden being the rightful winner.                                                                                 

To them, an accurate election wasn’t a question between Biden winning and Trump winning. It was between Biden winning legitimately, and Trump winning illegitimately. They insist they weren’t trying to sway the election’s outcome, only to ensure the proper result was upheld — but started with the assumption that the proper result was a Biden victory.

Their actual motive could not be more obvious. Yet nowhere in her entire piece does Ball even acknowledge the critical problem that the conspirators’ admitted assumptions present to the credibility of their stated intent.

This, by the way, is what so many people mean when they say they believe the election was rigged. Here we have revealed a powerful network of conspirators working together to weaken election security, censor inconvenient stories on social media, and manipulate the press into parroting their preferred narrative, all while making it painfully obvious that their overarching goal was to aid Biden’s effort and damage Trump’s.

As Pullmann put it, “Trump was treated like he had three heads for complaining the election was ‘rigged.’ … Yet Ball makes exactly these kinds of claims in the Time article, and goes on to substantiate them.”

It’s troubling enough that such a coordinated effort to tamper with our election system would be carried out in our country.

But it’s downright pathetic that any journalist would write, and any reputable magazine would publish, such a fawning story that holds those leading the effort up as heroes — rather than heaping on them the scorn, or at least the skepticism, they so richly deserve.        


“[W]hen they say they suspended election laws and threatened deadly violence to ‘protect democracy,’ what all these people really mean is they worked to rig the election against Trump. They just think you are too stupid to put those two statements together. And they are apparently too narcissistic to hide their masterfully successful plotting.”Joy Pullmann, executive editor of The Federalist, on the 2020 election conspirators reported on by Time Magazine

“Though Time claims the censorship was ‘defending democracy,’ it was actually just the opposite. In a campaign that was represented as a counterattack against Trumpian lies, what the anti-Trump group pulled off was perhaps the biggest lie in modern American political history.” Jonathan Tobin, on social media censorship of coverage of the Hunter Biden scandal