That Donald Trump bothered to challenge the official outcome of the November 2020 election was an annoyance to a number of congressional Republicans, representatives and senators alike. Remarks issued on Jan. 6 by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as the Senate was about to confirm the election of Joe Biden reflect these views:

We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids. …We’ll either hasten down a poisonous path where only the winners of an election actually accept the results or show we can still muster the patriotic courage that our forebears showed, not only in victory, but in defeat.

Likewise, Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), and Pat Toomey (Pa.) all believed that bickering over or questioning the contest’s results would lead to a situation in which Americans would no longer trust their elections. Although those Republicans who accepted the results conceded Trump’s right to appeal his loss, they were also obviously relieved that the ensuing judicial challenges did not reverse the election outcome.

Such warnings against questioning elections are dubious for several reasons.

First, Democrats heatedly contested the 2016 presidential election, a race that they clearly lost. They took similar action when George W. Bush won his presidential races in 2000 and 2004. Why would McConnell and like-minded fixtures of the Republican Party believe that Democrats would hasten to concede out of a sense of “patriotic courage” if they lost in the future? If McConnell is afraid that an environment of distrust may lead to what he labeled a “death spiral,” ending the orderly transition of government, why would the refusal of Republicans to challenge election outcomes mean the Democrats would imitate their example? One is reminded here of German political theorist Carl Schmitt’s observation that the enemy will recognize you, even if you prefer not to recognize your enemy.

Second, there were numerous irregularities and questionable practices that accompanied the November election. It may therefore be unseemly for the declared losers to exhort their partisans to “muster the patriotic courage” to accept their defeat. The observed irregularities range from loads of ballots showing up at odd hours in certain urban, heavily Democratic areas—where they were counted without the proper supervision by the other party—to the arbitrary, unconstitutional suspension of customary voting practices by Democratic governors and secretaries of state. This is not even to mention the use of vote harvesting and allowing those who showed up at polls without identification to vote anyway.

A convenient excuse for permitting rules to be bent was the COVID pandemic, which supposedly would have kept (presumably Democratic) voters from casting their ballots. Then there were the actions of the Silicon Valley technology giants, which willfully canceled those on electronic media who made negative comments about the Democrats in the weeks before the election. At the same time, meetings took place involving large corporations, the tech giants, the Chamber of Commerce, and Black Lives Matter representatives, the announced purpose of which was to ensure the defeat of Donald Trump.

As Patrick Basham underscores in his article for this issue, “Biden’s Inexplicable Victory,” nothing about the outcome of last November’s election looked quite right. From Trump winning easily in bellwether districts, to his acquisition of a larger share of minority votes than those that have fallen to other Republican presidential contenders, evidence suggests that Trump should have beaten Biden hands down.

But the vote tallies turned out differently based on the sudden appearance of those middle-of-the-night ballots at certain urban precincts. Many of those ballots had votes marked for Biden but not for candidates in down-ballot elections. It was these mysterious votes that swung the race in state after state, where Trump had been winning earlier. The subsequent decision by the winning side to treat those who contested the outcome as right-wing extremists or terrorists was obviously an attempt to suspend further wrangling over what was an unusual election.

Third, there is no justification for imagining that what we saw in the presidential race will represent anything but a new normal in American elections. The Democrats going forward will invoke one crisis after another, each of which will require special election procedures. They will then fashion their own ad hoc rules for casting and counting ballots, while McConnell and his followers will urge the faithful to accept the numbers submitted with “patriotic courage.”

The Democrats were hoping to make such tricks unnecessary by passing H.R. 1, which would have nationalized elections and prohibited voter identification not passed, Democratic operatives and politicians can nonetheless use their present advantages, including media assistance and an alliance with the Deep State and secret services, to help turn future races in their favor.

Losing graciously is not what Republican leaders should be focusing on. Rather they must learn to deal with a situation in which the Democrats can cheat at will.

Yet perhaps these Republican politicians were not quite as happy with the legality of the election as they claimed. It is comical to hear the same politicians who stressed the legitimacy of the November election now demanding tighter voting laws in certain states. If the election last year was as fair as these Republicans tell us it was, why should they be calling for electoral reform in states that Trump lost? Perhaps they were just relieved to be free of their verbally unpredictable standardbearer, or trying to gain access to Biden as soon as he became the declared winner. In any case one wonders why those who scorned the election protesters then, now contest the very electoral practices that elicited those protests. This looks like a classic case of having one’s cake and trying to eat it at the same time.

Please be assured that the left will continue in its efforts to produce a one-party dictatorship with a fully manipulable electorate. Keeping the southern border open for future Democratic voters, making the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico into states, and passing H.R. 1 are all measures that the Democrats have devised to achieve their ends.

The Republicans, being Republicans, will do what it takes to stay in the game, if only because their careers require that they survive. Thus, they chastise those who continue to dispute last November’s election, while Republican senators confirm any woke zealot whom the Democratic administration chooses to place in its cabinet. The GOP also tries to excite its base by scolding the Democrats as “socialists,” an accusation that the party has mechanically leveled in every election since running against Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s.

Rather than hastening to concede dubious electoral outcomes, those who wish to stand in the left’s way should ask whether our broken electoral system can be fixed. What exactly can be done to prevent the other side from repeating and even perfecting what it pulled off last year?

Since we have raised the question, without trying to impose a foregone conclusion about whether the presidential election was stolen, it might be relevant to call attention to what Joseph Biden’s victory last year meant. It has had far-reaching consequences, the extent of which we have still not entirely experienced. Biden has run (or allowed others to run for him) a disastrous presidency, and among its ominous results have been a deliberately uncontrolled southern border, the flooding of our military and public education with antiwhite and LGBT indoctrination, increased inflation, and massive spending bills aimed at accommodating Democratic constituencies. Our cognitively failing chief executive has also presided over a truly catastrophic withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, while leaving Americans and their allies at the mercy of Taliban terrorists.

The debacle in Afghanistan, the manifestly incompetent cabinet officials who along with Biden contributed to making that happen, and the transparent unfitness of this administration to govern this country are all the sequelae of last year’s election. Thus, it may be shortsighted to pretend that the 2020 election belongs entirely to the past. To the extent that election was full of glaring irregularities, we have every reason to be concerned with what transpired then.

The nonchalance with which Republican leaders accepted the 2020 results make me think of a conversation at which I was present in Richard Nixon’s Saddle River, New Jersey, apartment in October 1992. The former president asked his dinner company: “What is politics?” Whereupon National Review editor John O’Sullivan responded by giving an account of how he had written campaign speeches in British elections for Margaret Thatcher. O’Sullivan described how he came up with new themes for each election and then incorporated them into catchy speeches for his patroness. Whereupon President Nixon looked at John almost quizzically and said in unmistakable earnest: “I mean real politics.”

For the former president, politics involved an existential contest in which the loser lost big-time. But his respondent understood the same term as a more conventional pursuit, perhaps punctuated by strategy sessions of the kind that Mitch McConnell or Republican electoral strategist and pollster Frank Luntz could organize for those who were playing the game. This may be what distinguishes the Democrats from their usually minimalist opposition. One side seeks power; the other only campaigns.