It’s safe to say that the 2016 presidential election was the most shocking in recent history. Donald Trump’s victory not only disproved most pollsters, it also debunked two popular political myths on both sides of the aisle.
On the left, it debunked the myth that money buys elections. On the right, it debunked the myth of voter fraud. Now that the dust has settled, let’s lay these lies to rest.
Progressives have been peddling the myth that money buys elections for decades. However, this myth has gone into hyperdrive after the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that protected corporations’ political speech rights.
It’s historically ironic that the left would be so upset about millionaires and billionaires supporting political causes. After all, the wealthy aren’t all right-wingers. In 1968, a small group of wealthy anti-war liberals funded the campaign of Sen. Eugene McCarthy, the only vocal opponent of the Vietnam War in the race at the time. Had the progressive dream of strict campaign finance restrictions been in place at the time, McCarthy’s candidacy and the Vietnam issue would have been wiped from the election.
Nonetheless, the 2016 presidential election will hopefully be the nail in the coffin for this popular myth. Hillary Clinton outspent Donald Trump nearly two-to-one. Team Clinton spent a whopping $1.2 billion compared to Team Trump’s $600 million.
The simple truth is that money is not the same as votes. Certainly, money can have an influence on the visibility and perception of certain candidates. But, if it could directly buy elections, than we’d all be saying “Madam President” next month, which did not happen.
The right is not much better, however, at least with the myth of voter fraud. For years, Republican activists have been pushing the idea that Democratic operatives swing elections by registering dead people and illegal immigrants to vote. Trump himself seemed to peddle this myth during the election, constantly calling the political system “rigged” before his victory.
No major study has shown voter fraud to be a rampant problem. Many intensive searches for voter fraud have been conducted with little results. This past election, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory refused to concede defeat in the gubernatorial election for nearly a month because of Republican Party claims of fraud via absentee ballots. But, the many legal challenges that were filed went nowhere.
The GOP’s resounding win in the presidential election proves that the Grand Old Party still has a lot of life in it and isn’t easily cheated. Hopefully the myth of voter fraud will die soon enough so parties can engage in some necessary self-reflection after defeats instead of accusing the other side of cheating.
However, that may be too much to hope for, as Democrats seem to now be taking up the voter fraud myth. One recent YouGov poll found that 52 percent of Democrats believe that Russia probably or definitely tampered with voter rolls to get Trump elected.
Perhaps the ultimate result of the 2016 election won’t be the death of these two myths, but rather their political realignment. But let’s hope for the sake of sanity that they die instead.