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The Media Gave Me Cognitive Dissonance About This Election. Now I'm Undecided on the Results

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

In the weeks leading up to Election Day, I remember vacillating between two contradictory positions. I would see the polls and listen to legacy media figures and conclude, “It’s over, Joe Biden will win. There’s no hope.” Then I would look at the massive crowds at President Donald Trump’s rallies, consider his policies, and think of current events, and conclude, “There’s no way in hell Joe Biden wins.” I never quite expected a Trump landslide, but even that didn’t seem impossible.

The legacy media bias was so misleading, I justified overconfidence, overcompensating for the fact that that truth was being obscured.

On election night, I was excited to see Trump’s lead in Florida. I knew he would perform better with Latinos there — Cubans, Venezuelans, Colombians, refugees from countries that had experienced socialism. I thought Trump’s win in Florida nearly guaranteed a win overall because Florida often is a bellwether state in presidential elections.

As the night went on, I grew more and more confident. Trump was ahead in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. He could afford to lose Arizona and he would still win.

But then Biden came out and predicted victory through mail-in ballots, and Trump responded by suggesting the Democrats would try to steal the election.

I descended into cognitive dissonance once more. I understand candidates want to claim victory, but Biden’s remarks fed into the paranoia of Trump’s remarks. Once again, it seemed plausible both that Biden could win through mail-in ballots and that the Democrats might be pulling shenanigans to steal the election.

I want to believe in the electoral system. I think it is important for both sides to accept the outcome of a fair election. On the Right, we joke about Democrats getting dead people to vote for them, and every now and then it has happened that someone votes twice using a dead person’s name as an alias. More rationally, we fear that illegal immigrants will vote — after all, doesn’t the Left want people to vote regardless of whether or not they have legal id?

On the Left, they fearmonger about Republicans trying to suppress the vote by requiring id at the polls, as if policemen didn’t require drivers to carry licenses or as if bars did not check your id before you go in for a drink.

There are problems with mail-in voting, especially when a state is not prepared to deal with the results. Election margins are often razor-thin, and the postal service accepts a degree of error that might swing an election — even if unscrupulous ballot harvesters did not exist (and they do).

Some degree of paranoia may be warranted, but I still found it extremely distasteful when Trump came out and challenged the election results.

As of Wednesday night, the presidential election is still very much in the air. Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania is slipping. Many media outlets have called Michigan and Wisconsin for Biden, but Trump is challenging those results. Some have called Arizona, but the Trump campaign claims more votes coming in will give him victory.

Once again, both sides are saying the exact opposite thing about the election, and I find both arguments plausible. Joe Biden will be president. Oh wait, Donald Trump will win reelection. The cognitive dissonance is just too much.

I thoroughly want Donald Trump to win reelection, and am terrified of what Joe Biden would do as president. Biden would reverse Trump’s policies defending the lives of unborn babies, protecting religious freedom, defending America’s sovereignty, and securing historic Middle East peace deals. Biden may get to appoint justices to the Supreme Court — and he has pledged that they would not be originalists.

Sure, there will always be another election. But the incursion of Marxist critical theory, transgender insanity, and more into America’s institutions needs to be countered, and Trump has been countering it while Biden will supercharge it.

America survived eight years of Obama, and we will survive eight years of Biden, and we should trust the system. But both sides are so polarized, not to mention terrified and distrustful of the other side, that it seems unsettlingly plausible that either side would pull a stunt to win the election.

I do not intend to accuse the president or the Trump campaign of foul play, but the rush to blame the system is unsettling to me. I fear that if Trump eventually loses, he will never concede and he will run again in 2024. That prospect seems rather tiring to me — and it seems much of America is fatigued after four years of this president, wonderful though his policies have been.

The 2020 election was far closer than most polls and partisans predicted. The results are messy, no matter who wins. Transparency about the process is extremely important. It is extremely important that Americans can listen to one another, accept the results of the election, and move on to handle the tremendous problems at hand.

Yet it seems we’re going to be bickering about this election for weeks going forward, and I’m afraid we conservatives are going to be sore about it for the next four years. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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