When is it acceptable to question the legitimacy of an American election outcome? The proper answer is “almost never.” Or, more precisely, never do it without overwhelming evidence of fraud or misconduct that’s substantial enough to alter the outcome of the election. The person claiming decisive fraud or vote suppression bears a heavy burden of proof. Any other standard risks contributing to an already-toxic political environment that is leaving all too many voters paranoid and susceptible to believing unverified and inflammatory conspiracy theories.
Applying this standard, it’s past time for Democrats to dial back their rhetoric about the Georgia gubernatorial election. It was reckless for Hillary Clinton to declare that “if [Stacey Abrams] had a fair election, she already would have won.” It was absurd for both Cory Booker and Sherrod Brown to say the election was “stolen.” Indeed, this claim is rapidly becoming conventional wisdom in parts of the Left. In the words of The Nation’s Joan Walsh, they believe the “system was rigged against her.”
Abrams lost her race by more than 54,000 votes. That’s a gap far outside the margin of fraud or suppression. Yet she fed the narrative that there was something fundamentally wrong with the election, asserting in her speech acknowledging the election results that “this is not a speech of concession, because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true, or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that.” Instead, she was ending her race simply because her “assessment is the law currently allows no further viable remedy.”
“Democracy failed Georgia,” she said. She was wrong.