The recount road to nowhere

This is classic conspiracy logic: the absence of evidence is evidence of just how insidious it is. The failure of an event to turn out as expected is presented as evidence of some hidden hand at work, some deliberate interference. But did something go wrong in 2012, when Obama beat the polls’ expectations? Polls differ from one another; that is why candidates campaign in small towns in swing states, or why they should. It has been widely noted that Clinton did not visit Wisconsin in the general election. The results may have been “surprising,” but they are not mysterious. There were other late factors that may not have been accounted for in the polls: the F.B.I.’s ill-timed announcement about the Clinton e-mail investigation; the revelations about the Clinton Foundation in those hacked Podesta e-mails; and the decision of the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, to campaign openly for Trump, and not just for House candidates, as he had done earlier. Similarly, the Republican National Committee’s data operation—which, despite all the stories about Trump’s supposed isolation, was fully deployed in his favor—seems to have done a pretty good job figuring out where to send him in the final days, and the candidate, hungry for crowds, went. Trump, when self-mythologizing about his win, talks about a final rally he added, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which ended in the early-morning hours of Election Day itself. (“This doesn’t feel like second place.”) He may be right about that. Demographics are essential, but the practice of politics matters, too. One doesn’t want to pile on to Clinton; she has suffered a devastating loss at the hands of an unworthy man. Ultimately, though, a failure to face up to the flaws in her campaign is leading to some dark places, full of the plotting of foreign agents. And in many states, anyway, the difference between the polls and the final results was within the margin of error: this is why, days before the election, Nate Silver gave Trump close to a one-in-three chance of winning. And, as the Obama Administration confirmed this weekend, there is no sign of interference in the balloting. The Administration said in a statement, “We stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people.”