The Republican mutiny and 2016 whataboutism

Rothman is correct, I believe, when he says that the effort to hand the election to Trump in 2020 was just as doomed from the start as the effort to block Trump’s path to the White House in 2016. To a large extent, the 2020 election mutiny is theater. When those fake Trump electors showed up at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing and were turned away, they protested verbally in front of the cameras but did not try to force their way in.

This explains the bizarre fact that while the president and a large portion of his political party are going through the motions of an attempted coup, few people seem very worried and life goes on. You might call it an attempted coup simulation.

But to frame panic about the 2020 election-subversion push and lack of panic about supposedly comparable Democratic efforts in 2016 as a case of double standards misses crucial differences.

It’s not only the size, scope, and support for election challenges, but also the reason for them. In 2020, attacks on the election’s validity have come exclusively from Trump supporters, and they are rooted in baseless claims of election fraud. In 2016, the situation was far more complex. Some of those who wanted the election results to be overturned were not Democrats but anti-Trump conservatives or conservative leaners (such as Parker). Some were not even rooting for Clinton to win: another Washington Post op-ed, by Cato Institute fellow Michael Cannon, argued that the best bet for an Electoral College upset was to get Democratic electors to back a “credible Republican alternative” to Trump (in which case it would take just 38 GOP defectors for that person to become president).