Serious conservative voices — Henry Olsen at the Washington Post, Andy McCarthy and the aforementioned Geraghty here at National Review — have explained that, yes, voter fraud exists but, no, it did not hand Joe Biden the presidency. Noah Rothman at Commentary rightly blasted the president’s efforts to litigate his way to a win as a “flailing tantrum” with “no modern analog.” For this, he was mocked by The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway, who, like Ryun, resists going full #StopTheSteal but appears mostly untroubled by the conduct of the Trump campaign and the president himself. Rothman’s real sin, Hemingway says, is that back in 2017 he dared to criticize Donald Trump Jr. for attempting to gather dirt on Hillary Clinton from a lawyer with ties to the Russian government. This, she writes, “helped contribute to the Russia collusion hoax at a time conservative readers were desperate for assistance in fighting the false narrative.”

Perhaps it’s the impulse of people like Ryun and Hemingway to coddle “conservative readers,” not contributions to think tanks or a supposed failure to ensure the integrity of our elections, that stains the conservative movement with unseriousness. For far too many pundits and politicians on the right, it has become profitable to either outright embrace or at least entertain conspiracy theories such as Trump’s stolen-election narrative. Instead of stating the obvious — the president lost the 2020 election because he ran an undisciplined campaign, mishandled the coronavirus pandemic, and turned off swing voters with four years of exhausting antics — they pretend that it is eminently reasonable to believe he only lost because of a vast, multi-state conspiracy to steal the race for Biden. Why? Because it’s what many Republicans want to hear and believe.