Everyone knows the feeling of loss when a deeply held belief is proven false: Santa Claus, the stork and, yes, systemic voter fraud.

The false conviction that President Trump won the 2020 election by a landslide was the animating force behind the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 and continues to gain traction as we count down to Inauguration Day. That this belief can’t be supported by evidence has had no apparent effect on those compelled to “save” the Republic — by violence, if necessary.

How do we go forward when so many are so invested in sustaining a false belief? I don’t have a neat five-point answer, but I do know this: You don’t persuade people by insulting them. There are reasons more than 74 million people voted for Trump and there are reasons for the distrust that has led many people of goodwill to believe what is, alas, not so.

Thus, it’s imperative that everyone understand the facts rather than rely on watering-hole affirmations of what we prefer to think. People are allowed to entertain differing opinions, with some notable exceptions recently barred from social media. But we have to agree on a certain set of objectively derived facts. This shouldn’t be so hard, but President Trump has been railing against inconvenient truths for so long that he may even believe his own delusions.

Do I think voter fraud exists? Yes. Do I think fraud exists to the degrees suggested by Trump and his supporters? No. The reasons are too numerous and compelling to ignore. The truth is: Trump lost fair and square. This isn’t an opinion or a matter of debate or part of the supposedly obvious greater fraud. It is the result of ballot-counting and recounting and court rulings. That’s a fact.

Here’s another: The 2020 election was probably the most airtight election in this country’s history because of checks and balances and prophylactic measures that are built into the system. For there to have been fraud on the scale necessary to produce a different outcome, a vast number of people would have had to be involved — and kept it secret. This isn’t only implausible; it is likely impossible. The more people who know a secret, the greater the likelihood of a leak. Life has taught us this much.

Moreover, the protective measures worked. One safeguard was the requirement in some states that mail-in ballots be countersigned by a witness. Ironically, Democrats challenged this provision but the witness signature requirement was part of how election officials in North Carolina were able to identify absentee ballot fraud by Republican operatives in a 2018 congressional race.

The perception that the media were complicit in defeating Trump isn’t wrong — but it is only accurate to the extent that most reporters and editors probably voted for Biden. That is their right. Liberal bias, including the sneering condescension of some television anchors and guests, is easy to document. An opinion writer, I hasten to remind readers, is an altogether different beast. We write as individuals and belong to no team. Any external input consists exclusively of prose polishing or fact-checking by editors respectful of our independence and the reality that only we own (and have to live with) our opinions.

Moreover, no reporter I’ve known in decades of newspapering would ignore a genuine, voter-fraud story, no matter whose gourd got skewered. Reporters care about one thing — the story — and are accountable for the facts they collect to support it.

And what about the judiciary? Even if you think judges are capable of this kind of behavior (and I don’t), consider how many judges would have had to agree to defraud the American people in the course of overturning or dismissing 61 of the 62 lawsuits Trump filed in hopes of overturning the election results? Again, there is no evidence of such a harebrained scheme. Remember when Democrats were apoplectic about the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett for fear she’d vote favorably toward Trump should he challenge the election?

Didn’t happen. The Supreme Court, with Barrett seated, rejected Trump’s pleas, as did numerous lower courts, after considering the facts of each case. There was no basis for the president’s claims of voter fraud, which probably explains why Trump wasn’t represented by the normal group of Republican election law attorneys in most if not all of those lawsuits. Election lawyers, well versed in the history and mechanisms of the United States’ voting practices, obviously knew better.

There was no systemic fraud and, therefore, no case. Full stop.

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