The Truth About That Shadow Campaign


Molly Ball in Time Magazine put out a story at the end of last week, The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign that Saved the 2020 Election, and a lot of people seized upon the story to continue to perpetuate outrage over a stolen election and claiming this was the proof. If you read the story, they didn't really steal the election. They strategized and they outmaneuvered Republicans. That's not theft, that's incompetence on the Republican side. There's no theft or fraud, there's just nothing more than crafty campaigning.

A lot of people want to pedal the myth of the stolen election because it makes them feel better. It also makes them, I'm learning, feel unburdened. They no longer have to participate in a process that they don't particularly like anymore. It's icky and they can just wash their hands of it and say, "Well, it's stolen, time to withdraw from the scene and do nothing." It provides them their excuse to extricate from a messy political process where deep down, they really don't believe it was stolen, but they have to hide behind that excuse for why they've given up on culture and politics. They just don't like the dirtiness of it. They see this article and it provides them further excuse making for their loss and their walking away.

What the article actually does is show just how inept the Republicans were in 2020 across the board. Privately, when you talk to members of President Trump's campaign team, including those who participated in the post-mortem of their election, they will admit there was a lot of ineptitude on the Republican side. Many of them are now screaming about a stolen election, which has provided them a smokescreen to avoid being held accountable for their incompetence. This has nothing to do with the President, but the people who surrounded the President and made a lot of money grifting off of President Trump's campaign.

Molly Ball provides a portrait of a group that begins as a progressive activist coalition of unions and corporate titans that evolves into a bipartisan group towards the end of the election, as the fallout from the election was exacerbated. Now, you have to remember, a bunch of progressives were threatening to burn down America if they didn't get their way. There are other progressives who were alarmed that their own side would potentially want to burn down America if they lose, yet were equally worried about the President’s election antics and wanted to ensure election integrity.

More importantly, these progressive wanted to win. The progressives organized in a way Republicans used to organize and Republicans failed to even mount a comparable effort.

As an example, let’s look at Georgia. In the late 1990s and early 2000s when I was highly active within the Republican party as a lawyer, as a chairman of the College Republicans, as a campaign manager, and campaign consultant, one of the things Republicans did very well is organizing the state and build coalitions. I worked for Saxby Chambliss as his coalition's volunteer director when he was running for Congress. Essentially, they gave me a title and I wrote letters on his behalf to different coalitions. This helped the pro-life groups and the gun groups to coordinated and get on the same page heading towards a common purpose.

The coalition building went down to the precinct level. Every county is divided into areas and every area is divided into precincts. I live in Bibb County in the Howard precincts. There are a number of Howard precincts that cover North Macon. In South Macon, you have the Rutland area and those Rutland areas are divided into precincts. Every precinct has roughly the same number of people in it and are frequently shifted around.

There was a time when the Republican party in Georgia had every precinct mapped out and they knew every single Republican in those precincts, and they were in regular communication with them. This occasionally still happens in Georgia but it has atrophied within the Republican party.

The Republicans in Georgia used to be so organized that if someone new was moving into the neighborhood, the party probably knew about it before that person even knew where to fill out their voter registration form. One day a helpful Republican would show up and make sure that person was registered to vote. I used to do this when I was in college. It was one of the things the College Republicans helped do in Georgia.

The Democrats this year decided they needed to do something similar. They were able to build peer pressure upon social media companies to tamp down misinformation and disinformation. There's no proof that they got massive amounts of stuff deleted. They got some stuff silenced and taken down and others slowed down. They worked with media companies to make sure everyone understood there were certain narratives that needed to be advanced. This is all standard politics. They worked with corporations to make sure that if Joe Biden won, corporations would immediately, through various trade groups, declare him the winner.

Ultimately, they got Republicans involved as well. Some of them were very much pro-Trump, some of them very anti-Trump, but all of them wanted to make sure that there was no chaos in the election with the world watching.

A lot of people will look at this and say, "Well, this was stolen. This is proof of the steal." One of the things these groups did is they raised lots of outside money to go educate voters on how to vote absentee. Part of this was a strategic problem with the Republican campaign. You had Donald Trump telling everyone that the Democrats were going to steal it through absentee balloting and to not go vote absentee. In states like Georgia, where typically Republicans have an absentee voting advantage, the Democrats crushed it somewhere around four to one. The Democrats overwhelmed the Republicans with absentee balloting, and Republicans needed to over perform in the early vote.

It's amazing how the Republicans dropped the ball this year. Privately, many Republican operatives will concede that given the President's distrust of absentee balloting and the mixed messages on voter integrity, a lot of Republican groups either didn't participate, didn't know how to participate, or they didn't want to be perceived as being a bad guy and contradict the President. One of the very few places where this didn't happen was in Florida and what happened? The President won Florida. The President blessed the Florida early voting and absentee voting strategy, and Republicans crushed it. Here in Georgia, Republicans flubbed it. They didn't even try for an absentee voter strategy.

These outside groups looked at the pandemic and never let a crisis go to waste. They had an opportunity to encourage black voters for the first time to vote in overwhelming numbers by absentee ballots. This is very important and you need to understand this. Historically, black voters vote on election day. They vote on election day because it took them a very long time to secure their right to vote, and as a matter of historic creed, black communities tend to turn out on election day to vote. They don't want to vote absentee. They want to stand in line and vote. It is their right. They fought for it in the Civil Rights era. They won it.

This time, the NAACP and a number of left-wing groups got together and collaborated on messaging around the global pandemic. The message was simple: “Your life is in danger if you go stand in line, so vote by absentee”. They sent absentee election volunteers out into communities with forms and it worked. They out hustled and outmaneuvered the Republicans. They lined up corporations in America to give money to help with absentee balloting with a nonpartisian framework.

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The Republicans could have done every single thing these groups did and they chose not to. They chose to distrust the process. They chose to seed doubt in the process and they chose to rally everyone to vote on Election Day. It didn't work.

If you're a Republican, you have to acknowledge that some within the party did a very good job making a lot of people mad, and I'm not talking about the President and his antics. The party as a whole burned bridges with a lot of outside groups who probably would have been willing to help them. The Chamber of Commerce itself for the first time this year decided to back several Democrats. As a Republican, you have to ask yourself why were all of these people willing to get together and vote for the other side? What about us led them to do that? Not all of them were Progressive groups.

Why did our side not engage in an absentee balloting strategy? Why did our side not engage in a litigation strategy? Republicans have oustanding election lawyers and pretty much all of them sat on the sidelines this year. What led them to sit on the sidelines? Some of them, frankly, were not asked. Some of them didn't want to be a part of what they perceived as a clown show of incompetent people that they saw play out after the election with Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani.

There's one last thing you need to understand. Most of the power players who work behind the scenes want to stay behind the scenes. This is credit grabbing. They're not bragging about stealing an election. There's no proof they stole the election. They're not bragging about committing vote fraud. That would be a felony and there's no proof.

What they're doing is they're bragging about being the ones who put together a coalition that saved democracy and the electoral process in America. Or at least they want you to believe that. Had they not gotten together and done what they did, the process probably would have worked out exactly the same way and the outcome could have been identical, but they want credit for it. That ultimately is what the story is all about.

A group of progressives are concerned that Joe Biden likes Mitch McConnell and has a good bipartisan working relationship behind the scenes in Congress. This group has a progressive grab bag that they want from Congress and from the Biden administration, and they need Joe Biden and the people in Washington to understand this was started as a progressive cause and a way to save democracy, therefore they are owed.

Essentially, this is a group of people who are bragging and amplifying their involvement all because they want something out of Washington.

Molly Ball is a great writer. She wrote a profile of me a number of years ago. She's giving these people exactly what they want — enough rope to hang themselves. They want to be known as the people who saved America and democracy. Well, she's willing to let them be defined by that and let the chips fall where they may.

There's no proof of a stolen election or fraud. What there's proof of is that Democrats outmaneuvered Republicans. They were able to get corporations to side with them and even some Republican groups. They used the President's campaigns efforts to undermine absentee balloting against them, and ultimately want to brag to get something out of the Biden administration. This probably won't wind up for them the way they think it will. These types of stories come out every four years — some group wants the public credit for a victory. Again, the people who rush out and try to brag and make these salacious claims are typically the ones who wind up getting exactly the opposite of what they want.