There are some names you never expect to hear again. Once a reality contest winner is crowned, you doubt you’ll see them on TV again unless they go to prison. When an obscure athlete makes a game-winning play, you assume that they’ll only live on in highlight reels and the rare convention appearance. Just like the litany of also-rans and D-list celebrities who come and go from our lives, we thought maybe we had heard the last of Jill Stein, at least until her next vanity presidential run. But, here we are, with many people who should know better pinning their last hopes on the Green Party candidate and her plans for a recount.
Stein and her campaign have stepped forward to lead the charge on a recount of votes in states where Hillary Clinton was narrowly defeated by Donald Trump. From Wisconsin, with a difference of about 20,000 votes, to Pennsylvania, where there was a spread of nearly 70,000, Stein and company are hoping that a second look will somehow change reality. It has been a painful few weeks, but there is no Balm in Gilead. Putting your hopes in Jill Stein now is just as foolish as putting your hopes in her back on Nov. 8.
From the beginning, Stein’s recount had all the clarity and transparency of a telemarketer’s pitch. First, she set out to raise a couple million bucks. Just like with your buddy’s greedy Kickstarter, the goal quickly ballooned, topping over $7 million. The motives behind her recount were just as fluid. At times she has joined the chorus of several respected outlets in implying that Russian hacking may be behind Trump’s victory, though no proof exists. At other times, Stein and others have said that they just want to do their due diligence. This seems strange because the margins aren’t rail-thin like they were in Florida in 2000. You have to get solidly into conspiracy theory territory to get to 20,000 misplaced votes.
Even Democratic election officials in those lost Rust Belt states think the recount is a bad idea. Michigan and Wisconsin politicians of both parties are against recounts. While it is nice to think that recounts couldn’t do more harm than good, there is zero good that could come of them. A statewide recount in Michigan in 2011 only changed 300 votes out of 1.5 million. Ms. Stein is not an election expert, and the actual experts solidly believe a recount would be a pain in the ass that would achieve nothing.
The idea that a recount would do no harm is wishful thinking. First off, the idea of Russian hacking shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even the outgoing opposition Obama administration believes that. In a statement last week, the White House let it be known that they felt casting doubt on election results is exactly what the Kremlin wants. While Wikileaks and Trump’s buddy-buddy relationship with Putin left a sour taste in many Americans’ mouths, fanning the flames of election hacking without any evidence feels like a move barely worthy of the lowest moments of the Cold War. An investigation of Russia’s fake news and leaking activities seems warranted, but a long-term investigation by government and journalists seems more appropriate than a massive electoral witch hunt. Already, outlets as respected as the Washington Post have blacklisted journalistic sites tied flimsily to Russian propaganda. That can’t be the way we respond to this election.
If you aren’t troubled by baseless red-baiting conspiracy theories, consider this: A recount hurts the Democratic Party. First, one aspect of Democrats’ “They go low, we go high” strategy was to mock Trump’s hints that he wouldn’t accept election results. The Left spent a lot of time calling Trump undemocratic and mocking his would-be strongman tactics when he hinted he wouldn’t accept the results. The Democrats are already beaten, but such hypocrisy might do even more damage.
Most important, a recount distracts Democrats from the task at hand. While it might feel good to demand a recount and bathe in the glow of Hillary’s popular vote victory, it doesn’t get us anywhere. Smug superiority lost the election, and doubling down on it can only hurt more. There is a very real Senate race in Louisiana that could use some donations. There is a contest for Democratic Party Chairman that could transform the party if Minnesota’s Keith Ellison lands the job. The Democratic Socialists of America are organizing young Leftists to fight monied interests in the Democratic Party. There are countless causes from the Dakota Access Pipeline to the Southern Poverty Law Center that need liberal attention. The next four years are going to be a knock-down, drag-out war. We should look to the next battles instead of the replaying the one we lost like it was a poor imitation of a Tom Clancy novel.