Sunday, November 22, 2020

The 2020 Election was Rigged!

How often have we heard or read after a courtroom verdict, ‘we are going to appeal’, issued by confident lawyers who claim that their crusade for justice will yet be realized.  Indeed, I think many of us misunderstand the appeals process.  You cannot successfully aim to appeal a verdict simply because you reject the outcome.  There is no automatic judicial do over.   The losing party must offer convincing arguments to an appeals court that there were errors in the trial that rendered the proceedings unfair.  In other words, the error(s) must be material and not simply a harmless error.  Obviously, any trial or human endeavor will include mistakes that have no bearing on the ultimate outcome.

For example, if a physician like me mistakenly records a patient’s height to be a half inch shorter than the true height, then the error is not consequential and won't affect the patient's care.

'I lost? I demand an appeal!'

One of the many regrettable developments in the current post-election chaos has been the widening of the expectation that an unwanted result must be wrong and should be challenged.  This is a departure from our heretofore general acceptance that findings and rulings by authorized bodies were correct or at least should be respected.  If this new practice is maintained or extended, it will threaten so many established norms that we have previously become accustomed to.  Consider some typical scenarios.

  • A student (and his parents) claim that his lackluster SAT score is wrong and demand a hand count.
  • A sports teams loses the final playoff game.  The manager suggests that the referees were biased and possibly corrupt.
  • A high school wunderkind loses in the final round of the National Spelling Bee.  His high school principal cries ‘fowl’ claiming that the winning contestant received a much easier word to spell.
  • A contestant in a juried photography contest loses in the first round.   He rejects the decision and hires experts who give attestations that the photograph has true artistic merit.
  • A presidential candidate loses but refuses to accept the results.  He responds by attacking the process, demanding recounts and pursuing a scattershot of legal attacks.

 Of course, outcomes may be unfair or wrong and we are entitled to pursue a cure when there is a reasonable basis underlying our claim.  But I maintain that the greater good, as well as our individual interests, are served better when as a general principle we accept the findings of our institutions.  And, if we wish to challenge a ruling or a result, then we are obligated to explain in advance why we feel that the process was tainted.  We should not have a right to an investigation hoping to find evidence of impropriety that does not currently exist in a quest to achieve a new outcome. 

Naturally, this is a nuanced issue and there are exceptions to everything.  But do we want to live in a society where every outcome is summarily rejected and assumed to be wrong?

When a loser graciously accepts a result, we all win.

1 comment: