We need to begin changing the way we treat our fellow Americans. Further, if there were any doubt after last Wednesday’s invasion of the U.S. Capitol by a mob, we need to understand that the rule of law and the consent of the governed is all that keeps us from losing our freedoms and removing from the world, most likely for centuries, the belief that humans can govern themselves without tyranny.

Something has been going on in American society for some time, at least 20 or 30 years. Drip by drip, we have been losing our sense of community and of caring for those whose circumstances, both for better or worse, are different from our own. We have watched our small towns dry up as farms grow ever larger and each community’s major job providers have slowly disappeared in an ongoing consolidation of industry after industry.

We have reached a point today where we have, on the one hand, people we call “mask Nazis” who try to shame others into doing more to stop a deadly virus spread. On the other, we have people who have lost their jobs or even the businesses they took years to build for the same reason and no longer listen to the officials who batter them with what the technocrats believe is superior knowledge.

Set aside for a second, if you can, your own belief about whether or not the 2020 election was fair or not. Don’t consider the merits of either side in the dispute. Ask yourself these questions: What if Vice President Pence or the Congress had refused to accept the Electoral College votes and allowed Republican-controlled legislatures in three or four states to reverse the election result? How would the reaction that we saw from Trump supporters Wednesday have differed from what would have happened if Trump had prevailed?

You already know the answer. We would have had even more widespread violence. That does not make either side any more right. It would only demonstrate that the condition of our republic is more fragile than most of us want to believe.

Here in Minnesota, I believe Secretary of State Steve Simon and Judges Sara Grewing and Thomas Gilligan need to be held accountable for attempting to change the state’s election laws without legislative approval as required under the U.S. Constitution.

In the contested states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, it appears that something similar happened there as well.

That said, I’ve spent more than a few hours comparing Minnesota’s 2016 and 2020 election results. In 2016, Hillary Clinton defeated Trump in the state by 45,000 votes. In 2020, Biden prevailed by about 233,000 votes. Trump received over 161,000 more votes in 2020 than in 2016, but Biden outpolled Clinton by over 350,000 votes.

It’s a fair question to ask where those extra votes came from. In Trump’s case, most of them came from 2016’s conservative third party candidates. Biden also received a little help from 2016 third party voters, but it is still fair to ask where at least 300,000 of his extra vote totals, compared to Clinton’s, came from? The answer is, they came from everywhere in the state.

If one is looking for a conspiracy, one first looks for quirks in the vote totals. The vote totals increased in all but one of Minnesota’s counties. Stevens County in western Minnesota saw a drop of 5.8%. The largest increase of 19.1% was in exurban Carver. Statewide, voting was up 11.3%. Biden gained the most votes compared to Clinton versus Trump in the state’s most populous counties, Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota. His combined gain in those three counties was 142,070, not even half of his statewide improvement over Clinton’s totals.

For this conspiracy to work, it would not be in the counting of the votes after the polls closed. It would be in fraudulent ballots being cast in the first place. However, the conspiracy would have to involve virtually every county auditor or chief election official in the state. They all would have had to accept fraudulent ballot applications, at least hundreds in every county.

If one is to claim fraud, one has to prove it, and so far, I’ve been unable to find any evidence of widespread fraud.

As for the contested states, Trump went to court all over the nation and 62 times was turned down by multiple judges, 38 of whom were Republican and a few of which he himself nominated.

To those who support the actions of the Capitol protesters, I can only say that riots, no matter what the cause, are always unacceptable. We have a system of laws, and everyone, from presidents, governors and judges on down, need to abide by it. By design, laws are difficult to change, but they can be if enough of us so desire. Our system is structured to help keep today’s passions from becoming tomorrow’s miseries. It is built on compromise. It is not perfect, but it is better than any other system humans have ever designed.

I ask all of you to follow the law, and not throw away the system that has given us all so many blessings.

Tom West, now retired, is the former general manager of this paper. Reach him at westwords.mcr@gmail.com.

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