The Point asked Long Island’s two Republican members of the House of Representatives, personally close to Donald Trump, for their reaction to the results and what they are telling their supporters.
As the odds of President Donald Trump winning reelection dwindle and the threat of dissent grows, what high-ranking Republican officials say to calm the waters is gaining urgency. Many people are calling on GOP leaders to tell their bases the election process has been trustworthy and they need to accept Trump’s loss peacefully.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, though, thinks it’s far from clear that Trump has lost. He also says there are at least scattered instances of credible voter fraud allegations surfacing. And he believes the best way to destroy any chance of national unity is by dismissing the concerns of Trump supporters when all the votes have not been counted -- several states are still counting and at least one recount is all but certain.
"The demand I’m hearing from the right is that I grab a pitchfork and go into the streets" to deal with reports of irregularities and fraud, Zeldin said. "The emotion level of the nation is extremely high, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The pitchforks are on the fringe. But the demand of masses of mainstream Trump supporters is that they don’t want us to be silent, they want us to stand with the president and support him."
And he believes that explaining why episodes caught on viral video, like people boarding up the windows of a vote-counting operation in Michigan, happened, or why rules like the one in Philadelphia keeping observers 100 feet from election workers are needed, is better than dismissing and delegitimizing the concerns of voters.
"When people think they have encountered evidence of fraud, they need to know someone will find out what happened and explain it. That’s how you build trust in the system, not by saying, ‘Shut up and trust us!’"
Asked whether he personally has faith that the election was fair, Zeldin said, "I have not been putting enough of my own personal bandwidth into all of this to answer that. I can tell you I’ve seen a whole lot of videos coming from Twitter accounts with blue check marks showing what seem to be very questionable behaviors, and I’d like to know more before I dismiss them."
And Zeldin thinks paying respectful attention to the concerns raised by both sides, about both the election and the results, is the only possible way to restore unity.
— Lane Filler @lanefiller
"Anytime you send out tens of millions of mail-in ballots and absentee ballots, there’s going to be fraud."
That’s how Rep. Pete King started his conversation on Friday, when asked for his perspective on how the 2020 election returns will play out.
King said he understood President Donald Trump’s concerns, and emphasized that Trump had "every right to demand recounts or bring litigation."
It’s what many GOP leaders and elected officials say, but what comes next in the explanation seems to cut closer to reality.
"Before you actually allege fraud, you should have really serious examples of it," King added. "In my mind, the presidential election is almost a sacred experience. That’s what makes us a democracy … Once it goes to the courts, and the courts rule, then for the good of the country, whoever wins, you wish them the best."
And as the conversation continued, King said that even though fraud was possible, he didn’t think Trump should be saying there was fraud "unless there is evidence."
Instead, King said, he wished Trump would use the term "irregularity" in describing any potential for problems with mail-in ballots. As of now, King noted, "neither the president nor his lawyers have come forward with any examples of significant fraud."
"The president should not be alleging fraud at this time," King said. "I don’t know if the Democrats should [have said] Putin threw the election [in 2016] to Trump, either. But one bad turn doesn’t deserve another."
King said if it turns out, after recounts, investigations and even court cases, that Biden won the election, then "that’s the statement of the American people."
King allowed, however, what Trump might end up thinking: That if not for the increase in mail-in voting that came as a result of the pandemic, which, King said, likely resulted in more Democratic voters, Trump might have carried the day.
"I think Trump in his own mind can say if there wasn’t mail-in ballots, he probably would have won… because generally in elections we find Republicans are more inclined to vote [in person] than Democrats," King said.
For now, King said he’s going to "play it by ear" as to what he plans to say and do.
"You can count on me at the right time saying the right thing," King said.
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
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Just how eternal is that vigilance
As the election returns turn toward Joe Biden’s favor, the tone on the Facebook pages of the Setauket Patriots, a Long Island group of President Donald Trump's supporters who often organize the road rallies and meet-ups that have grabbed so much attention across the Island, has been a mix of optimism, fear and conspiracy.
But the social calendar is continuing to hop, with Friday night kicking off three days of victory rallies for Trump.
Most weeks, there is action at 5 p.m. on Fridays at Patio Pizza in St. James, and that tradition will continue Friday. On Saturday, a Trump Victory Rally, "with original founding members of the group" promised to attend, will start at the corner of Route 25A and North Country Road at 11 a.m.
And Sunday will bring a Trump Victory Parade kicking off at 10 a.m. at the Long Island Rail Road station in Port Jefferson.
On the group’s page Friday afternoon, one member had shared this: "Message to the Left-Those who dare to test fate and play with fire will get burned."
Another posted a link to a popular conspiracy theory claiming Trump put watermarks on all the ballots to tell which are real, and will win reelection easily once the fakes are separated out.
This is wrong: the federal government has no control over state ballots or how they are printed.
There is also a link to a video called "The X22 Report," a slickly produced 40-minute podcast (the latest is said to be episode 2320b) which explains how this is all an attempted coup d’etat, but Trump, who is always a step ahead of the "DS/MSM" (deep state/mainstream media) set a trap to expose it all, and "patriots know the playbook!"
In other posts, though, fear that Trump will lose comes through, along with the belief that if he does it will be due to skulduggery.
One member posted on Wednesday: "Anyone else have crazy anxiety right now?! TRUMP has to win!!!!"
She got 480 comments in response, with a typical one reading "You’re kidding right???? Sick to my stomach, migraine, anxious, sad, terrified the commies will win and what will happen to my kids and our Country."
Asked for comment on where the membership’s heads are at, one of the group’s leaders, James Robitsek, messaged The Point: "We will not do any interviews at this time, until a final decision is made. We are confident that President Trump will be the victor. Until then, we’ll just hold our breath."
—Lane Filler @lanefiller