The news surrounding the presidential election is all over the map. Crazy lawsuits, hundreds of affidavits and grifters aplenty; conspiracy theories and rabbit holes of propaganda abound. And that’s before we even get into the media thumb on the scale of information dissemination.

I have held my tongue for a few weeks, difficult on a good day, but letting some of this stuff shake out continues to seem the reasonable course of action.

What has bothered me the most through this process is the absolute nature of the narrative and rush to declare the election free from fraud and foreign interference.

Nothing in politics or elections is ever that absolute. Not even in the local dogcatcher’s race.

Fraud happens in every election. The real question is does it happen in a manner, or on a scale, that can change the result of the election.

You don’t need lawsuits named after mythical creatures chasing ephemeral CIA ghosts in the machine to prove this. You just need data nerds... many, many data nerds, and access to voter and election data (which is available from every state in the union, for a price).

The “normal” fraud includes dead voters, double voting, moving and not changing addresses, non-citizen and ineligible voters casting ballots. The list goes on.

City political machines, the kind Stacy Abrams is building in Georgia, rely on friendly election officials, consent decrees that place limits on the People’s ability to contest ballots and loose interpretations of election law to maximize and consolidate political power.

Do I think fraud happened in elections across the nation? Yes, of course. More than just a little, actually.

But not all election fraud cases are created equal.

And, as we have seen over the last week, the legal strategies of where and when to file also play a role in what cases are heard, and by which courts, regardless of the merits of the suit.

Much of the fraud that has historically been perpetrated isn’t even contested. Consent decrees in cities like Philadelphia, the result of earlier election fraud cases in the 1950s and 1960s, didn’t allow Republicans to contest results for 25 years.

These decisions leave lasting results.

Parents intuitively understand what happens when you let a child commit bad behaviors with no correction. The behaviors continually worsen, escalating to levels that could have been stopped.

Well, magnify that to a national scale. Then imagine the lengths those who want power will go to acquire it.

There are good, fact-based lawsuits that allege large amounts of fraud. And an intriguing constitutional question raised Tuesday by the State of Texas which was filed to the Supreme Court - if the case is taken up.

They don’t allege conspiracies or coordination. They allege that the due diligence necessary to run an election was not applied to a level that instills trust by all voters in the mechanisms of voting. In multiple states. Namely those states which the media and political punditry have shown a spotlight on as battleground states for over a year. Quite the coincidence.

The Amistead Project and The Voter Integrity Project, led by former Kansas Secretary of State Phillip Kline and Matt Braynard, a data guy who previously worked for the Trump campaign, respectively, are two of the groups that I am watching. One of the cases that relies on their analysis is before Justice Alito in the Pennsylvania case that was brought to the Supreme Court before Election Day.

You, as a voter, should look through their findings and numbers for yourself. Judge what they are alleging and weigh their evidence.

Don’t just take my word for it.

That a large majority of our citizens are willing to take someone else’s analysis as gospel is half of why our country is in this mess today. And that includes “my side” of the aisle.

Just the signature rejection rates in states like Arizona and Georgia call the final tally into question. You don’t need mountains of statistical analysis to look at historical norms and determine if this election deviated from those norms.

And as much as the media hates to even get close to this, there were plenty of warnings, and not just from President Trump.

But the Right’s problem isn’t one of evidence, if we are even trying to be honest. It is one of willpower.

Elected officials are afraid. Afraid of the violence that spread like wildfire this summer in the form of protests and looting visiting their cities. Which was half of the purpose to begin with.

Elected officials are not afraid off law-abiding, tax-paying citizens who follow the speed limits and don’t ruffle feathers as long as the trains run on time.

They are not afraid of losing a race, as long as there are still political networks which reward failure and punish those who dare speak against it.

They are afraid of the spotlight that the media has focused on individuals who dared to file affidavits alleging wrong-doing, and the partisan attacks on everyday Americans. Instead of investigations into the content of their allegations, testimony offered as evidence to the court under penalty of perjury, those in positions of power attacked the character of witnesses whose statements to state legislatures were especially damning.

And while character means something, I’d take 10 like the alleged “former dancer” who stepped forward before I would side with any of the so-called powerful who attacked her.

The media defends their power and access. No longer speaking for the little man, they are only interested in Truth to Power and a seat at the table.

If there isn’t a will to defend the rule of law; and violence or the fear of it rules the day, we don’t have a country. Not by any serious metric of the American Experiment.

We have loosely aligned people by geographical regions who live by increasingly different norms.

That this will not end well is an understatement.

We have completely lost the meaning of what it is to be a citizen. What are the duties and responsibilities? We are less than 300 years from when our founders pledged not just their fortunes, but their honor and lives for a cause that was bigger than themselves.

Now... well, let’s just say that we are a little more selfish in our own existence in the current era. Good times bring weakness. 

And America has been living in “good times” for longer than I have been alive.

Think of the difference between my grandparents’ lives during the Great Depression and ours in the Great Recession of 2008. You might as well compare the daily lives between a tribe in the Amazon and and a Yuppie in the Bay Area for all that we had in common.

What does it mean for President Trump? Or President-Elect Biden?

I wish I had the tea leaves to attempt a read.

At the end of the day, I can hold little faith in a system that is more concerned with the appearance of propriety than actually doing the work required to instill faith in our institutions.

If there cannot be integrity in our vote, there isn’t really much left worth fighting for.

Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at tbutero@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 862-2222.