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Pan­elists discuss his­toric elec­tions at the first CCA of the semester. Courtesy | Antonio Dumnich

The first Center for Con­structive Alter­na­tives lecture series of the fall 2021 semester examined con­tentious pres­i­dential elec­tions, with each speech illu­mi­nating the con­tro­versies of the 2020 election, according to CCA attendees.

“No one can say with cer­tainty that there was no fraud in 2020,” said Andrew Busch, crown pro­fessor of gov­ernment and George R. Roberts Fellow at Claremont McKenna College. He argued that voter fraud had a limited impact on the election.

From Sept. 19 – 22, Hillsdale College pro­fessors and guest speakers pre­sented on the most influ­ential elec­tions in American history, from the election of 1800 to Donald Trump’s con­tro­versial loss in 2020. 

The first day’s lec­tures con­sisted of his­torical sum­maries of elec­tions that changed the American political process.

Pro­fessor of Pol­itics Kevin Portteus said the radical trans­for­mation of values in the 1860 election relates to the culture wars today.

Michael Barone, senior writer for U.S. News & World Report and Fox News con­tributor, spoke on the 1876 election, which had a high voter turnout much like the 2020 election. Barone said the staunch political divide between the North and the South created a charged political envi­ronment in 1876. 

“We get high turnout from genuine policy dif­fer­ences,” Barone said, “not because everyone loves one another.”

The second day turned to the “Pro­gressive Rev­o­lution,” where author Charles Kesler talked about the 1932 pres­i­dential election, where Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election ushered in a new era of social programs.

He argued the land­slide victory of Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election chris­tened the “Reagan Rev­o­lution” and ended the long Pro­gressive era.

On the third day, Busch said there have been corrupt elec­tions in American history.

“I don’t believe that there is no fraud in American elec­tions,” he said.

Despite this, he expressed doubt that any pos­sible fraud in the 2020 election was enough to change the outcome, and that polls showed that Trump’s defeat was inevitable. He pointed to Real­Clear­Pol­itics’ aggregate polling.

“Of 230 polls, Trump led five of them,” he said.

After lis­tening to Busch’s defense of the 2020 election, Hillsdale res­ident Dr. Charles “Bud” Vear, who attended the CCA, said he was con­vinced that the election results were legitimate.

“I think Busch made a strong case that the 2020 election was not stolen,” he said. “In spite of my con­ser­v­ative values, I thor­oughly enjoyed Busch’s presentation.”

Junior Jack Hammons said he was uncon­vinced by Busch that the election wasn’t stolen. 

“He didn’t really go into depth on voter fraud,” he said. “He mostly tried to prove that Trump lost in the polls.”

However, Hammons said he appre­ciated hearing both sides of the argument. 

“I think that they’ve had very good speakers rep­re­senting a variety of opinions,” he said. 

Phillip D. Kline, director of the Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society, focused more on reports of irreg­u­lar­ities in the 2020 election. 

“The 2020 election was the most lawless in the nation’s history,” Kline said. “Our election was con­ducted by a shadow gov­ernment of non­profits with 15 years of planning.”

Kline made claims about ballot drop box dis­tri­b­ution and hacking.

“The drop boxes? Zuckerberg paid for ‘em,” Kline said. He referred to them as “Zucker­boxes.”

The CCA closed with a panel of Hillsdale pro­fessors who com­mented on the col­lection of lec­tures throughout the series.

“We heard a lot of fright­ening things this week,” said Pro­fessor of History Paul Moreno.

Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Pol­itics Joseph Postell argued the best way to combat unending con­flict in U.S. elec­tions was to return to stronger, more local parties. He said cen­tral­izing pol­itics in Wash­ington, D.C. causes a lack of clarity.

“We don’t have a very good def­i­n­ition of a fair election or a stolen election,” Postell said.

Sophomore Grace Gottwalt said she took the CCA due to her interest in pur­suing a minor in politics. 

Though Gottwalt said she remains unsure about whether the 2020 election results were legit­imate after hearing the two speakers, she said she agreed with Barone’s argument that ques­tioning American elec­tions damages the strength of the democracy. She said the CCA topic gave a voice to the struggles of con­ser­v­a­tives today.

“The title was very rel­evant in today’s society and the issues we face today,” Gottwalt said.