by Molly Ball, titled “The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That
Saved the 2020 Election,” presents the effort as a heroic effort to
preserve a free and fair election, and to fend off President Donald
Trump’s anticipated claims of fraud.
Ball’s description, however, also matches what she calls a “paranoid” view of an effort to make it difficult for Trump to win:
The handshake between business and labor was just one
component of a vast, cross-partisan campaign to protect the election–an
extraordinary shadow effort dedicated not to winning the vote but to
ensuring it would be free and fair, credible and uncorrupted. For more
than a year, a loosely organized coalition of operatives scrambled to
shore up America’s institutions as they came under simultaneous attack
from a remorseless pandemic and an autocratically inclined President.
Though much of this activity took place on the left, it was separate
from the Biden campaign and crossed ideological lines, with crucial
contributions by nonpartisan and conservative actors.
Their work touched every aspect of the election. They got states to
change voting systems and laws and helped secure hundreds of millions in
public and private funding. They fended off voter-suppression lawsuits,
recruited armies of poll workers and got millions of people to vote by
mail for the first time. They successfully pressured social media
companies to take a harder line against disinformation and used
data-driven strategies to fight viral smears. They executed national
public-awareness campaigns that helped Americans understand how the vote
count would unfold over days or weeks, preventing Trump’s conspiracy
theories and false claims of victory from getting more traction. After
Election Day, they monitored every pressure point to ensure that Trump
could not overturn the result.
That’s why the participants want the secret history of the 2020
election told, even though it sounds like a paranoid fever dream–a
well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and
ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions,
change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of
information. They were not rigging the election; they were fortifying
it. And they believe the public needs to understand the system’s
fragility in order to ensure that democracy in America endures.
Ball describes the participants in this plan as “democracy
campaigners.” It was led by Mike Podhorzer, a “senior adviser to the
president of the AFL-CIO,” one of the nation’s most powerful labor
unions, aligned with the Democratic Party.
In his apartment in the D.C. suburbs, Podhorzer began
working from his laptop at his kitchen table, holding back-to-back Zoom
meetings for hours a day with his network of contacts across the
progressive universe: the labor movement; the institutional left, like
Planned Parenthood and Greenpeace; resistance groups like Indivisible
and MoveOn; progressive data geeks and strategists, representatives of
donors and foundations, state-level grassroots organizers,
racial-justice activists and others.
By April, she notes, Podhorzer was hosting two-and-a-half-hour Zoom
meetings with other participants in the project. They pushed Congress to
fund vote by mail, and persuaded Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to
contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to “election administration
funding.” (As Breitbart News warned, Zuckerberg’s donations looked more like a Democrat get-out-the-vote effort, and was aimed primarily at Democrat-heavy counties in key battleground states.)
The campaign also used legal efforts to change voting procedures
during the COVID pandemic, leading to a “revolution” in mail-in voting: ”
Only a quarter of voters cast their ballots the traditional way: in
person on Election Day,” Ball notes.
The group also used a “nameless, secret project” to fight
“disinformation.” Their method was “to pressure platforms to enforce
their rules, both by removing content or accounts that spread
disinformation.” Ball does not mention the New York Post‘s story about Hunter Biden’s laptop,
but tech companies, mainstream media outlets, and former intelligence
officials leapt in October to call the laptop potential Russian
“disinformation,” and to suppress it. Twitter blocked links to the
story, and also locked the Post out of its account for more
than two weeks. The story was later shown to be true, with Hunter Biden
announcing — after the election — that he was under FBI investigation.