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Maps Show How the Damaging 2020 Election “Red Mirage” Played Out in Big, “Blue” Loudoun County

Trump and his allies have weaponized the "red mirage" to sow doubt about a very well-run election, and to perpetuate a dangerous/false "stab-in-the-back myth"


The following graphics, courtesy of VPAP, illustrate clearly the so-called “red mirage,” in this case as it happened in big, “blue” Loudoun County. What’s a “red mirage” you ask, and why might it be noteworthy or problematic, you ask? According to this article in The Guardian, the problem is not with the final vote count, but with the *order* that vote was reported.

Known as the “red mirage”, the scenario could develop if Trump appears to be leading in the presidential race late on election night and declares victory before all the votes are counted.

The red mirage “sounds like a super-villain, and it’s just as insidious”, the former Obama administration housing secretary Julían Castro says in a video recorded as a public service announcement to voters this week.

“On election night, there’s a real possibility that the data will show Republicans leading early, before all the votes are counted. Then they can pretend something sinister’s going on when the counts change in Democrats’ favor.”

In the scenario, Trump’s declaration of victory is echoed on the conservative TV network Fox News and by powerful Republicans across the US. By the time final returns show that in fact Joe Biden has won the presidency, perhaps days later, the true election result has been dragged into a maelstrom of disinformation and chaos.

Which is exactly what happened…to an extent. Yes, Republicans have tried, incessantly – and 100% dishonestly – to exploit the “red mirage” phenomenon to (falsely) claim some sort of irregularities, problems with voting machines, even a huge conspiracy to “steal” the election. It’s all complete and utter bullshit, of course – and none of it has gotten anywhere in courts of law, where you actually have to present *evidence* and you are under oath. But that hasn’t stopped Republicans – Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Amanda Chase, etc. – from spewing this crap out.

Again, though, all the “red mirage” is really about is the *order* in which votes were reported. Here in Virginia, for instance, Election Day votes were generally reported first, with early/absentee votes being reported later…much later in some cases. In the end, it didn’t impact the math, obviously (I mean, if you add 1+2+3+100 or 100+3+2+1, you get the same result of 106, but in the first case you might have a very small number until the 100 comes in, while in the latter case you’d start off with that big fat 100). But it DID impact perceptions. Personally, I had people messaging me on election night worried about Virginia, because the results for several hours looked very “red.” I kept explaining that almost all the early/absentee votes hadn’t been reported yet, and that those were *heavily* Democratic, in large part due to Democrats emphasizing early voting while Trump demonized it for months. So again, it didn’t impact the final results, but it definitely DID impact a lot of people’s perceptions.

Check out, in the graphics below, how this played out in Loudoun County, where “more than 156,000 people voted before Election Day,” with “all of their votes…assigned to a ‘central absentee precinct’.” The results were that: 1) it messes with the precinct data, big time, making it almost impossible to compare to any other election to date, since voting machines weren’t “programmed to allocate early votes back to precincts where voters reside” and because, in previous/non-pandemic elections, there were wayyyyy fewer early/absentee votes cast; 2) early in the evening, it looked like Trump was ahead in Loudoun, confusing a lot of people, as Biden “had more than 109,000 votes – nearly eight of every 10 he would receive in Loudoun – waiting in the central absentee precinct, which was the last precinct to report that night”; 3)  when that massive, “blue” central absentee precinct FINALLY reported, it resulted in Loudoun going from red…red…red…to BLUE, big time – nothing whatsoever nefarious, just the order in which votes were reported, and the massive partisan difference in who voted on Election Day itself and who voted early.

Bottom line: The problem here isn’t that it’s difficult to understand, but that the Trump campaign and its allies *intentionally spewed out disinformation* about how all this worked, in an effort to confuse people, convince them something was amiss, and overall  to delegitimize the results of an election they lost. Fortunately, it didn’t work in their effort to steal the election. Unfortunately, it DID work to sow doubt and discord, and to help delegitimize the U.S. elections process – which worked VERY well, by the way, particularly given that it was in the midst of a pandemic – among tens of millions of Trump supporters. This damage, unfortunately, will not be easily undone, and could last for years. For more on that topic, see this morning’s NY Times piece, 1918 Germany Has a Warning for America, which writes:

“…watching President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign since Election Day, I can’t help but see a parallel to one of the most dreadful episodes from Germany’s history.

One hundred years ago, amid the implosions of Imperial Germany, powerful conservatives who led the country into war refused to accept that they had lost. Their denial gave birth to arguably the most potent and disastrous political lie of the 20th century — the Dolchstosslegende, or stab-in-the-back myth.

Its core claim was that Imperial Germany never lost World War I. Defeat, its proponents said, was declared but not warranted. It was a conspiracy, a con, a capitulation — a grave betrayal that forever stained the nation. That the claim was palpably false didn’t matter. Among a sizable number of Germans, it stirred resentment, humiliation and anger. And the one figure who knew best how to exploit their frustration was Adolf Hitler.”

No, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does “rhyme,” as the saying goes. Disturbing.


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