Katie Porter’s Ridiculous ‘Rigged’ Election Sour Grapes

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Getty
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Getty

Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) didn’t get the memo. Fresh off of failing to qualify for the runoff election for U.S. Senate, Porter is claiming the election was rigged against her. (Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) will face off in a runoff election with Republican and former baseball star Steve Garvey for the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s vacated seat.)

In a tweet that has evoked controversy, Porter complained that her campaign had to withstand “3 to 1 in TV spending and an onslaught of billionaires spending millions to rig this election.”

And in a weak-sauce follow-up statement meant to clarify her tweet, Porter explained that “rigged” means “manipulated by dishonest means”—and that billionaires spending money to defeat her constitutes “dishonest means to manipulate an outcome.”

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To be sure, Porter isn’t claiming that she actually won the election or that the vote count was rigged. Still, you would think she would be a little more careful about tossing around the very term that Donald Trump has weaponized for the last several years.

For years now, people like yours truly have been warning others about the dangers of heated rhetoric that undermines institutions, tears apart the social fabric, and questions the sanctity of elections.

Given the context, responsible leaders should avoid using such rhetoric for the good of the nation. This is true irrespective of whether one is in favor of campaign finance reforms or other structural changes to our electoral system.

Aside from failing to guard her tongue (or Twitter hand, as it were), one gets the sense that politicians like Porter and Trump (and Stacey Abrams) are simply not prepared to admit defeat and accept responsibility for a failed political campaign.

It’s understandable that Porter, who has gained some fame as a progressive pundit, might resent garnering just 14 percent of the vote. But making excuses for poor performance won’t help. As CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski noted: “She lost by 20 points, but is saying the election is rigged because she was outspent.”

It’s also important to note that if Porter had simply won more votes than Garvey—a political novice—she’d still be in the runoff (in California, the top two candidates advance to the runoff, irrespective of political party).

And Porter isn’t the only ungracious loser. According to The New York Times, “Porter’s supporters described Mr. Schiff’s ad strategy as cynical and sexist, noting that it had the effect of locking out a qualified woman from the general election, which will leave the state without a female senator for the first time since 1992.”

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If you’re keeping score at home, Porter’s claim is that she didn’t lose to Schiff (a prominent ally of Nancy Pelosi who made a name for himself as an opponent of Donald Trump) because he was a better candidate who has been around longer. She lost because billionaires rigged the system and because Schiff ran a sexist campaign.

Even if this were true, it’s not the kind of thing you would complain about publicly; to do so would label you as a sore loser and not a team player. Here, the maxim “Don’t get mad, don’t get even, get ahead” should rule the day.

Besides, it’s not like she’s as pure as the driven snow. The truth is that Katie Porter takes money from rich people. Every prominent Democratic (and Republican) politician takes money from rich people. Once you accept these terms, then—if you want to win an election—you have to raise enough money to combat what others say about you. Those are the rules. I didn’t write them, but every politician must abide by them.

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At the end of the day, I think this is bigger than one race. I think this is a trend. Porter’s behavior tells us a lot about where we are as a society. Instead of graciously conceding defeat, politicians increasingly pretend they won. And even if they don’t go quite that far, they pretend that they somehow would have won (in Porter’s case, she would have overcome a 20-point deficit) if those meddling billionaires hadn’t gotten involved. To save face (and their fragile egos), they make excuses and shift the blame.

Unfortunately, that strategy sometimes works (for a while, at least).

This wasn’t always the case. Richard Nixon accepted the results of the 1960 presidential election, despite irregularities, under the guise that contesting it would “tear the country apart.” Surely, he also knew it was in his best interest not to be seen as a sore loser. A few years later, that decision paid off when Nixon won the presidency in 1968.

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Fast forward to the 2000 Bush v. Gore election recount, and the “Sore-Loserman” signs were potent (at least anecdotally). But once the Court made its decision, Gore did the right thing for the nation and graciously conceded.

Our society has now moved past such old-fashioned civility. Instead of taking your lumps like a man (or woman) when you probably deserved to win, the game is to blame, lie, and invent excuses, even for fair-and-square losses—with zero regard for what it might do to the nation or the toll it might take on our institutions.

That seems to be the key to an enduring and successful career. Despite sacrificing her House seat on the way to a failed U.S. Senate bid, something tells me Katie Porter has a bright future ahead of her.

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