We Have To Stop Sharing This Meme Comparing The 2016 And 2020 Elections

Ariel Blaser
4 min readNov 12, 2020


There are a few variations of it floating around, but this is the one I’ve seen the most:

Maybe it’s kind of funny at a glance, but there’s a problem. Namely, the meme is conflating two concepts: interfering and rigging.

In 2016, the talking point (and following investigation) was external interference with our election.
Interference is someone trying to influence voters, by spreading (mis)information and propaganda to sway people, create confusion about what candidates have said, and so on.

In contrast, rigging is when a party or entity hides, withholds, or fabricates ballots in favor of their desired outcome. It’s voter fraud. Or, rather, voter fraud is part of rigging*.

Another way to put it is: interference happens pre-election with shenanigans trying to get people to vote for the candidate you want and rigging happens during an election to make sure the votes add up in favor of the candidate you want.

The people who spent the last 4 years concerned about election interference probably aren’t concerned about a rigged election because that was never their concern.

The thing is, interference should be (and arguably, has been) a talking point in the 2020 election. Prior to the election, officials announced that outside entities were trying to launch online misinformation and propaganda campaigns in order to influence voters. They were on high alert this election cycle because of its prominence in the 2016 cycle.

There was evidence last time, just like there was evidence this time, of foreign interference. This is certainly a problem on its own, but it becomes especially problematic and criminal if a party or candidate encourages or works with these outside entities in hopes of reaping the benefits; i.e. in hopes of winning as a result of these efforts. This is what the FBI launched an investigation into Trump for, to see if he had been working with the interfering entities. Not to rig the election or commit voter fraud, as the meme implies, but to push voters toward him.

Again, and I cannot emphasize this enough, concerns about interference are not the same as concerns about rigging or fraud.

The talking point this election cycle has become the idea that the election was rigged. This rhetoric and these claims are coming from the top very top of the Republican party: the sitting president, Donald Trump. He and many from his cohort are flat out saying that the election was rigged, that people are hiding or throwing away ballots that were for him, and that election officials fabricated ballots in order to make sure he lost the election. The specifics of his claims vary, from having ballots with dead people on them to letting people vote more than once, but they have this in common: there is no evidence. His legal teams haven’t been able to cobble together any evidence, so much so that judge after judge is throwing out the cases.

Nobody was saying that the election was rigged in 2016.

Except, well, that’s not entirely true. But it wasn’t the people the meme suggests.
No democrats** said the election was rigged, but Trump did.

Before the 2016 election took place, Trump was convinced it would be fraudulent. Even after winning the 2016 election, he was still convinced there had been widespread voter fraud — presumably this was the only way to explain him losing the popular vote. He was so convinced of this that he formed a commission whose sole purpose was to investigate fraud in the 2016 election. Their findings? There was no evidence, none, to support the claims of widespread voter fraud.

Just. Like. This. Time.

You’re not woke or ~seeing through the bullshit~ for pointing out how the parties and their respective voters are the acting the same way because, in this instance, they’re not.
To pretend or claim that the concerns over interference and fraud are the same and equally as valid is, quite frankly, to be spouting the same bullshit you’re (presumably) trying to dispel.

Surely we can find a better 2020 election meme.

A handy review of some of the key differences between the 2016 and 2020 election:

  1. The “losing side” (Clinton) in 2016 was not saying the election results were rigged or that the election wasn’t secure.
  2. The “winning side” (Trump) in 2016, said that the election was rigged which allowed for the “losing side” (Clinton) to win the popular vote. Now the “losing side” (Trump) in 2020, they are again saying the election results were rigged, this time to allow Biden’s win.
  3. The “losing side” (Clinton) in 2016 was concerned by the amount of interference from international entities, namely, Russia.
  4. Despite those concerns over interference, the “losing side” (Clinton) in 2016 conceded. At the time of writing, the “losing side” (Trump) in 2020 has not conceded.
  5. Fraud and rigging are (in this discussion) the same. However, neither is the same as interference.

*Trump is also using the term “fixed”, which is synonymous with rigged.

**Obviously I cannot say that there weren’t random rogue democratic voters saying this, confused and conflating interference with rigging — but there was certainly no Democratic leadership saying this AND no news outlets reporting it as a “rigged” or “fraudulent” election.



Ariel Blaser

A curious writer, linguist, and tutor living as a tumbleweed on the North American continent. Can’t seem to settle into one niche or genre.