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Say It Ain't So, Joe Biden: Did the US President Quote Joseph Stalin?

© REUTERS / POOLU.S. President Joe Biden attends events at the U.S. Capitol to commemorate first anniversary of Capitol attack in Washington
U.S. President Joe Biden attends events at the U.S. Capitol to commemorate first anniversary of Capitol attack in Washington - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.01.2022
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In a heated statement to reporters, US President Joe Biden appeared to quote Joseph Stalin, the premier of the Soviet Union from 1924 to 1953, when he said, "state legislative bodies continue to change the law, not as to who can vote, but who gets to count the vote".
The confusing outburst occurred after a meeting between the US president and Democratic lawmakers over the voting rights bill. Biden was visibly agitated by the outcome of the meeting.
He said, "I hope we can get this done. The honest to god answer, I don't know if we can get this done…but one thing for certain, like every other major civil rights bill that came along. If we miss the first time, we can come back and try a second time".

Biden would continue, "We missed this time, and the state legislative bodies continue to change the law, not as to who can vote, but who gets to count the vote, count the vote, count the vote!"

The line immediately brought to mind a famous line attributed to Stalin.

"It doesn't matter who votes and how, it matters how the votes are counted", Stalin is alleged to have said.

© Sputnik / Eugene Haldei / Go to the photo bankGeneralissimo of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin. Moscow, 1945
Generalissimo of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin. Moscow, 1945 - Sputnik International
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Generalissimo of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin. Moscow, 1945
© REUTERS / POOLU.S. President Joe Biden gives remarks in the Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol during a ceremony on the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 6, 2022. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS
U.S. President Joe Biden attends events at the U.S. Capitol to commemorate first anniversary of Capitol attack in Washington - Sputnik International
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U.S. President Joe Biden gives remarks in the Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol during a ceremony on the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 6, 2022. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS
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Generalissimo of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin. Moscow, 1945
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U.S. President Joe Biden gives remarks in the Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol during a ceremony on the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 6, 2022. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS
There is no clear proof that Stalin ever uttered this combination of words, however, but there is compelling evidence to suggest that the saying originated in the United States.
As to whether or not Stalin said those words, the most compelling piece of evidence that he may have expressed something along those lines is a memoir of a former secretary of Stalin's that defected to the West.
Boris Bazhanov, Stalin's former personal secretary, claimed that he at one time said, "I regard it as completely unimportant who in the party will vote and how, but it is extremely important who will count the votes and how".

"There is no way to know for sure whether he accurately recounted Stalin's words, if Stalin in fact said such a thing", according to Mark Kramer, director of a Cold War studies programme at Harvard University.

"Hence, I regard this as a statement attributed to Stalin by his former secretary Boris Bazhanov", he added.

If Stalin did utter those words there is a chance that he may have been inspired by American politics.
An American political cartoon from 1871, depicts New York state senator William Tweed leaning next to a ballot box with the caption, "As long as I count the vote, what are you going to do about it?" To further hammer home the artist's point, the ballot box is inscribed with the phrase, "In counting there is strength". Stalin was born in 1878 and died in 1953.
Harper's Weekly, October 7, 1871
Harper's Weekly, October 7, 1871 - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.01.2022
Harper's Weekly, October 7, 1871
In 1877, the Daily Examiner attributed the line, "Give me the Returning Boards and it won't matter to me who voted how", to US Secretary of the Interior Zakaria Chandler.
The sentiment would continue to pop up in American newspapers in the late 19th century. It appears that fears over election integrity are as old as elections themselves.
Biden didn't quote Stalin, but he did quote numerous American politicians and political observers.
The president finished his statement and summed up what has been observed over the course of American history.

"It's about election subversion, not just whether or not people get to vote. Who counts the vote. That's what this is about. That's what makes it so different than anything else we've ever done. I don't know if we can get it done, but I know one thing, as long as I have a breath in me, as long as I'm in the White House, as long as I'm engaged at all, I'm going to continue to fight the way these legislatures are moving", Biden said. He took no questions after he finished talking.

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