We’ve already passed the point where all hopes of a serious policy discussion in this presidential election have been dashed. That’s a shame, since there are so many important challenges which the next president will deal with. Instead we’re going to be talking about actresses being groped and whether or not one of the candidates is brain damaged for the next few weeks. Along with that, though, is a conversation I certainly didn’t see coming. On the Left we have a dedicated chorus of voices claiming that Trump is trying to undermine the nation by claiming that the election is rigged. But now, from the starboard flank, we have conservatives arguing that the Russians may be trying to use Trump as a tool to undermine America by, yes… making everyone fear that the election is rigged.
For our first example, let me turn the floor over to our old friend Matt Lewis writing at the Daily Caller. He starts off by offering some reader feedback he received which sets forth a dark, disturbing scenario, though one which is absent any sort of documented proof.
What if we are on the cusp of a true national and international crisis? Trump loses the election and instead of saying the American people have spoken, he continues to claim the election was rigged … To help with this, what if Russia decides to play with the election. On election night, they hack into the websites that are reporting results and show Trump leading when he really isn’t, or what if they actually hack some voting machines and Trump outperforms polls in those states by 8%+. Trump’s people use those states as examples to show that all of the other states are rigged. Russia, and other people who are friends with them (maybe even China), claim Trump is the rightful winner and should be President. Things keep escalating.
We should probably pause here for a moment and remind everyone that the losing candidate is not required to concede defeat. It’s a tradition, but if they fail to do so there will still be a vote in the Electoral College if there are no sanctioned recounts taking place. Also, foreign governments are not required to “accept” the election results in order for them to be legitimate. It’s a nice touch, but not required. And elections have been disputed by our own public in the past, including rather recently. How many Democrats spent 8 years claiming that Al Gore actually won the White House in 2000 and that George W. Bush’s presidency was illegitimate? The Republic somehow managed to not crumble into dust.
Matt goes on from there to recount his own questions about those clever Russians and how this may be their ticket to taking down the United States without firing a shot.
Back in September, I interviewed cyber security expert Igor Volovich, CEO and co-founder of ROMAD Cyber Systems, about the hacking scandals. Volovich took this scenario very seriously, describing the hypothetical interference in our upcoming election as a potential “Democracy 9/11.”
“The erosion of democratic institutions is a true objective,” Volovich warned. And, unlike the old days, where undermining a nation’s institutions took decades, “It’s very easy; you just compromise the polling stations. You compromise the polling boxes. You compromise the portal that reports the news. And we saw all of that take place in Ukraine in 2014.”
On the surface I’ll be the first to admit that our democracy only works if the people have faith in it. I accept this premise and the danger which could result if a sufficiently large segment of the population came to feel that our system of government wasn’t just incompetent, steeped in cronyism and occasionally corrupt, but actually a big, Matrix-style illusion. That would be a bad thing.
But if you’re assuming that the American people are actually going to leap off that particular ledge just because a losing candidate complained about the results or some (presumably) Russian hackers got up to some mischief in people’s email accounts, you are either selling the American people awfully short or you need to check into some sedatives. First of all you are relying on Russian hackers being able to swing the total vote count by as much as 8% on a national level or at least in a half dozen critical states. That’s millions of votes. Do you really think that our spooks are so inept that they couldn’t detect this while simultaneously believing that they’re savvy enough to track down the location and command structure of the people who cracked John Podesta’s G-mail password?
If there was a major hacking disruption on election day it would be exposed and we’d probably have to do it over. That would be a major disruption but not a constitutional crisis and ironically it would, in all likelihood, strengthen the faith of the voters in our ability to detect and prevent such mischief.
But at the same time, let’s not toss out our wariness over government systems entirely. I’ve written on the subject more than enough here and it’s a fact that we have dead people voting (as well as collecting government benefits) and a political media which is not above putting a thumb on the scale from time to time. (Has anyone checked to see if Donna Brazile has gotten access to this Wednesday’s debate questions?) Is all of this enough to completely flip over a presidential election? That’s beyond doubtful, but it’s still enough to rightly concern voters. What we should do is keep a closer eye on the media and look at some other steps (such as keeping track of when people die) to clean up the process and further increase voter confidence rather than eroding it.
Or we could blame the whole thing on some vast Donald Trump – Vladimir Putin conspiracy. If nothing else it should make for one heck of a movie if Jack Ryan’s character isn’t busy.