Foreigners Rigging Our Elections: A Modest Proposal
Russians opened Twitter and Facebook accounts, and used them to say bad things about Hillary Clinton and good things about Trump. They took out Facebook ads that did the same, and organized political events along similar lines.
That's what they're being accused of, anyway.
Just one problem: none of that is election fraud.
In order to evade this point, the media don't use the term "fraud" when discussing why these actions on the part of Russians invalidate Trump's election, and, thus, his presidency. They use terms like "election rigging," or "election interference," or "undue influence."
Just one problem: the acts the Russians* are being accused of are neither "election rigging" nor "election interference."
What the Russians did, assuming the accusations are true, is electoral campaigning. Electoral campaigning is the attempt, through the expression of opinions and information, to persuade voters to vote for one candidate or another. In the history of electoral campaigning, people have used both true information and lies in their attempts at persuasion. There are ethical and practical reasons to punish people for using lies to discredit a candidate. Regrettably, in the history of American politics, such punishment is as rare as hen's teeth.
But no one is discussing whether or not the information conveyed through the Russians' putative Twitter and Facebook accounts was true, or false. That point seems inconsequential to the current furor. The only points that are relevant are: information unfavorable to Hillary Clinton was presented online, to attempt to get people not to vote for her--and Russians did it.
So it is not the veracity of the information that is at stake here: it is that any information unfavorable to Hillary Clinton was presented at all. It is the act of persuasion that is decried. It is, in fact, the act of campaigning itself. The media, the FBI, the CIA, Robert Mueller, most of the Democratic party and some Bush Republicans have decided that electoral campaigning is tantamount to "election interference"--if campaigning is being done on behalf of the wrong candidate.
When it becomes clear exactly what the media, the FBI, Robert Mueller and the others are asserting, it becomes clear why candidates like Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders have also been accused, along with, of course, Donald Trump, of conspiring with Russians to create a fake election result. All these candidates have one thing in common: they all campaigned, at one point or another, against Hillary Clinton. It is the act of campaigning against the establishment candidate which is being decried and potentially criminalized.
It's worth asking, then, what constitutes a clean, genuine election, because by the current logic, every election since the election of George Washington has suffered from "election interference." It's also worth noting that none of the Twitter and Facebook accounts created by David Brock's consulting firm constitute undue influence over the results of the election, nor is that consulting firm being accused of "interference."
Russiagate is a fog of McCarthyism, xenophobia, and, frankly, undemocratic authoritarianism. Think for a minute what it means if it becomes a criminal or treasonable act for a person to express support or opposition to a political candidate. The most logical argument one can extract from this fog is that it's fine for Americans to campaign in American elections, but interference if foreigners do it. The idea would be that foreigners, and foreign states, have too much power over American elections.
Actually, I agree. Foreigners and foreign states do have too much power over American elections. Certain people within America also have too much power over American elections, but that's a topic for another time.
How should we deal with this problem?
If we don't like foreigners campaigning in American elections (a reasonable position), because we're afraid foreigners will have undue influence over our politicians (also a reasonable position) then I'd think we might want to look into foreigners dumping millions of dollars into political candidates' campaigns.
That's my proposal.
Because a few Facebook ads and Twitter accounts amount to jack shit in a world where this happens:
and this happens:
and even this happens:
You'd think, if we were so worried about undue foreign influence on our leaders, perhaps we'd be concerned about Chinese nationals dumping millions of dollars into Jeb Bush's campaign. Or that a Saudi prince claimed that Saudi Arabia had funded 20% of Hillary Clinton's campaign. Or that Saudis put millions of dollars into the Clinton Foundation. Similar occurrences among federal politicians are likely legion.
So let's make it illegal for politicians to take large sums of money from foreigners, whether directly or through intermediary organizations like PACs, SuperPACs, and personal or family foundations.
Since we have no interest in doing so, and, apparently, only The Intercept and Zerohedge and similar organizations seem interested in even discussing these donations, the only rational conclusion is that this brouhaha over foreign influence is just so much hypocritical cant.
*A tangential, but important point here is that individual Russian citizens are automatically conflated with the Russian state, much as if someone suggested that every American who expresses a point of view about foreign politics is automatically a CIA agent. I suppose that, from now on, we will all assume that anyone saying bad things about Venezuela's government online is a CIA agent.