In the United States, every citizen that is age 18 or above and is registered to vote enjoys the right to do so. While, on average, the people of the US do not take advantage of this right as much as those of other countries, there are still hundreds of millions of people that contribute to their “civic duty” every other November. But should it be that simple? Should anyone and everyone that shows up to the ballot be able to make a decision that could potentially drastically affect the scope of the country and have a direct effect on your life, regardless of their understanding of what they are voting for?
The 2016 election was a showdown between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton. The fact that the leader of the free world was going to be one of these individuals, both of whom were under FBI investigation, shows that our electoral system is in need of reform. Further compounding this need is the fact that Donald Trump received 2.8 million votes fewer than the loser, Hillary Clinton. The Electoral College is clearly a disaster which does not do an adequate job in achieving any of the noble goals presented by its supporters. However, the solution of going to a popular vote, by far the most popular idea, would be even worse. The Electoral College must be repealed and replaced with a ranked choice voting system, rather than relying on the popular vote.
The Failure of the Electoral College
The Electoral College was a disaster from the start. The system went unnoticed during the first two elections as George Washington was running, so it was really more of a formality than an actual election. Its flaws, however, became apparent in the election of 1796 between Federalist John Adams and Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson. At the time, the Electoral College operated under the rules prescribed in Article II Section 1 Clause 3, which gave each elector two votes for President. Whoever had the majority of votes became President, and whoever had the second most became Vice President. Adams won, becoming President, but rather than fellow Federalist, Thomas Pinckney, receiving the second most to become Vice President, Jefferson of the opposite party did. This made the Executive branch split ideologically for the only time in American history, causing tension and inefficiency. Problems continued in the election of 1800 when Democratic-Republicans Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr each received 73 electoral votes and the outcome of the election went to the House of Representatives. It was a brutal political battle that took 35 deadlocked votes before Alexander Hamilton convinced a minority of Federalist Representatives to back Jefferson in the 36th vote, making him the third President of the United States (a decision that would help lead to Burr killing Hamilton in a duel). Both sides understood our electoral system was a mess, so to remedy this the Twelfth Amendment was ratified in 1804, making each elector now have only one vote for President and one for Vice President.
While certainly an improvement, ratifying Twelfth Amendment was like applying a band-aid when surgery is required. Many more problems have surfaced since regarding Presidential elections and more and more band-aids have been added.
With electoral votes being what matters and not the votes of the people, the right to vote in a Presidential election was not and is still not guaranteed. The Fifteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-sixth Amendments had to be ratified, along with the passage of countless laws, to at least clarify which characteristics can’t be used to prevent Americans from voting.
The Twenty-third Amendment was ratified in order to actually let American citizens in our country’s capital have any say in who would be running the nation. For 172 years they were spectators in their own country. Today, millions of Americans are unable to vote for who should be their Commander in Chief simply due to the fact they live in territories rather than states.
There have been five elections in which the winner of the popular vote was defeated. Additionally, small states are disproportionately represented in the Electoral College. Both of these are hailed by supporters of the Electoral College as its benefits. Small states should be represented and the tyranny of the majority should be kept at bay. The problem is that neither of those has really happened. When is the last time you saw a presidential candidate visit Wyoming or Vermont? Small states have not been represented, while swing states receive large amounts of media and campaign attention. Rather than a national election, the Presidential election is an election of Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. This is not how it should be. While power should be decentralized and overall, states should have more powers and influence in the lives of the American people, when we are holding an election for the head of the national executive the entire nation should be involved. The idea that we need a system that checks the tyranny of the majority is absolutely true. The Electoral College just isn’t the way to do it. Checks and balances, a small list of enumerated federal powers, decentralization of power, and state legislatures picking Senators were effective ways to check the majority. We have abandoned many of these ideas as government has grown bigger while our rights have shrunk, and the Electoral College hasn’t been able to stop any of this. The way to change course and keep small states powerful and the tyranny of the majority in check is to stick to checks and balances and decentralization of power, not have a terrible electoral system where someone can become President with only 27% of the popular vote. We should keep powers limited to protect the states. We should keep the amount of positions people get to elect limited to check the tyranny of the majority. But once we’ve decided to allow the people to vote, as we should do when deciding who gets to be the powerful man in the world, we should treat it as any other vote: winning 51% of the vote means winning the election.
The final supposed benefit of the Electoral College was it would protect us from the ignorance of the masses. It did this through the Electors, which are in no way constitutionally bound to vote for who the people of their state picked, although many states have laws requiring them too. But has it at all checked the people’s ignorance? The reality TV star who cheated on his wife with a porn star is President right now. President Wilson (re-segregated the federal government), President Roosevelt (put Japanese people in camps and appointed a former KKK member to the Supreme Court), and President Johnson (helped filibuster civil rights legislation) all were elected without any opposition from Electors. In fact, the only time the Electors have had any significant impact was during the election of 1872 when the Democratic nominee for President, Horace Greeley, died after the popular vote but before the electors cast their votes, causing them to split their votes between four other Democrats. Just like the tyranny of the majority, the ignorance of the majority should not be checked by the way we hold our elections. The way to check it is to limit the power of the federal government and what positions we get to vote for.
With the Electoral College being the disaster it is, many have proposed we move to a popular vote. In this system, whichever candidate receives the most votes becomes the next President. But this cure is worse than the disease. There have been eight elections in which the winner won with a plurality of votes, and this system exasperates this problem. It requires there to always only be two candidates, stifling many viewpoints and competition. The clearest example is with Bill Clinton’s election in 1992. Clinton won with an electoral landslide despite winning only 43.01% of the vote. This was because the third-party candidate, Ross Perot split President George H. W. Bush’s base. A Democrat won the election despite the fact that 56.36% of the electorate chose a conservative-leaning candidate. This is a problem that will continue to occur with a popular vote. A different solution is clearly needed.
Ranked Choice Voting
A Ranked Choice Voting System is the best way to elect the President. In this system, rather than picking just one candidate, a voter ranks his or her favorite candidate 1st, the second 2nd, and so on. If when the votes are tallied in the first round, none of the candidates received above 50% of the popular vote, then the candidate in last place is eliminated and the votes for those who voted for the now-eliminated candidate go to their highest ranked, non-eliminated choice. This process continues until one candidate has above 50% of the vote, making them the next President of the United States. President Bush would’ve been able to win in dominant fashion in the second round of the election under this system; giving the American people a President most closely aligned to the wishes of the electorate. That should be the most important goal of any electoral system, and none do it better than ranked choice voting.
While ensuring the majority of the American people actually voted for the next President is the most important goal, there are many other goals that are achieved by Ranked Choice Voting.
The candidates will be less radical. Primaries allow radical bases to select candidates not in line with mainstream America, causing most Americans to choose between the lesser of two evils as seen best by the 2016 election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Under this system primaries are weakened and may even become totally irrelevant and eliminated as multiple people from each party would be able to run without destroying any chance of victory as with the elections of 1912 and 1992.
With more candidates being viable the American people will have more options and more opinions will be represented. With votes transferring, the idea of ‘wasting your vote’ will be a thing of the past. All voters will get to vote with their conscience for the candidate most representative of their values without having to pick the least worst option.
The presidential candidates will have to campaign everywhere. Democrats in Texas and Republicans in California will finally have their votes matter and the need to campaign nationwide rather than Florida-wide will be the new path to victory.
Millions of American citizens living in territories such as Puerto Rico will be able to have a say in who their President will be. All Americans will have their votes matter now that we will have a system which ensures citizens do get to vote for President and there is no Elector who can go against the will of the people.
Lastly, this system has the potential to make elections more civil and unifying, something badly needed in this country. Most Americans disapprove of negative campaign ads, but their use is increasing. It is much easier to prove someone else wrong than to prove yourself right. A ranked-choice system creates negative consequences for disparaging your opponent and incentives to be civil; voters aren’t just voting once, they are now ranking candidates, so every detail of a campaign matters. And while not everyone is going to make a candidate their first choice, the candidate will want them to rank him or her second. A voter is not likely to rank a candidate anywhere on their list if the candidate is in a calling the other candidate’s supporters deplorables who are racist, sexist, bigoted, homophobic, and xenophobic. Candidates will now have to play nice if they hope to stand a chance should the election go to round two.
With an electoral system that has failed us from the beginning, many Americans are turning away from the Electoral College and looking for alternatives. While this is a necessary first step we must be careful not to stumble upon the first alternative and end up with an even worse electoral system. Ranked Choice Voting is by far the most efficient and beneficial system, making it the obvious choice for the Presidential electoral system of the future.
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The 2016 election was a fierce political battle, but it stretched beyond the typical fight between Republicans and Democrats. It was a battle between Western culture and cultural Marxism.
Cultural Marxism is a term used in much of right-wing media, typically as a term to describe social progressivism. When an institution comes out against straight white men or western values they get labeled by the right as falling to cultural Marxism. The left tends to label this as “alt-right propaganda” or simply a conspiracy theory. But in all actuality, cultural Marxism is real and is a problem in today’s society.
What Cultural Marxism is Not
Cultural Marxism gets used by extremists on the alt-right quite often. They label it as a “Jewish conspiracy” to kill the white race (often using the word “white genocide”). This is foolish. Cultural marxism is not this. It is not when people of different races interact with each other peacefully, marry, or have kids; rather it is about conflict amongst groups. The alt-right is just as disgusting as cultural Marxists.
What is Cultural Marxism?
Many have heard of cultural Marxism but do not understand it. Cultural Marxism begins with the Frankfurt School in the 1960s, the goal of this being to bring about a marxist society. It differs from traditional Marxism in the sense of bringing about this Marxist utopia by trying a new political strategy. The traditional Marxist movement’s of the past consisted of the Leninist strategy at building a movement. The goal was for the upper political elite to appeal to the bottom of society to create a “dictatorship of the proletariat”.
Unlike cultural Marxism, Leninist philosophy was based on the idea of class struggle. People were divided by their class, and Marxist thought tried to unite the working class to rise up. This helped party leaders like Stalin, Lenin, and Trotsky gain power. All political movements need a “bad guy” to fight against. For Leninism, this enemy was the monarchies and the capitalists. This was a success, as the revolution prevailed and the “dictatorship of the proletariat” began. Under it, the capitalists were the enemies and anyone who wasn’t a Bolshevik was attacked. Naturally, after Leninism, Stalinism occurs with a brutal police state hunting down enemies of the movement. The working class was used by elites to gain power. Meanwhile, the “middle man”, as well as many others in the working class, suffered.
Cultural Marxists use this Leninist model to gain power as well, but where they differ is in the target of the “bottom of society”. Cultural Marxists focus on cultural divides and not economics. In the Russian revolution, the oppressors were the upper class and the workers were the oppressed. Under cultural Marxism, the oppressors are white men and traditional western culture. The oppressed are minorities, women, the LGBT, Muslims, etc. Cultural Marxists attack concepts like the nuclear family as being part of “the patriarchy”. They label patriotism as racism and all of traditional western culture as oppressive or evil.
In the modern day, many people do not identify with economic class anymore. We aren’t divided as Bolsheviks, bourgeoisie, and the upper class anymore. People identify with their race, gender, and sexual orientation. Thus, cultural Marxist philosophers try to change the culture to obtain an end goal of complete Marxism. So far, they are very successful.
Examples of Cultural Marxism
We can see examples of this in Communist China, as Mao’s “Red Guard” destroyed artifacts of traditional Chinese culture. But in recent years it has overflown to the Western nations, like the United States, as well. We live in an age of forced so-called “political correctness” where everything from education, pop culture, and even sports must follow these principles or be punished. We allegedly live in a “homophobic country”, but bakers are harassed to obey the demands of the LGBT. Education has a huge bias with many classes being taught from a left-wing perspective. Furthermore, if a right-wing or conservative speaker comes to speak on a college campus, then riots or protests break out. The police are ordered not to stop the riots, but to force a peaceful speaker not to speak on campus.
The Elitist Love for It
The LGBT community, feminists, and Black Lives Matter activists are the new proletariat. (This does not mean for example that all women and/or minorities are apart of this as many white men are even part of this). The goal is a new “dictatorship of the proletariat” to destroy traditional western values. Naturally, elites will jump on board in an attempt to stay in power by using the so-called “oppressed” to gain power and influence. This is similar to how Stalin used the proletariat dictatorship to become the most powerful man in Eastern Europe.
Corporations jump on to socially progressive causes as they must to survive. Cultural Marxists were furious at the owner of Chic-Fil-A for being for straight marriage. Even in this year’s Youtube Rewind, politics was brought up as the viewer heard about the “brave art of drag queens” and “women gaining their voice”. Most of Hollywood and their elites speak out against borders and push progressive views. Hollywood and the media viciously attacked conservatives in the 2016 Presidential election, calling them “Nazis, white nationalists, and fascists”. It is true that actual Neo-Nazis are scum and should be called out. However, the majority of conservatives are not Neo-Nazis, and many labeled as such were not even close to National Socialism.
Some might even say we are under this neo-dictatorship of the proletariat. Elites destroy the lives of the opposition, while violent groups like Antifa bully right-wingers. Some attribute the election of Trump as a backlash against the cultural Marxists. Naturally, as a libertarian, I want an end to this cultural Marxist ideology as it only brings statism and conflict.
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The poet Florence McLandburgh, writing under the pen name McLandburgh Wilson, described the two competing perspectives we have convinced ourselves people see the world from using a pastry metaphor:
Twist the optimist and pessimist
The difference is droll:
The optimist sees the doughnut
But the pessimist sees the hole.
But who sees both the doughnut and the hole? Who sees the baker filling tray after tray with colorful pastries to say nothing of the sugar cane workers toiling under a tropical sun to provide him with the sugar to sweeten them? The world is far more interesting and complex than those who would have us see only the optimist’s doughnut or the pessimist’s hole would have us believe.
What optimism and pessimism really function as are ready-made prediction generators. Because they are outlooks, not the product of careful analysis, they apply their built-in doughnut vs. hole perspective to everything they encounter before bothering to learn much if anything about it. Optimism and pessimism, like most ism’s, presume to know the world without having to make any real effort to understand it.
Rarely, if ever, does a realist find life presenting her with situations that obviously justify either cheerful prognostications or dire statements regarding pending doom and gloom. Because the universe is a probabilistic place, the chance that things will turn out favorably eventually is constantly being weighed against the possibility of failure. Optimism and pessimism place extra weight on their respective side of the scale before we even have a handle on the full extent of the problem.
So far in the human experience neither the enthusiastic ‘Everything will turn out okay in the end’ nor the defeatist ‘We’re screwed’ have proven themselves accurate summations of our experience. The jury is still out, and it is going to remain out until extinction finally catches up with us. To extend our race against time constructive assessments are what’s called for.
To clearly understand the possibilities inherent within a situation it’s necessary to take a somewhat longer view than either those prone to wearing rose tinted glasses or their counterparts dressed in rain-gear expecting the sun to give way to a downpour at any moment tend to take. Optimism and pessimism, to the extent they are useful attitudes at all, are best suited to assess proximate personal circumstances that lend themselves to quick calculations and linear thinking. Will you do well on your final exam? Or, will you get the job you just interviewed for? Will someone you’re attracted to agree to go out on a date?
A realist, on the other hand, is curious rather than either Pollyanish or circumspect. She is a possibilist with a willingness to risk a certain amount of failure in order to test the limits of what can be done. She knows that in the long run mistakes are as crucial to success as positive results are.
Neither optimism nor pessimism sees failure as a silver lining, though the optimist will often say they do after the fact. Their focus is on likely outcomes rather than possible ones, which leads each to ultimately see success or the lack thereof only as a confirmation of their earlier predictions about how things would go.
It’s easy to forget that the very act of predicting the likelihood of a particular outcome has the potential to make the outcome we predict more likely than it would be otherwise. As part of the equation, not objective calculators of it, the act of viewing the world optimistically, pessimistically or realistically each come with considerable ethical baggage. We owe it to ourselves and our posterity to cast the problems we encounter in a light that maximizes the chances things will turn out as they should.
Because the attitudes we bring to the issues we face come with an inherent self-fulfilling prophecy quality, neither optimism nor pessimism is ethically scalable much beyond our own personal day-to-day affairs. For example, it isn’t a long cognitive walk from taking the position that we don’t think people will deal with climate change to losing faith that people can deal with it. Once we’ve concluded that’s the case there’s no point in trying and presto, our prediction that anthropocentric climate change cannot be resolved comes that much closer to becoming a reality.
Likewise, the “optimistic” view that the market, technology or some combination of the two will come to the rescue without us really having to do much of anything at all justifies inaction. In this case, instead of taking a fatalistic dose of pessimistic cyanide to kill our political will we’ve gotten drunk on wishful thinking. But either way, climate change becomes less likely to ever be proactively dealt with.
Will and won’t are conclusions about a future we don’t believe can be changed. They do not call us to action but rather summon us to take our seats. Likely andunlikely are better. They, at least, accurately describe our world in probabilistic terms. But if our goal is to inspire people to make the world a better place, likely and unlikely are hardly words that stir the soul.
However, if we find things that we can do that we also should do, with the right arguments it’s possible to get people to move mountains to get them done no matter how difficult they may seem at first. Optimism and pessimism only deal directly with how likely we are to do the right thing. By themselves, neither offers an inspiring vision of their own for why the right thing is both possible and worthwhile.
American politics provides us with a case study in just how toxic pessimism, in particular, can be. Until Bernie Sanders nearly toppled Hillary Clinton’s dream of winning the Democratic nomination in 2016, Democrats in the United States were extremely fond of arguing that Americans won’t accept a truly universal healthcare system. It was primarily for this reason that a public option never even received a floor debate during the struggle to pass Obamacare in 2009 and 2010.
Until 2016, with each consecutive election cycle that passed without anyone making the principled argument for Medicare for all the likelihood of the American people ever really embracing the concept appeared to drop even further, thereby confirming the conviction that Americans won’t accept it. We see a similar dynamic at work in the gun control debate, which likewise is full of rhetoric about what the American people will and will not politically accept and almost completely devoid of any discussion of what a truly rational gun policy should be.
What Senator Sanders did in 2016 showed the left the merits of framing their arguments around what both can and should be done instead of what they’ve convinced themselves will or won’t happen. He proved that just by forcefully arguing for what he believed was right, the needle of public opinion could move to make the unlikely more likely.
Politics is supposed to be the art of the possible. What’s possible has to do with what can occur, improbability aside. What’s likely to occur in the near to medium-term can serve as a worthwhile calculation when it comes to determining the degree of difficulty and formulating strategy, but should never get in the way of fighting for the right thing when it is possible to do it.
Probable and possible are not the same thing, in spite of our tendency to conflate them. As leaders like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, FDR, Martin Luther King Jr., JFK, and RFK all understood, what is possible but improbable today can become probable tomorrow if we consistently and unwaveringly pursue it.
Florence McLandburgh was right to associate optimism and pessimism with a sugary pastry. Cognitively speaking both are full of empty calories. They draw attention away from our aspirations with unfounded speculation about the relative ease or difficulty associated with making them a reality. Life is full of possibilities. That’s really all anyone needs to believe in order to keep moving forward.
As the Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy theory has, via lack of evidence, all but withered away, it is time to set the record straight on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. What many dramatically refer to as an attack on our democracy or even an act of war was actually closer to a non-event that U.S. foreign policy is to blame for. Instead of fear, anger, or hostility, we should react to Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election with empathy, pity, and national self-reflection.
Unfortunate Diplomatic Circumstances
In an ideal world, the Kremlin and the U.S. federal government would be mutually respectful allies, In this reality, American and Russian people would engage in commerce with each other freely. But we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world in which both governments’ choices have inculcated Americans and Russians with different languages, cultures, values, and fears. Because of this, it may be impossible for the US and Russia to ever eliminate hostilities wholesale and create a live-and-let-live type of atmosphere.
Even so, a Washingtonian/Jeffersonian foreign policy is our best and safest bet. Instead of getting caught up in entangling alliances, we should seek to make the best of an imperfect world. To do so, we must accept countries for what they are, imperfect. Thus, we should allow people of both countries to seek roads to happiness and prosperity when they see fit.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson summed up what I believe to be the core of good foreign policy in each’s farewell and inaugural addresses respectively:
“It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world…Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.” -George Washington
“Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” -Thomas Jefferson
What Will This New Direction Look Like?
Instead of sanctioning Russia and allowing NATO to usurp our national interests, we should knock down any roadblocks in our trade routes that we have the power to. If Russia reciprocates, great. If they don’t, our liberal policies will serve to the betterment of all anyway. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
I empathize with the heart of neoconservative foreign policy. The way I see it, it refuses to stand idly by as major human rights violations occur. Admittedly, there is virtue in universal recognition of the individualist philosophy that our forefathers preached, and in seeking to approach foreign affairs this way.
One problem, however, with this foreign policy is that it can create a hammer-without-a-nail mindset. Though simple from the outside, many foreign conflicts are complicated internal disputes that the U.S. has no business in. Histories external to America, when avenged in real time, do not reveal their depth to our media agencies. Here again, President Washington provides wisdom:
“Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.”
Despite my awareness of the complexity of history and geopolitics (which is another way of saying my awareness of my infinite ignorance) as well as my strong non-interventionist leanings, I am still sympathetic to the notion that the U.S. must treat Russia with an exceptionally strong level of distrust. I can even rationalize our military blockading what was once the epicenter of the Soviet Union. The map I have created below shows Russia, the United States, and the countries/regions surrounding Russia that at least 5,000 US troops occupy from a top-down point of view:
Whether you support the Neoconservative tendency towards caution or the Libertarian preference for sovereignty, such an immense military presence around Russia is going to have consequences. These may include, but are not limited to, intimidating military exercises, expansion of territory via brute force, increased centralized control over the flow of information internally, and a greater focus on collecting intelligence from adversaries. It should be no surprise that the Russian government engages in all of these defensive practices.
Is U.S. Intimidation Working?
The counter to this claim could be that the consequences of the U.S. and its NATO allies easing up would be even worse. One might say that the only reason Russia has been so meek in its hostilities is due to the current robust military presence.
This is a chicken or the egg dilemma that I cannot solve, but, for the sake of argument, I will give the benefit of the doubt to the neocons and concede that western military might in some form is needed to keep Russia at bay. Accordingly, we must accept the consequences of this choice, one of which is Russian intelligence agencies seeking information and causing disruptions, i.e. their involvement in the 2016 US election.
The Myth of Trump and Russia
From what I understand, the extent of Russia’s “meddling” in the 2016 US election does not amount to much. Based on the latest indictments brought by the Mueller investigation, Russian military intelligence operatives may have tried to hack the DNC’s server to expose information about Hillary Clinton. Previous indictments allege that Russians may have purchased Facebook ads aimed at sowing discord within the American public (not simply backing Donald Trump for president, as many lazy and/or biased media outlets continue to assert).
On hacking, I am not convinced that the Russians are responsible. As the race in the Democratic Party between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders was extremely divisive and contentious, it would be unsurprising to find out that various pro-Bernie members of the DNC with access to various servers decided to leak damaging documents about Clinton and her campaign. The motivation makes sense, and so do the logistics. It would have been far easier to get inside and download files at close proximity than from Russia.
An Expert Opinion
Patrick Lawrence, in a summary of a memo released by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), writes in The Nation:
“On the evening of July 5, 2016, 1,976 megabytes of data were downloaded from the DNC’s server. The operation took 87 seconds. This yields a transfer rate of 22.7 megabytes per second.
“These statistics are matters of record and essential to disproving the hack theory. No Internet service provider, such as a hacker would have had to use in mid-2016, was capable of downloading data at this speed. Compounding this contradiction, Guccifer claimed to have run his hack from Romania, which, for numerous reasons technically called delivery overheads, would slow down the speed of a hack even further from maximum achievable speeds.
“What is the maximum achievable speed? Forensicator recently ran a test download of a comparable data volume (and using a server speed not available in 2016) 40 miles from his computer via a server 20 miles away and came up with a speed of 11.8 megabytes per second—half what the DNC operation would need, were it a hack.”
This forensic evidence, combined with Occam’s Razor, makes it difficult for me to accept the accusation of Russian hacking at all, no matter how many US intelligence agencies say otherwise. I am not saying that the Seth Rich conspiracy theory is likely to be true, but I find it equally as persuasive as the Russian hacking theory.
Accusation Without Proper Evidence
The indictments of the Russian operatives accused of hacking the DNC server will not result in extradition or trial, so the accusations will never be tested in a court of law. And some of the most fundamental pillars of reason, liberty, and the Bill of Rights dictate that we cannot accept claims ad verecundiam. In fact, it is assertions from those in power, like the FBI and NSA, we must cast the most doubt upon.
The indicted Russians are not guilty until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It would be nice to have a civil libertarian organization like the ACLU actively reminding us of these things, but identity politics and Trump hatred have resulted in many such groups losing their way.
Beyond all this, the documents released by Wikileaks provided the public with more truthful information, which is most certainly a positive development for the democratic process. For those who purport to care about an informed public determining their destinies via the vote, it would be quite hypocritical to claim otherwise.
Hypocrisy at Home
Even if it were irrefutably the Russians who hacked the DNC server, the US has no moral high ground when it comes to intervening in foreign elections (or intervening militarily for that matter). The map below highlights the nations that have faced election interference from the US since the end of WWII (a total of at least 80 instances):
Bringing these facts to light in the current climate can result in accusations of treason as Senator Rand Paul has been subjected to. While this is to be expected when it comes to warmongering neoconservatives, hearing it from self-described liberals has a chilling effect. This sort of with-us-or-against-us, pseudo-patriotism is far more reminiscent of nazism than the enforcement of immigration law is.
Did Russia Have Any Significance?
To once again be extremely generous to the opposition, let’s accept three premises:
1) That the U.S. must take extreme measures to contain Russia
2) That Russia directly hacked the DNC server at least partially as a means of promoting Trump’s campaign
3) That the U.S. does not have to practice what it preaches in terms of respecting the right to self-determination of foreign peoples
Even with all of this accepted as fact, there continues to be zero proof that Russian “meddling” changed anyone’s vote. And there are monstrous hurdles one must overcome to prove the positive claim that Russia successfully influenced the 2016 election.
The first is that the amount of money Russia allegedly spent on influencing the election is a drop in a bucket at the bottom of a massive sea of campaign financing and media coverage. Unbiased America illustrates the incredible disparity between Russian spending and non-Russia spending. The foreign nation accounts for about 0.1% of the total money spent on the election.
And even without juxtaposing the amounts spent to influence the election, there is no scientific proof that campaign contact or advertisements can persuade voters in the first place. In a study published by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business in 2017, researchers concluded that “the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates’ choices in general elections is zero.” In other words, if you are looking to alter someone’s vote, it is going to take more than slogans, attack ads, and memes to do so.
How did Trump Really Win?
I imagine that the way to get voters on your side is to stump for policies they prefer and to create some kind of unified identity. Trump ran on making America great again, draining the swamp, defeating the establishment, protectionist economic policy, restricting immigration, non-interventionism, and lowering taxes without lowering welfare spending. I imagine this formula is what put him over the top, not these crude supposedly Russian-made memes:
To sum up, any genuine hysteria over Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election is misguided. There is no reason to believe Russia affected the US election in any way of their own volition, nor that they broke any laws. Freedom of speech is a human right, not one reserved for everyone except those who have some distant connection to the Russian government. Human nature and far greater influences impeded any attempts to impact the election. And Russian meddling in U.S. affairs is a small price to pay for containing them (or, rather, bullying and threatening them).
The More Chilling Issue
What should be of far greater concern to all Americans are reactions to the Trump-Russia narrative by individuals, the media, and especially the US government. Sanctions against Russia will harm the Russian people and strengthen its government. Already suffering from a lackluster economy, sanctions will further thin out their opportunities. On a global scale, sanctions and other barriers to trade create an invisible domino effect that hits sectors of economic activity around the world too. Growing economic anxiety and economic hostility from NATO combined with a global media that paint Trump as Russia’s lapdog will inevitably guide the Russian people deeper into the protecting arms of Vladimir Putin.
Many members of the public and in Congress have called for increased regulation of the internet and social media as a way to prevent Russia from “meddling” in future elections, a dangerous undermining of free speech and expression no American should tolerate.
Instead of making peace and harmony with Russia more difficult, we should accept the minor consequences of containing Russia or leave NATO and let Russia be. The men who fought off a bullying foreign nation to found the United States of America would have preferred the latter option.