The election is spawning a list of Things Of Which We Must Not Speak…. (More)
The mail room clerk shushed me for even texting about them.
Editor’s Note: We would never shush the Squirrel. We merely posed so the Grafix Department could get today’s image.
Anyway, the list is growing:
That hashtag has drifted on and off Twitter’s trending list for a few days, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein raised enough money to fund recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Pennsylvania’s deadline has already passed, but Stein will file anyway and take it to court.
Foreign governments tampering with US voting machines is a real threat. And if someone carried out a sophisticated attack on America’s voting systems, there might not be any obvious signs other than the changed outcome. So if no one manually checks to verify that the electronic results were accurate, it’s totally rational for the public to doubt the integrity of the results.
The solution is to make recounts (or equally reliable but much more affordable statistical audits) a routine part of the vote-counting process. If election officials audit the results of every election, then the decision to audit a particular election won’t give credence to conspiracy theorists, and it will bolster rather than undermine public confidence.
Making audits a routine part of the election process would have another big benefit too: It would deter foreign governments from trying to steal election results in the first place. Our current procedures create a significant chance that a hacked election would go undetected – which is a huge temptation for someone to try it. Under a system of routine audits, in contrast, hacked results would almost certainly be found, which means a foreign government probably wouldn’t bother. By requesting a recount this year, Clinton would help to set a precedent that integrity checks should be a routine part of the election process.
Like Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall, I’m very skeptical of claims that this election was hacked. The logistics of hacking tens of thousands of voting machines, of different types, in hundreds of counties across several states, makes the claims hugely implausible. But I agree that post-election audits should be standard procedure, and I hope the states grant Stein’s recount request … simply to put the conspiracy theories to bed, because….
“It was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign”
The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.
Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery – including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts – echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.
“The way that this propaganda apparatus supported Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy,” said the executive director of PropOrNot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers. “It was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign…. It worked.”
He and other researchers expressed concern that the U.S. government has few tools for detecting or combating foreign propaganda. They expressed hope that their research detailing the power of Russian propaganda would spur official action.
And as Marshall argues, we dare not let that interference disappear down the memory hold of “moving on”:
But while [Germans] are on their guard, here in the U.S. people are already starting to forget. We’re on to worrying about Trump’s latest outrage, taking up our preferred position in the internecine warfare within the Democratic party, cursing the pollsters and a lot else. Indeed, it’s not just that many of us are starting to move on. All along the reality of what happened – that our election was manipulated by a highly effective Russian subversion campaign – is difficult to fully process or accept. So there’s been a tendency to bracket it off as just another weird oddity of the 2016 cycle, some offensive mischief making that was galling but now behind us. But it is hard to see the German reaction and preparations and not get jolted back into a more honest view of the sobering reality. The Germans are preparing to counter and defeat electoral subversion we were unable to prevent and to which we fell victim. When you see that they are preparing to prevent what happened to us it gets a bit harder to sweep under the rug or forget that this really did happen to us.
Republicans and their media parrots would like us to forget about election rigging, except of course in North Carolina, where Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is filing baseless challenges, to ensure the result is still “in doubt” at the deadline so the GOP-dominated state legislature can declare him the winner regardless of the vote count. But the next time a Democrat wins the White House, you can bet Republicans will be howling about fraud. So yes, we should have routine audits, no matter the vote margins.
“A judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice”
The framers believed, as Alexander Hamilton put it, that “the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the [president].” But no nation had ever tried that idea before. So the framers created a safety valve on the people’s choice. Like a judge reviewing a jury verdict, where the people voted, the electoral college was intended to confirm – or not – the people’s choice. Electors were to apply, in Hamilton’s words, “a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice” – and then decide. The Constitution says nothing about “winner take all.” It says nothing to suggest that electors’ freedom should be constrained in any way. Instead, their wisdom – about whether to overrule “the people” or not – was to be free of political control yet guided by democratic values. They were to be citizens exercising judgment, not cogs turning a wheel.
Many think we should abolish the electoral college. I’m not convinced that we should. Properly understood, the electors can serve an important function. What if the people elect a Manchurian candidate? Or a child rapist? What if evidence of massive fraud pervades a close election? It is a useful thing to have a body confirm the results of a democratic election – so long as that body exercises its power reflectively and conservatively. Rarely – if ever – should it veto the people’s choice. And if it does, it needs a very good reason.
So, do the electors in 2016 have such a reason?
He claims they do, namely, that Clinton won the nationwide popular vote. But our presidential election is and has always been an aggregate of state elections. Had they been trying to win the nationwide popular vote, both Clinton and President-elect Trump would have planned and run very different campaigns. Both would have spent more time in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles rather than in Raleigh, Pittsburgh, or Green Bay.
More’s the point, the Electoral College stepping in to select Clinton over Trump would create its own problems, as Martin Longman explains:
What Lessig should have argued is that the Electors should plainly judge Trump a menacing incompetent and reject him with extreme prejudice.
This is a justifiable argument in our current circumstances.
However, even this is not a slam-dunk case because it would cause immense civil unrest. It takes a certain arrogance and perhaps some unwarranted self-assurance to insist that you know that a Trump presidency will be worse than the problems that denying him the presidency would cause.
Maybe the Electoral College will decide that’s worth the risk. They could, under the Constitution, despite many states’ laws that penalize “faithless electors.” But I doubt they will, and I’m not sure they should.
Even so, we should reject claims that such issues – and others, like the GOP’s decades-long voter suppression campaign – are Things Of Which We Must Not Speak. The idea that challenging of election outcomes “undermines faith in the democratic process” is both false and one-sided. False because our system is not perfect, and one-sided because Republicans howl “voter fraud” every time they lose.
And if Republicans are the only ones allowed to challenge election outcomes … we progressives may as well pack up our tents and go home.
Image Credit: Crissie Brown (BPICampus.com)
Good day and good nuts