Much has been made of the Mueller investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether eventually Trump and/or his lieutenants will be charged with collusion or obstruction of justice. However, that is not the most important thing. The most important thing is that we now know that the Russians were heavily involved in the 2016 election and most likely influenced the outcome. We also know that are already working on the 2018 elections.
Wait, you say, no one can say for sure that they actually determined the outcome. I would argue that common sense suggests otherwise. The election was very close. Hillary actually won the popular vote and in the key electoral districts in the Midwest that pushed Trump over the top, the results were extemely close. A few votes the other way could have made all the difference. We also know that the Russians were behind a massive social media campaign posting fake news to curtail turnout from minority groups, who typically vote Democratic, and to anger the white working class, who this time around voted heavily Republican. We know that turnout was below expectations in the former group and higher than expectations in the latter.
Bottom line: In my book, the election was rigged. It was stolen. Without the Russian involvement Trump would not have won. Yes, there were a number of other factors. Hillary was not a very effective candidate, and the whole Comey email controversy contributed, along with the protest vote (largely from the white working class) for a change from the status quo. You could say that this was a perfect storm. But it turns out from what we know from Mueller’s Russian indictments, the Russians were a major factor, without whom in my view Hillary would now be President. Their involvement was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
That an adversarial foreign power could have this kind of influence on perhaps our most sacred Democratic tradition is more than alarming. Some would say that it is an act of war. So you would think that keeping anything like this from happening again would be the number one item on our national agenda.
Trump still has not conceded that Russia had any influence on the election results and has not said one bad word about Putin or about the threat Russia poses in the 2018 mid term elections where it is already clear that they are using the same tactics. There is the even more alarming threat that they will be able to hack into election results and alter the outcomes. While Democrats have protested vehemently, Republicans have taken a ho-hum attitude. No legislation or national initiatives have been taken to try to keep this from happening again. There probably will be none.
How could this be? How could we as a nation sit back and watch the same thing happen again?
The answer is quite simple. Trump and the Republicans need the Russian meddling. Trump knows what went on in 2016 (and I think will eventually be nailed by Mueller), and many Republicans know what went on. Without the Russian meddling they would be toast. Their only hope in avoiding disaster in 2018 is a little more help from their Russian friends. They would be fools to turn this down.
Think about where the country is now and where the Republicans stand on the major issues. Trump’s popularity is at its lowest point (35%) and his disapproval at its highest (60%). On almost all the major issues—the Dreamers, the #Me too Movement, curtailing gun violence, immigration, preserving the social safety net, leveling the economic playing field—Trump and the Republicans are on one side of the issue, and the majority of the American population is on the other. They are out of step with the American people and with American values. All the energy favors the Democrats. In an open and fair election the Republicans would not keep control of the House or the Senate. But our elections are anything but. Big money plays too powerful a role as do the gerrymandered electoral districts, which create safe seats for extremists. And now we have the Russians. Of course, Trump and most of the Republican elected officials are going to sit quietly by and let them do the dirty work. This is the only chance they really have.