Many Americans were simply stunned that Trump could possibly have been elected President. But the fact is that Trump actually lost the popular vote by quite a bit (almost 3 million votes). Trump won by an 80,000 vote margin in just three states. That’s how close the election was. We know that some undetermined number of folks said that they didn’t really vote FOR Trump but rather AGAINST Clinton.
We also know that break off “progressives” who either failed to vote or voted for Jill Stein and the Green Party had enough numbers in those states to have thrown the election back in Clinton’s favor.
We also know that ten million African American voters who turned out for Obama went back to not voting in 2016. While there were legitimate reasons for their lack of motivation, it’s a fact that they were targeted by Russian social media Trolls in an effort to discourage participation.
All of this points out the fact that the Russian backed, anti-Clinton campaign which spewed conspiracy theories non-stop throughout the election made the final difference. Far Right and far Left groups bought into, perpetuated, and magnified these Russian Troll created narratives.
Americans have to stop believing outrageous conspiracies that are designed to play to their prejudices and start getting into some sort of reality zone.
The right understands that the demographics in this country are against it. So they are busy extending and tightening their control of the nation’s media. Sinclair which is a very right wing corporation backed by big money from radical libertarian interests is making a concerted effort to extend its reach.
FOX News continues to be nothing but a disinformation organ for the far right and currently, the Trump administration. They serve to take the wildest fictions created by the ultra far right media like InfoWars and clean them up just a bit and make them seemingly respectable.
We know that anyone who listens to Alex Jones is, ipso facto, a nut job. But the right wing propaganda effort is a layered effort. They start with the totally wild crackpot ultra right talk shows. Then they take that essential message and clean it up and seemingly make it credible and respectable by running it through the massive FOX News network.
FOX brings on a mix of crazy right wing folks coupled with more mainstream Republican figures who lend some credibility to the reporting. But the overall message is only different in tone, not substance, from the insane narrative offered by the super far right.
If you want to give yourself a good wake up call, realize that FOX News is not the most right wing media network but rather the closest to the center of the vast right wing media disinformation network. Sinclair is quite a bit more right wing. And most of America is exposed to this propaganda effort 24/7.
The Russian owned media outlets in the US, Sputnik and Russia Today (RT) are somewhat transparent in their agendas. But what is less apparent is how many of the folks on their payroll seem to be engaged in messaging efforts designed to influence other media and especially social media campaigns. Coordination with Russian Troll farms makes what these folks are up to more sinister. They are really functioning as an extension of Russian intelligence operating freely here in the US.
Anyway, all of this combines to threaten the democratic process in which the will of the people is expressed through a vote. It represents an all out effort to control the sources of information and distort that info to shape the opinions of the voters. It has never in our history been as sophisticated or effective. And with media consolidation it is only going to get worse.
Sheila Kennedy has blogged about our election security situation in her article Smoke and Fire and Vote Suppression As usual she is thoughtful and articulate and brings up some points that we really need to be considering and under the Trump administration, for reason that are really not justifiable, we are not.
Donald Trump’s obsession with trying to prove that he really didn’t lose the popular vote, that the three million more votes for Hillary Clinton were fraudulent, has caused him to set up a Federal probe to investigate this so-called “fraud” for which there is ZERO evidence. At the same time, Trump is adamant in his attempts to minimize the Russian interference in the 2016 election, for which there is massive evidence. Furthermore, given what we know of the Russian penetration of state voting systems, it would seem to be crucial that we take a look at the electronic voting machines, the security of the voter data bases, and so on because that’s where the really significant vulnerabilities lie. But Trump’s Dept of Homeland Security has nixed that effort. So, the bottom line here is that the Trump administration wishes to spend many millions of dollars investigating a problem that doesn’t exist but will not do anything about a problem that is potentially REALLY serious. Many see this as a stealth effort to set up Federal level voter suppression measures and 40 states so far have refused to cooperate wit the probe’s request for records. The Russians have managed to interfere with our 2016 election. We know that much. The extent to which their cyber penetration, their vast social media propaganda effort and other tactics, tipped the scales in 2016 has not been quantified and may not ever be. Their intelligence operation against Hilary Clinton and for Donald Trump was so complex that we may find it impossible to separate out what effect the Russian interference and from other elements that would have happened anyway. But one thing is certain. The Russians have incurred almost no negative consequences for their cyber attack on our system. I suspect that the 2016 election interference op will go down in history as one of the most successful covert ops in intelligence history. Espionage professionals will be studying this operation in spook school for many years. Given its success and the negligible price that Russia has paid, it’s virtually certain that they will continue this effort going forward. The Russians look at our democratic system as our big vulnerability. With a public that is polarized to the point at which elections at the national level are won by a mere percentage point or two we are uniquely vulnerable to fake news, disinformation campaigns designed to sway just enough votes to change the outcome. Tipping the scales is quite possible when elections are this close. We desperately need to address the security of this process at the state level and this will require Federal coordination and financial support. Because it isn’t just he Russians we have to worry about. Other nations have cyber units that regularly hack our business and government systems. And now that they’ve seen how successful the Russian covert op was, we can expect other players to try the same thing.
The Democrats are in flux. They have a very real set of issues.
First, the wealth divide, which can also be seen as a generational issue. The democrats moved away over time from their working class roots towards looking to the liberal elites who have made their fortunes in finance and tech in order to raise the kind of money it takes to run modern campaigns.
The Bernie Sanders progressives are far to the left of the bulk of the Democratic voters who are still part of the baby boom generation and while they are extremely supportive of civil rights and diversity issues, they are a bit gun shy of what the right wing propaganda depicts as socialism. That’s why we haven’t been able to get to single payer before now.
If we can get the big money out of the electoral process, the party can place more focus on the young voters who are quite a bit to the left of their parents. Studies have shown that millennials are actually fine with describing their political positions as some variation of socialism. My generation, which was born at the time of the Red Scare and McCarthy stayed far away from that term.
But as long as it takes such huge sums to mount an effective campaign, it’s hard for the Dems to shift direction towards an agenda that their big bucks liberal supporters might find to be a bit much. Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama, and Hillary Clinton were all quite successful with their centrist focus, at least in terms of having the kind of fund raising machines it takes to win. The Dems may have lost the heartland but it wasn’t for lack of money, it was more where and how they spent it.
Bernie Sanders showed that a Presidential candidate can raise enough money from a real grass roots fund raising effort made up of small contributors. But the fact is that there is no state and local network of progressive candidates or a progressive party organization to mount down ticket races that requires the support of a national organization. What Kind of Money It Takes to Run for President
Bernie’s fund raising supported his campaign but progressives have yet to demonstrate any staying power. They have not yet shown they can create the structure of a national movement. Bernie’s Movement was in some ways a “cult of personality”. It was all about making Bernie into the Great White Progressive Hope.
Anyway, clearly the future belongs to the young. However there are probably more young, non-college educated, working class folks out there as there are nice educated liberal / progressive millennials. They will not be able to carry elections on their own for a number of years. The Baby Boomers, like myself, are more moderate and centrist. And They look to be around as a voting block for another three or four election cycles.|
The second is race. Like it or not, the developing progressive movement has not connected with minorities very well. Hillary Clinton did far better with Black voters than Bernie did, despite the endorsement of Bernie by a number of famous Black activists. In many ways, the Bernie Progressives were as much a white phenomenon as Trump’s Tea Party supporters. In the actual election Clinton got 88% of the Black vote cast but the numbers of Black voters who stayed home was in the millions. How Bernie Sanders Lost the Black Vote
After eight years of Barrack Obama, the Black community is disillusioned with the whole system, They have consistently supported the Democrats with no measurable change in economic status, without changing the war on drugs, unequal imprisonment, unequal justice in the courts, grossly unequal violence at the hands of law enforcement. The white, college educated professionals who flocked to Bernie Sanders have not connected with minority voters to any large degree. This has to be figured out before we are going to see anything but cynical apathy on the part of minority voters.
So, the Democrats absolutely need to find candidates going forward that can appeal to minority voters and white liberal elites at the same time, as Barack Obama did. And they have to develop a platform which they strongly push at the local, state and national level that addresses the wealth divide. They are not going to win any support away from Trump, heartland supporters, on the social issues that liberals and progressives consider non-negotiable.
These issues represent a culture divide that will not be breached until the income and educational chasm is addressed. But, if, over time they can show they actually have a real plan that would benefit the poor and working class folks in this country without scaring the liberal elites with the money too badly, over time they should be able to get back that old Democratic identity as the party that represents the working and middle classes. The Progressives will have to stop assuming that success and money equal corruption or they will drive away the very support they will need to shift the Dem Party towards a more progressive agenda with progressive candidates.