The Democratic lead in the race to control the House has lessened in recent months, and it is unclear if the Dems can mobilize core voters on a level that will compensate for the advantage the GOP has gained from recent gerrymandering and racially targeted voter suppression laws. I have a suspicion that the Christian Right, thanks to Trump’s Supreme Court picks, is going to mobilize its base this November in the most spectacular manner ever seen in midterms–the 20 percent asserting its Dominion over the 80 percent while the 1 percent laughs all the way to the bank.
As to the rest of the Trump base: even their idol’s appalling performance in Helsinki, operating like Putin’s lapdog, is unlikely to have a sobering effect. It is obvious from the performance of the crowds at recent Trump rallies that they will for the most part be unmoved by appeals to the national interest or to patriotism and the importance of the Western Alliance in the wake of Helsinki. For they have replaced national interest in their minds with the white nativist interest, patriotism with white nationalism, and the Western Alliance (insofar as they have any knowledge of the outside world) with the insurgent Putin-financed international movement known as “populism.” And most other Republicans stand and will continue to stand with Trump on the basis of an ersatz conservative ideology, desire for higher profits resulting from deregulation, or a cowardly conformism.
The race will probably be close. All Democrats should therefore be concerned that Russian government hackers will find a a way to influence the outcome in swing districts by just enough to maintain Republican House control and even help the GOP increase its majority in the Senate. Already the Russian GRU intelligence agency has attempted to hack the computers of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), who is one of the chief targets of Trump and the Republicans in their fight to maintain control of the Senate.
Our intelligence community keeps warning that Russian cyber warfare in this country continues on a massive scale, but no one is doing much about it. The majority of states are expressing little concern over the possibility of new electoral attacks. And in many states there are no paper ballots, so no easy way to challenge suspicious results.
The Russians may do the hacking directly or provide cover for the Mercer family to once again use its own mercenaries with a little outside help. The hacking may eventually be discovered (or may not, as in the case of the suspected ballot machine tampering in the 2000 Presidential election) but before that the Republican candidates who benefited will be safely occupying their seats–and no one will be able to unseat them (or indict those in the United States who were involved) since the Republicans, flush from victory and continuing to control all three branches of our government, will support Trump in firing Mueller and dismantling the Russia investigation, and in dismissing questions about the November results as “fake news” or a deep-state “witch hunt.”
The GOP leaders may already anticipate that Putin will bail them out, but they don’t frame it as unpatriotic or treasonous to accept Russian support, because they think the Democrats are FAR WORSE than Putin. Same with the Christian Right, which has been allying with Russian Orthodox rightists (backed by Putin-linked oligarchs) for years.; it is more concerned with taking away a woman’s right to control her own body and the right of LGBTQ people to marry–issues more important to them than any abstract and relatively trivial (as they see it) national security or integrity of the ballot issues. For both the Republican legislators and the Christian Right fanatics, the enemy of our enemy is our friend and the Constitution is to be interpreted as whatever keeps the Trumpublicans in power.
The federal government under Trump is not going to ride to the rescue on ballot security this November. Nor will Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department. Nor will the intelligence community. And certainly not Kirstjen Nielsen’s Department of Homeland Security.
The hour is late, but perhaps not too late for the following measures:
1. The Democratic National Committee and/or civil rights groups should file suits in every state without paper ballots, demanding immediate steps to protect the integrity of the computerized elections in those states; and where a state board of elections is not moving in an aggressive manner on this danger, the plaintiffs should ask the court to appoint an outside trustee to manage the election process.
2. The DNC should encourage computer scientists and highly skilled programmers, specially those with expertise in security issues, to join in a volunteer Save the Vote Corps to help any state board of elections in protecting its computer system. (Something similar is already being done to help protect the computers of Democratic congressional candidates.) Microsoft, Google, Facebook and other tech giants should be asked to provide experts for this volunteer corps.
At the least, these measures would help us to accumulate more knowledge of the background of any suspicious results, and thus make it easier to challenge such results in the courts, in the media, and in the streets.