Most Americans are rightfully alarmed when they hear that the Russians might have hacked our presidential election. Just the mere thought of Russians exerting ANY sort of influence on our electoral system to sway American voters one way or the other is terrifying.
Now, it appears that devastated Clinton supporters are trying to use our fear of Russian influence to delegitimize President-elect Donald Trump — to make us think he did not win the election fair and square. Yes, it’s wrong. But no, it’s not surprising. While Republicans seemed to be able to grieve and move on after Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the Democrats — dejected and desperate — have been unable to let go and admit that Clinton really lost. Using the Russians as a scapegoat is just one of the many straws they’ve been grasping.
Since the election, those on the left have been fanning the flames of the Russian hacking rumors. U.S. intelligence agencies have been tasked with producing iron-clad evidence of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections, including the cyber-attacks on the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) computers and leaks of emails damaging to the Clinton campaign.
For months, intelligence officials have been saying they are confident the Russians are guilty of the cyber-attacks, but they have not said for certain if the Russian’s motive was to help Trump win the election. This week, during a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee, National Intelligence Director James Clapper told committee members that, based on the evidence gathered to date, he believes the Russians DID tamper with the presidential campaign in order to influence American voters in favor of Trump.
So, if the Russians really did meddle in our elections, what does it mean? Most importantly, it doesn’t change the outcome of the election. There’s no way of ever quantifying how much it impacted the outcome. But, it does mean that some preventative efforts are warranted, moving forward.
This is not the first time the Russians have interfered with our elections. They’ve been doing it for decades. And, so have we.
It’s true. Political scientist Dov Levin estimates that the U.S. and Russia “intervened in 117 elections around the world from 1946 to 2000 — an average of once in every nine competitive elections.” So it’s pretty much the pot calling the kettle black with Russia.
President Obama, in his last attempts at salvaging anything resembling a legacy, decided to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for their interference by expelling 35 Russian diplomats last week. But, given the fact that the U.S. and Russia BOTH have been meddling for a long time in democratic elections worldwide, it’s likely they just shrugged it off.
Does this mean we allow the Russians to continue meddling in our elections? Absolutely not. But in the case of cyber-warfare, punishment may not prove to be the best deterrent. And certainly not the only deterrent. We may have to innovate our way around it next time, using technology that can help keep us one step ahead them.
What does Trump think about the Russian hacking allegations? Judging by his Tweets, he would like to just move on. But, he’s been slammed for being incredulous about the accuracy of the intelligence information. Higher-ups in the intelligence community have accused him of politicizing the situation and undermining intelligence efforts and morale.
Trump’s lack of willingness to attend intelligence briefs is not giving him any sort of credibility on this front. But, intelligence agencies like the FBI and CIA should look inward when it comes to making our national security political. The American public lost a great deal of trust in its intelligence community this summer, when it became evident the FBI seemingly helped Hillary Clinton cover her email server tracks. That’s trust they will have to regain.
Is it even possible for the FBI or CIA to regain America’s trust? Is Donald Trump dismissing this issue because of his relationship with Putin or the fact that he won the election so it doesn’t really matter to him? Perhaps most importantly, how are Americans supposed to believe that we have an effective government when intelligence agencies and the President start off the new term with a mountain of conflict between them?