Subversion Blues: Chasing Will-o’-the-wisps While the Junta Gathers Force

Here’s yet another oddity about our absurd political reality: the news cycle is being consumed with stories about an ongoing effort to undermine our democracy by revealing an ongoing effort to undermine our democracy.

Lest we forget, the current “Kremlin rigs US election” scandal is centred on the emails of Clinton campaign poobah John Podesta, which were obtained and released by WikiLeaks. These emails showed the Clinton campaign's systematic collusion with the Democratic National Collusion to skew the nominating process in her favor with various bits of Nixonian skullduggery (including massive, and successful, efforts to manipulate and co-opt the media into marginalizing, mocking and undermining Sanders' candidacy). Thus Democratic primary voters were not dealing with a level playing field, but one which had been altered in a bid to "rig" the nomination and undermine party democracy. (It also led to the selection of a candidate who, as shown in poll after poll, would struggle to defeat Trump.)

Now, it can be argued that Clinton would have won the nomination anyway; after all, it can't be shown definitively that Sanders would have won without this Clinton-DNC effort to undermine democracy. But equally, it can't be shown definitively that Trump would not have won his Electoral College victory but for the release of the Podesta emails. For lest we forget again, the Podesta emails were NOT the government emails that Clinton was being investigated for throughout most of the campaign and which, thanks to the FBI's effort to undermine our democracy, were a big factor at the very end. Very few voters were likely swayed to vote for Trump by the Podesta revelations about the Democrats’ internal machinations. The fact that Clinton won the popular vote, by an increasingly decisive margin, shows that the revelations didn't hurt her in any substantial way. In order to support the extravagant claims being made for the "devastating" effect of the Podesta emails, you would have to prove that they swayed those 80,000-100,000 Rust Belt voters who actually decided the EC result. I have not seen a single analysis that does this.

In any case, as I’ve said many times before and will keep on saying, if the Podesta emails have revealed a straightforward campaign going about its business, there would have been no scandal, no effect at all from hacking them. If the Russians did it, or Trump did it, or some other nefarious anti-Clinton forces did it, they would have gained no benefit whatsoever from the hacking. It is the content of the emails that made them controversial (to the extent they were; as I said, they didn’t stop Clinton from winning the popular vote).

Clinton lost the Electoral College for one main reason: her campaign made the deliberate decision to ignore traditional Democratic voters in the Rust Belt in favor of pursuing “suburban Republican voters” in key swing states. This was an open, publicly stated strategy of the campaign. But in turn, this strategy meant that the Democrats could not amass a margin great enough to overcome the true undermining of democracy in the 2016 election: the open, “lawful” vote-suppression tactics in states controlled by Republicans. These laws — which the Democrats feebly opposed, if at all — meant that the party started the election with a deficit of hundreds of thousands of votes in those states. Any analysis of political reality — as opposed to well-paid Beltway technocratic tomfoolery — would have shown that Clinton needed to put extra effort into those states; her campaign should have poured more money and resources into them, crafted and vigorously promoted policies designed to address Rust Belt issues and spent weeks of her own time touring those states over and over. Instead, her campaign experts did the exact opposite. They starved those states, like Michigan and Wisconsin, of funds, resources and the candidate’s presence.

I’ll say it again: there WAS a systematic undermining of democracy in 2016. It was carried out in some part by the Clinton camp’s collusion with the DNC and, on a much larger and decisive scale, by the years-long GOP vote suppression campaign. But instead of attending to these genuine — and open — subversions of democracy, our political-media class are chasing Kremlin will-o'-the-wisps that will never be nailed down … even as Trump assembles an earth-raping, liberty-stripping, treasury-beggaring, hate-mongering junta the likes of which this nation has never seen. All the time and energy that could have been spent building a broad front of resistance has now been wasted. Trump will go on his merry way, despoiling and destroying, while Democrats keep stamping their feet and crying, "Putin did it! Putin did it! It's not fair!" And the darkness grows deeper.