Let’s face it: the mainstream corporate media lives and dies by how much fear they can generate, and the most recent scare is the possibility that Russian operatives will be rigging the U.S. elections in order to create suspicion among the electorate and cause people to lose trust in the electoral process as well as the political system. Aside from the fact that our own politicians and corporate “people” have been doing a damned fine job of that all by themselves (without even having to resort to hacking and other cyber-tools), rumors of Russia’s ability to disrupt our elections have been greatly exaggerated.
This is not to say that there aren’t foreign agents that would like to cause problems for our elections and our society. However, although the possibility has only recently come to the attention of the general public, the fact is that election officials across the country have been on top of it for a long time – ever since the fiasco with electronic voting machines and “hanging chads” back during the “election” of 2000. Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, recently spoke to the Washington Post, assuring us that our election system is “…diverse, subject to local control, and has many checks and balances built in.”
That local control is key to our election system’s security. What on the surface seems to be a weakness is really its greatest strength; in order to hack U.S. elections, foreign cyber agents would need to be able to target thousands of different systems across the country. To use a historical metaphor, it is similar to the problem Norse Vikings encountered when they attempted to conquer Ireland over 1,000 years ago. At that time, Ireland was not a cohesive nation, but a collection of small, fiercely independent tribal kingdoms; there was no central government to take down. In the same way, it is virtually impossible to rig an entire U.S. national election because each state and county has its own way of running things.
FBI Director James Comey may describe our decentralized election system as “clunky,” but he also acknowledges that it makes our elections far more secure than they would otherwise be.
Instead of fearing foreign operatives, we should all be watching for the enemies among us – who indeed, operate on a local level. Former Air America talk show host Randi Rhodes (among others) have pointed out that the U.S. can never be conquered by foreign enemies – if our nation falls, it will be to the enemies within. Vote rigging is nothing new, of course. It has been around since the days of the Tammany Machine and probably before that. However, the use of electronic voting machines and have made it easier for a corporation (such as Diebold) to change the outcome of elections in key areas of the country, as we learned in 2000 and 2004. There are also partisan operatives inside election offices who conveniently “lose” voter registrations as well as different kinds of voter intimidation.
And of course, need we mention those – such as the infamous Koch Brothers – who continually attempt to buy elections?
If we are worried about interference with our elections, we need to pay attention to those here at home with their own agendas, who know they can’t win a fair election. However, the fear of foreign agents rigging the vote is – in the words of William Shakespeare – “much ado about nothing.”