It looks like Donald Trump and the leadership of the GOP are encouraging other countries to hack our upcoming 2020 election.
Donald Trump is sucking up to dictators, strongman oligarchs, and autocrats around the world, while Mitch McConnell is using political brute force to prevent individual states from hardening their election systems. Why?
Looking at the entire picture in context, consider Karl Marx’s favorite question: “Who benefits?”
Who benefits when the leaders of countries with sophisticated internet hacking capabilities (North Korea, Saudi Arabia) and no democratic oversight are told by Trump that as long as he’s in office he has their backs?
Might Trump and McConnell hope they’ll intervene in our election to keep in power a political party that now disdains democracy and a free press, and embraces dictatorial behavior like calling for the imprisonment of Trump’s political rivals, and of individuals in the intelligence agencies who have investigated him and the GOP?
Who benefits when countries with world-class internet hacking capabilities and less-than-democratic (Russia) or highly corrupted and oligarch-dependent (Netanyahu, Duterte, Modi) leaders become “good friends” of Trump and/or help Trump build or brand properties in their countries?
Might they intervene in our election directly or indirectly to keep in power an administration that both openly disdains the concept of “liberal democracy” and disrespects leaders of the largely European countries that practice it?
Why would Trump joke with Putin in front of the world about the possibility of Russians hacking American voting systems in the 2020 election? Is he expecting it, or just hoping for it?
Who benefits when mostly “red” states keep their voting systems’ defenses down and continue to use 17-year-old technology running on Windows XP operating systems?
Who benefits when McConnell, Pence and Trump work together to make sure that, as CBS News reported this year, “Tens of thousands of voting machines in the United States [will continue to be] vulnerable to hacking” by refusing to fund upgrades?
There’s no ideological argument to be made for America having easily hacked voting systems; it’s not something that conservatives like George Will or liberals like Robert Reich would reasonably disagree about.
So what could possibly be motivating Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate, other than the hope that hackers will produce another “red shift” miracle for them?
We already know that the GOP and their partisans on the Supreme Court have done and are doing everything they can to make it hard for Americans—particularly those with darker pigmented skin—to vote or otherwise participate in the political arena.
But that’s probably not enough to guarantee the reelection of a man as reviled and unpopular as Trump, and thus keep the parade of corporatist-friendly right-wing judges moving through the Senate into lifetime appointments on the federal bench. They need more—a little help from their friends.
Republicans have been caught manipulating voter rolls; engaging in now-legalized “political” gerrymandering that magically corresponds to race; running ads in social media filled with deception and outright lies; encouraging right-wing violence; and threatening treason charges against American law enforcement officials who’ve investigated foreign manipulation of our elections.
But it’s not working so far. Democrats—particularly progressive Democrats—were the big winners in the 2018 midterms. The GOP needs more help from their friends if they’re to reelect Trump and hold the Senate.
Reagan turned the GOP into the Party of the Billionaires, complete with a phony “supply-side” and “trickle-down” story about fantasy economics to sell their merger of state and corporation. But by the end of the Clinton administration, most Americans had figured out Reagan’s and the GOP’s scam and, since 2002, there’s been a curious “red shift” disconnect between exit poll results and the reported totals from hackable voting machines.
There aren’t enough really rich Americans to win elections, so Lee Atwater and his business partners Roger Stone and Paul Manafort helped Reagan and Bush bring in the white racist vote. But even with all the American racists, Trump and McConnell must think they need foreign help again.
Jerry Falwell Jr. (and his pool boy?), Franklin Graham, and other multimillionaire “Christian” hustlers brought in the people televangelists have exploited for a generation. But are there enough religiously gullible voters to tip the election to Trump and McConnell? They seem to think not.
Add the homophobes, the xenophobes, the religious bigots, and sexually insecure white men (from incels to gun fanatics), and the GOP may have almost enough votes to win a national election—but they’re still haunted by Trump losing the last election’s popular vote by 3 million; plus, they no longer have Scott Walker and Rick Snyder to throw Wisconsinites and Michiganders off the voting rolls just before the election.
Trump and the GOP will still need a little help from their overseas friends, just as Trump Jr. reached out to or tried to take help from the Russians, Saudis and Emiratis in 2016. They (and Trump’s American billionaire backers) benefited more from what President Carter correctly called Trump’s “illegitimate” presidency than anybody else in the world.
All they need is a little help from their friends, and they’re making sure their friends know in advance who will benefit.
Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment and more than 25 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.