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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/24/17

Russians Hit Democracy Already Damaged

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"The F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 president [sic] election"."

-- FBI Director James Comey, Congressional testimony, March 20, 2017

BI Director Comey let loose the mechanical rabbit of Russian interference and now all the political greyhounds are chasing it around a circular track is if it were a real quarry worth catching. That gives them all deniability for ignoring the bigger, fatter elephants in the room that actually need to be addressed.

The dominant narrative for the March 20 open hearing of the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence was set in the committee's naming of "its investigation into Russian active measures during the 2016 election campaign." Committee chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican who has resisted any investigation into Russian ties with the Trump campaign or administration, set a sharp anti-Russian tone with his opening statement that blames the Obama administration for ignoring the committee's warnings. Nunes framed the hearing with his limited exoneration of the Trump operation: "Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said publicly he's seen no evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign, and I can say that the Committee, too, has seen no evidence to date that officials from any campaign conspired with Russian agents."

Ohio Republican Mike Turner had a darker view, saying, "There is now a cloud over our [election] system". The goal of the Russians is to put a cloud on our system." Mike Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency, agreed that 2016 campaign activities were "calling into question our democratic process." And Comey said Russian efforts "introduced chaos and discord and sowed doubt" and have worked to undermine and threaten our "wonderful free and fair election system."

These sentiments, echoed over and over like a conventional wisdom mantra, are really ridiculous. Yes, the Russians interfered with the 2016 election, and maybe even influenced it. Yes, Trump operatives had contact with Russian operatives, and they may even have colluded. Yes, these are real problems, but it's a groupthink deception, and self-deception, to treat them as if they comprise the entire problem with the American election system.

American elections went off the rails more than two decades ago and they're been getting worse ever since. Everyone knows this, the government knows this, Congress knows this -- and they do nothing to make it better, they work only to make it seem better. The history is in plain sight for anyone who wants to see it, starting well before the 2000 election.

Money in Politics

Corrupt fundraising from corporations and individuals was one of the major elements in Nixon's 1972 Watergate scandal, in spite of reform attempted through the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. Post-Watergate reforms that passed Congress were inadequate, leading to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (informally known as the McCain-Feingold Act), that also failed to control campaign spending in a rational, democratic way.

Voter Caging

Florida's efforts to take Democratic voters off the rolls and to intimidate them at the polls were state policy under Governor Jeb Bush, carried out by his secretary of state, Katherine Harris, both beneficiaries of great inherited wealth. Without that corrupt preparation of the state, George Bush likely would have lost it outright. The closeness of the vote led to the chaotic recount, also abetted by Bush and Harris, setting up the opportunity to win the presidency in the courts.

Bush v. Gore

The 2000 Supreme Court's 5-4 partisan decision awarded the presidency to the loser of the popular vote. Al Gore, another beneficiary of great inherited wealth, and the wealthy leadership of the Democratic Party chose not to contest this all-American effort to undermine the American electoral system. The Supreme Court ruled, in effect, that elections could be fairly decided without counting all the votes. That continues to be a cloud over the election system.

Citizens United

In January 2010, another partisan 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court upheld the notion that somehow money is speech, and those who have the most money are entitled to the most speech, allowing an already corrupted system to spin out of control. Despite their control of both houses of Congress, Democrats responded impotently and went on to lose the House in the fall.

Voter Suppression

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Vermonter living in Woodstock: elected to five terms (served 20 years) as side judge (sitting in Superior, Family, and Small Claims Courts); public radio producer, "The Panther Program" -- nationally distributed, three albums (at CD Baby), some (more...)
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