No, America, it wasn’t Russia: You did it to Yourself

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The headlines scream, “Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House” and “Obama orders review of Russian Hacking during Presidential campaign.”

I don’t doubt that the Russian Federation employs hackers and PR people to influence public opinion and even election outcomes in other countries. So does the United States of America. But I am skeptical that anything the Russians did caused Donald Trump to be president.

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It wasn’t like Trump was a Manchurian Candidate, a stealth plant in the US body politic who would only be operationalized once elected.

Trump was in plain view. He had all along been in plain view. His hatred for uppity or “nasty” women, his racism, his prickliness, his narcissism, his rich white boy arrogance and entitlement (apparently even to strange women and other men’s wives), his cronyism and his fundamental dishonesty were on display 24/7 during some 18 months of the campaign, and it wasn’t as though he were an unknown quantity before that.

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Americans voted for him anyway. Slightly more Americans voted for him than for a respectable person like Mitt Romney. No Russians were holding a gun to their heads. And they knew, or should have known, what they were getting.

By a “black swan” fluke, a few tens of thousands of the Trump voters were distributed differently, state by state, than the McCain and Romney voters; and in some key states like Michigan Sec. Clinton did not do as well as Obama had, even if she was beloved in California and New York.

One of the cleverest things Trump said during the campaign was directed to African-American voters, asking what they had to lose by challenging the status quo and voting for him. It was a trick, of course, and they have everything to lose, both because the Republican Party’s economic policies aim to help rich people at the expense of workers and most African-Americans are working class, and because the GOP since Nixon has connived at attracting a white racist constituency, and succeeded.

But despite the dishonesty of the quip (which did not fool African-Americans one little bit), that kind of thinking appears to have been widespread. In some states, as many as 14 percent of the white working class deserted the Democratic Party compared to the previous two elections, and, worse, 21 percent of white working class voters who used to vote for Obama just stayed home. They weren’t being irrational. Things have been bad for them and they haven’t participated in the recovery after 2008 the way the stock market has. Their death rates have even increased.

Nor did any Russian hacking related to Wikileaks, if that is what happened, prove decisive. Clinton’s own polling people found the big turning point was when she called Trump voters a “basket of deplorables.” Americans don’t like being talked down to, and had already gotten rid of Romney for the same sin. The spectacle of Clinton taking hundreds of thousands of dollars to give a speech to the people who put them out of their homes in 2008-9 also turned many of them off so that they stayed home, while another section of them decided to take a chance on Trump. He will screw them over, but from their point of view, they worried that she might have, as well. Trump was promising to stop the hemorrhaging of jobs via protectionism, whereas everyone understood that Sec. Clinton’s first instinct was to do TPP and send more jobs to Asia.

So it was Clinton’s public persona and public positions that hurt her and depressed Democratic turnout in places like Detroit and Flint, not anything in Wikileaks (can anyone name even one newsworthy email?) Or on the other hand it was Neofascist disinformation campaigns like spiritcooking and pizzagate. It wasn’t anything as rational as a Putin sting.

No, America had its eyes wide open. The Republican Party, the usual 61 million, voted for Trump, despite his vulgar talk and vulgar style of life. Since the GOP is mostly the party of Protestant whites plus about 40 million Catholics who think they are white, nobody over there too much minded the racism against minorities. There were some defections among the white Protestant married women from the GOP (either stay-at-homes or aisle-crossers) and there were some defections among the white working class from the Democratic Party. But those two may well have just cancelled each other out.

The GOP voted for a champion of the business classes, which Trump will be, in spades. And that is what everyone should expect. There is nothing surprising about it. The GOP wins nationally when it can add to its base of small and large businesspeople and farmers and exurbanites, and Trump managed to attract a few tens of thousands of other sorts of people in the districts where it happened to matter.

Russia doesn’t enter into it.

125 Responses

  1. This all makes sense except for the bit: “Or on the other hand it was Neofascist disinformation campaigns like spiritcooking and pizzagate. It wasn’t anything as rational as a Putin sting.” This seems to ignore the possibility that a Putin sting may be connected to such misinformation as Pizzagate, since there is a connection through Donner Party loyalists such as Manafort and Bannon, as well as a Putin habit of using child porn as a smear tactic against enemies. Plus the whole non-issue of the emails, which I agree with, there was no issue, but that continuing leaky faucet continued an enormous distraction to any traction for HRC. Just a static message breaker.

    • “This seems to ignore the possibility that a Putin sting may be connected to such misinformation as Pizzagate”

      Uh, of course they are. There are legions of paid Russian trolls spreading this stuff. Putin himself spoke explicitly about ‘satanists’ in the US government, as well.

      FWIW, on Twitter, Nate Silver stated Comey and the Russians probably tipped the election to Trump in 4 crucial states.

      Of course, Hillary was a very flawed candidate with an incompetent campaign, too. But there’s excellent odds she would have won without all the interference

  2. Actually, HRC had sufficient appeal to America to win the popular vote by over 2.7 million.

    • Except that there’s no such thing as a national popular vote for President. If there had been, the campaigns would have been organized differently, and nobody knows what the outcome would have been.

    • she won the popular vote by winning blue states – newsflash: it’s the ELECTORAL COLLEGE that matters. Obama won the rust belt, Clinton didn’t. That’s what matters.

      • re: “it’s the ELECTORAL COLLEGE”

        That doesn’t make it right. Anybody in favor of democracy or representational government ought to be howling at this travesty and working to amend the Constitution. Oh, and lobbying the Republican electors to look at the news and then vote their consciences – assuming some of them have consciences. Or demanding either a re-do, or simply acclaiming the person with the most votes to be the winner.

        • The constitution will never be amended relating to the Electoral College, so you need to get over yourself. This country has never been a democracy, and I pray, never will be. There will be a revolution or a breakup of the states before 3/4’s of the states would vote for loss of their own power and influence.

        • “Simply acclaiming the person with the most votes to be the winner”…
          Changing the rules after the race is run? When the rules are the US Constitution?
          I am not a Trump voter, but what you’re talking about is a coup-d’etat.

          There was a bunch of scolding rhetoric in the couple of weeks before the election about certain parties accepting the results if they didn’t go their way. Rhetoric about the rule of law and a peaceful transition of power.

          Democrats have shown the bottomlessness of their hypocrisy in this election cycle and continue to show it.. They believe in social inclusion.. equal rights for all.. in a lawless plutocracy where we’ve all got to sacrifice for the 1% or be damned.

          The US could really use a left wing party right about now.

    • Did you subtract out the Detroit phantom votes? Funny how the biggest discrepancies seem to have come out of Wayne county (Detroit & suburbs). 59% of the precincts didn’t have the poll book match the sealed box of ballots.

      • Thank you for pointing this out.

        Penny Crider, a GOP-recruited poll watcher from Livonia had been present when everything appeared initially to been in order when the recount was occurring at a Detroit inner-city precinct: the poll report tabulation of ballots matched the number of 306 recorded on the sealed precinct box.

        When the seal was broken however – only 50 paper ballots were verified in that precinct voter box.

        The Detroit City Clerk – a Democrat, confirmed the existence of irregularities throughout the City of Detroit on the vote count – purportedly due to paper ballots sticking as they entered the box containing the optical scanning device. However it certainly does not result in the same paper ballot being counted six times!

        The late Democratic Detroit City Clerk Jackie Currie presided when in 2005 a massive vote fraud scheme was uncovered in a Detroit mayoral election that gave Kwame Kilpatrick an upset win over Freeman Hendrix.

        The current vote totals in Detroit are clearly fraudulent and Jill Stein can be credited with uncovering this and providing support for Mr.Trump’s theories. I thought something was fishy at firstwhen I noticed that in some Detroit voting precincts a recently-registered Trotskyite party’s nominees were outpolling Republicans on the same ballot.

        Here are some links to the extensive vote fraud exposed in Detroit:

        link to detroitnews.com

        link to theconservativetreehouse.com

  3. You’re right, but even if you were wrong there is nothing in the world to prevent another nation from interfering in the US elections. After all, doesn’t the government of the USA interfere in the elections of other nations?

    If ya don’t like it, don’t do it to others.

    • Classic mistake: ‘If ya don’t like it, don’t do it to others.’

      My refusing to do something will have no effect whatsoever on other’s doing ‘it’ to me. I do not and cannot control what Russia does. Our unilaterally eliminating all US nuclear weapons would have had no effect on the USSR’s weapons programs. My refusal to carry a gun will not lead criminals to stop carrying guns. My refusal to rape will not influence others to not rape.

      Ultimately, if I don’t like something, punishing those who do is far more effective.

  4. It’s also worth considering that groups are not able to make reasoned decisions, and go only by gut. This, of course, is because while individuals have minds to reason with, just as they each have mouths to eat, groups don’t. There is further a tendency for groups to have more confidence which can encourage levels of collective recklessness individuals would probably eschew. (The phenomenon is explored in chapter 53 of Machiavelli’s ‘Discourse on Livy’.)

    …if, in the things that are placed in front of the people, there is seen a gain even though it is concealed under a loss, and if it appears courageous even though it is hidden beneath the ruin of the Republic, it will always be easy to persuade the multitude to it…This that I have said is confirmed by infinite examples, Roman and foreign, modern and ancient.

    The tendency can, he argues, only be diverted by the intervention of someone held in general respect; in the Catholic community the Pope doubtless fits that, it’s even possible Putin does in Russia, but in the US the role appears sadly vacant.

    • Thanks for that, Nicholas. “Group narcissism” is also interesting (Fromm). Also group scapegoating behavior (René Girard).

  5. The investigation may reveal the voting machine gaming and database management “irregularities” at the local level as the actual source of this FLAWED ELECTION.

    • You are on the money and the Snake Oil Salesman should not be worn in until the full results of the CIA investigation is final.

    • You mean like this from Issa’s district:

      link to foxnews.com

      What lots of people are now aware of is that there was only one campaign talking live on video about sending hired thugs to beat up their opponent’s supporters at his campaign rallies.

      And only one campaign is on camera openly describing how they arranged for voter fraud in the past and planned to do it again.

      If I were Trump, I would say “All right: we’ll have an investigation. These allegations will be included. Any precinct that recorded more votes than registered voters will be included. Every state that refused to follow the law and purge its’ voter databases of dead people will too. ”

      Don’t even start to think this will stop where you say.

    • It would be impossible for Russia to do enough hacks to enough of our disparate, and patchwork election systems to actually make any difference in the vote. Some districts even use manual vote machines. Try to hack one of them via the network. Most of the “hacking” was done by our own elections committees and officials. That would be the same folks who don’t have any issue with voter disenfranchisement like what happened in Detroit or republican systems like Crosscheck that stripped the voter rolls of many thousands of likely Democratic voters.

  6. In a multi-agent situation with many actions and interactions, the notion of cause is hard to pin down. Particularly when there is no chance of repeating the experiment.

    The Russian/Wikileaks email dump kept the magic word ’email’ in the news, ousting other themes from coverage. This was not nothing, and, though it may not have had the weight of Hillary’s basket and various other fumbles and bumbles, it clearly played its role in thickening and sustaining the general miasma.

    How this could be allowed to happen is beyond me.

  7. You are right professor but its worth mentioning that the overwhelming number of Americans just don’t read blogs like yours, Tomdispatch, Glen greenwald, Huffington post, ICH etc but they get their news from the main stream media. Notwithstanding the complete saturation by the media in favour of Hillary Clinton and the complete drubbing they gave Trump, he won just the same. I hold no brief for Trump but I suppose one can take heart from his election as it does show the ordinary man in the street is capable of making up his own mind and cannot be completely taken over by the mass media.

    • “Notwithstanding the complete saturation by the media in favour of Hillary Clinton and the complete drubbing they gave Trump, …”

      Surely you must be joking. It was Trump 24/7

    • Huffington post that’s the largest propaganda outlet there is,no stick the democratic party with a fork they are done, as the old Whig party was when the stench became to great, and when good ole Bill rolled over in 93 on his base it spelled the doom of his own party..

    • he obviously did since his post is excellent, rational, informed and far better than all the insane hysteria on liberal social media & liberal blogs & by liberal pundits.

    • You nailed it. Or as in my case, we showed up to vote down-ticket and locally, but voted for Jill Stein for President.

    • So they failed math and now have trump’s even worse fakery.

      It was obvious from day one that the math said that every vote that was not for Clinton was a vote for trump.

      Those were the ONLY (yes ONLY) two choices, so

      – a vote for Clinton was a vote for Clinton

      – a vote for trump was a vote for trump

      – a vote for any other person, living or dead or fictional, was a vote for trump.

      – a non-vote was a vote for trump.

      Why is it so hard for people to understand the simple electoral math?

      Wishing for a “better” candidate was as ridiculous as cutting your own throat.

  8. Peter A. Dimitriou

    There has been no visionary for industrial policy in themidwest where Dems lost critical states they had no. Counter to the Jack Welch’s loaf the world who offshoredd millions of their jobs. The dems offered up no fight on behalf of their traditional constituency yet mAke no bones about it it is the business men who created this misery. The dems just had no counter.

    • American politicians are loath to bring up “industrial policy” because: socialism, the magical “bad word” that close to zero Americans can actually understand.

  9. It was somewhere back in February of 2016 when a reporter shoved a microphone in front of Donald Trump’s face where Trump said he was going to win by capturing the Electoral College vote in the Rust Belt States. After I had time to process his strategy I remember thinking, how efficient. If Hillary had not conspired against Bernie the way her and the DNC did, Hillary may have kept the Sander supporter votes. If Hillary had campaigned hard in these same Rust Belt States that Trump went after then this would have also made a huge difference towards her winning the White House. It also didn’t help Hillary much having endorsements from every darn neocon that Washington has to offer. Now that Hillary is being deprived entering the Oval Office we Americans may lose our first amendment rights…only in Hillary’s eyes is this fair. So much for democracy.

  10. Bad sport. Would never own up their wrongs. It’s always Russia or China who are wrong. The US is pure as milk isn’t it? Ahem. Your political history and record please !

  11. James Adler

    Juan, with all respect to you really think without 2 years of Wikileaks its pseudo-email-gate that Clinton, who would win the popular vote by 2.5 million votes, wouldn’t have won the election too? Peace…

      • What happens when only one party’s supporters care about how rotten its leaders are – while the other hunts for the one who promises to be most racist, cruel, and sadistic?

        Who does that leave running the United States?

  12. “Since the GOP is mostly the party of Protestant whites plus about 40 million Catholics who think they are white, ”

    This was a pretty good analysis up to this statement. I’m guessing you are making the point that Catholics tend to forget they were a hated minority themselves not too long ago. But that is still a pretty harsh way to put it.

    • “White” has always been a construct; it’s always been provisional for anyone who differs in any way from its tribal core. Jews thought they were “German” until suddenly they weren’t.

      • That’s not true at all. Jews had been pushed from Germany and murdered throughout history. It was commonplace for crusaders to stop and kill the Jews on their way to Jerusalem. What do you think all those Jews were doing in Ghettos in Poland?

        • German anti-semitism in modern times was a mostly Catholic phenomenon, oozing in from Austria and Bavaria. Under Prussian Lutheran hegemony, the German Empire became a place where Jews were confident in the future. Read the book “Dueling: The Cult of Honor in Fin-de-Siècle Germany”, by Kevin McAleer. He describes how the cult of dueling among upwardly-mobile bourgeois German men, due to their universal membership in the national guard, actually favored Jews over Catholics because of the Pope’s opposition to dueling. It is thus not surprising that the Kaiser’s army in WW1 had many Jewish officers, including the captain of Hitler’s company. Jewish industrialists had helped build up the Kaiser’s economy and war machine, and one, Walter Rathenau, became his economic czar during that war. Ironically, this high profile was used to scapegoat Jews after the Kaiser’s defeat.

          It’s important to recognize how quickly a society’s hatreds can turn at the dictates of self-interest.

  13. Perhaps – but let’s put it this way, why did Putin want Trump as President of the United States? HINT: Not because Trump was the strongest, smartest, canniest, most patriotic, and best candidate…

    • Putin may not have wanted Trump to win, according to the Newsweek article about his propaganda operation. He wanted democracy discredited and America weakened regardless of the outcome. And he’s dong the same in Europe.

  14. “Slightly more Americans voted for him than for a respectable person like Mitt Romney.”

    Romney? Respectable?

    You’re kidding, Mr. Cole, aren’t you?? I hope so!

    • It’s all a matter of perspective, even a dog turd looks respectable in comparison to Trump.

  15. … because the Republican Party’s economic policies aim to help rich people at the expense of workers and most African-Americans are working class …

    Ditto for the (un)Democratic Party

  16. “even strange women and other men’s wives”? This kind of language makes sexual assault sound like a property crime. Pls don’t add to the misogyny. We are drowning already.

  17. Actually, I’m pretty sure *fewer* Americans voted for Trump than for Romney. Trump actually depressed Republican turnout. Unfortunately, Hillary depressed Democratic turnout much more.

  18. If, and that is a big “if,” Russia did hack and influence the election then it would only be a small part of the corruption of the American election system. There was lots of shouting about rigged voting machines after the 2000 election and talk ever since. There are continually state-sponsored schemes and gerrymandering to disenfranchise sections of the voting public. There is the bribery inherent in campaign finance, including Citizens United. Our elected senators and representatives in Congress know of these travesties, but they refuse to take corrective action. There are also the constant streams of lies from both major parties and gullible citizens who buy into these lies.

  19. Please disregard previous comment. I was completely wrong, and you were right. Trump: 62,793,872; Romney: 60,933,504

    • Easy mistake to make. The vote totals published the day after the election are always low and incomplete, but the media immediately started comparing them with previous elections anyway. Many outlets reported lower turnout than 2012. More fake news.

      • You guessed correctly. I was basing this on something I read the day after the election. The totals have been updated, and the argument no longer holds.

  20. There’s a crisis-level aspect to this story that is being missed. It’s not a question of whether the Russians successfully influenced the US election. The real innovation is in the reaction of the Trump administration to the work of the intelligence services to establish whether or not they tried.

    The response by the Trump transition team to these leaks has not been to argue that they’re incomplete. The response has been to subject the CIA to the same kind of insults Trump uses on everyone else.

    For decades, scholars and journalists have debated whether a President could restrain the CIA, let alone control them. There’s serious reason to believe Presidents as powerful as Johnson and Nixon were simply afraid of the CIA. Subsequent Presidents have more or less let the CIA do whatever it wanted.

    Here we have an incoming President blandly and directly declaring that they are incompetent, and that he doesn’t intend to listen to anything they have to say.

    Trump has in effect declared his first war, and it’s a war on his own intelligence services.

    A war between a President and CIA is far more important than whether Russia hacked some emails.

    Trump is clearly a very brave man. Unlike every President since Kennedy, he seems to have no concerns at all about taking on the CIA. From one point of view, it’s quite impressive.

    But it does lead to the question of whether this town may not be big enough for both the CIA and President Trump. One of them may have to go.

    • A nice side-show to detract from the very real possibility that Trump is a Russian asset.

      • More likely an agent of the current CEO Rebellion taking over our country. Research WHO is on the Electoral College – CEOs. Who is Fat Trump appointing to his Cabinet – CEOs. Who gave tacit approval for BILLION$$ in free media coverage for the Bloated One – CEOs. Given the impact of social media, who carries in violation to it’s own rules, Trump’s 3 AM pghlem outbursts – a CEO.

    • This isn’t new. Bush & Cheney declared war on their CIA for not sufficiently smearing Iraq to prepare for their invasion. The outing of Valerie Plame was sabotage of the CIA’s anti-proliferation operations.

      Attacking the CIA for not telling the lie you want is not going to save democracy.

  21. Professor, there were more factors at work in the election than you list. Citizens United was important as the moneyed floodgates opened and the widow’s mite had no chance. Obama’s “Give me $5” that had worked in the previous election didn’t work this time around in the face of the moneyed dollar deluge, and it won’t work in the future either. It didn’t help that the $5 technique was made standard procedure by every organization clamoring for money, the economically emaciated electorate lured by having a voice but bled by small cuts. In a nation where public discourse is now dominated by media that has abandoned truth for sales, money matters. What appears most frequently and glamorously is now the truth. Goebbels would be ecstatic.

    The election was not a landslide. Once again, the people who did not vote determined the outcome. They had good reason not to vote. A good reason would have been a candidate worth voting for. The two political parties both were more interested in their own power than what was good for the nation.

    Early in the campaign I called the local Democrat party head pointing out Clinton’s many weaknesses (as in “You DO want to win don’t you?”) and not a minute into the call he became angry, ending by saying “We don’t need people like you.” I can forgive that as the response of an individual who really did not have any answers, but I don’t think I was alone in believing that the Democrats were working for an extension of their power and not the good of the nation facing a difficult future . Clinton had some good points, but not enough to counter the living experience of Americans the past several election cycles. And in the end, being a Clinton heir apparent was as much a liability as an asset.

    In the Republican camp, the leadership misunderestimated Trump by a magnitude that only highlighted its preference for power over content. And the ‘moral majority’ of its religious members managed to continue to remain essentially mute in the face of an unending cascade of Trump insinuations, rants, lies, sexist attacks, narcissism, salesmanship, and agitprop that are condoned nowhere in any sacred texts. So much for living your faith.

    Subtract the non-aligned voters, and the previously aligned party voters, and those who in 2008 had their possible campaign contributions stolen by Wall Street gamblers that they might otherwise have had to pitch to a good candidate, if they had not ultimately been completely disgusted by the two choices the two parties offered them, and just maybe you might have had a real election.

    Anger and despair won this year because it was enabled, encouraged, and given a royal place in media coverage. A lot of money was made publishing that tripe, which gives a bad name to tripe. A lot of stories were also written to try to argue that this election was not about the lesser of two evils, and that in a democracy, a citizen’s responsibility is to vote. But post election polls seem uniform in reporting that in the absence of any good candidate to vote for, a huge number of voters voted against the more evil, an outcome, courtesy of our two power hungry but flawed parties that produced a ‘lesser of too evils’ outcome.

    Couple all the campaign manipulations and voters who understandably opted out of their one chance to make a difference, and I believe it is totally fair to question whether the election outcome has any validity. It doesn’t for me. There wasn’t anyone to vote for. This election was a national manipulation, not an election. Yes there are numbers that prove a numerical win, but it was not a win for the nation’s future, it was a loss that is only beginning.

  22. Hillary could not get traction in the Dem Primary and she had less during the General. She knew of the electoral college. She knew to win key states she had to campaign and spend money there. She willfully chose not to do it. Perhaps she grew sick of the lying and game playing. She also knew she would be under endless investigations and the threat of impeachment. Perhaps she realized that political victory only to be followed by endless investigation is just not worth it. The same people who continue to shout praises fail to recognize that “the smartest, most qualified candidate ever to run for President” recognized herself that in her case a win would have been worse then a loss. We have allowed ourselves to become ungovernable, as Trump will soon find out.

  23. First, it’s important to remember that Clinton lost the electoral college vote by only 40,000 votes in three states. But there were so many bizarre things about the election that I don’t think a conclusion can be drawn about Putin one way or another. Given the computer break-ins and the e-mail nonsense, we also don’t know if James Comey was influenced by Putin’s activity in a roundabout way. His decision had an almost an immediate negative impact on Clinton in the final two weeks.

    As for Putin, it is a fact that we don’t seem to have a way of dealing with someone covertly trying to influence our elections. And we don’t seem to have a very secure Internet system (that may be on both Republicans and Democrats who support the NSA and its need to also get into other people’s computers).

    By the way, Putin’s activities are not new. There’s clear evidence Russians were playing games in the 2014 midterm elections. They had trolling operations in Eastern Europe:

    link to theguardian.com

    Trump is the president elect, but on many levels we’re in a different world now. Assessing where we are now is going to take time. The only real “winners” this election are the fossil fuel barons like Putin and the Koch brothers and perhaps Exxon. At the least, they get a few more years of big profits. Given the sharp jump in global warming in the last three years, this is the immediate real disaster of this election.

  24. Given the extent of plutonomy, I don’t see Clinton as having much choice. Regardless, I can easily believe in Democratic blunders, and Russian interference, and Republican malfeasance, and corporate media bias. If I had to credit one over the others, I’d blame our ‘news’ media. Clinton email got more press than all policy put together.

  25. Re: “So it was Clinton’s public persona and public positions that hurt her and depressed Democratic turnout in places like Detroit and Flint, not anything in Wikileaks (can anyone name even one newsworthy email?)”

    Well, there were at least several released e-mails that revealed newsworthy aspects of Clinton, including the one where she admitted she took private and public positions on issues. Just because our country’s corrupt corporate media didn’t see fit to discuss any of it means nothing, really. The Internet, where it all counts now (in the year 2016), was ablaze with much of it. I’m kind of puzzled that Mr. Cole doesn’t acknowledge this reality.

  26. Many people on the left and right reach for an overarching conspiracy that explains a problem. I think it makes it easier to blame an outside force. But, Clinton simply wasn’t the change candidate. She was the establishment through and through. The insider. Democrats ran the one person that Trump had a chance of beating.

  27. Moscow is launching a similar effort to influence the next German election, following an escalating campaign to promote far-right and nationalist political parties and individuals in Europe that began more than a decade ago, the official said.

  28. Prof. Cole, I get where you’re coming from on this.
    But I still wouldn’t dismiss this issue.

    I look at this as the cyber equivalent of Watergate, i.e. a “break in” just as egregious as the break in of the DNC headquarters then, the only differences being this was done electronically and committed by the party that wasn’t in power at the time.

    And given the very narrow margins of victory by Trump in certain areas, the effect from the bad publicity that was the result of this manufactured email scandal targeting the Clinton campaign cannot be denied as being a factor in the final weeks.

    Remember, facts aren’t important to Trump supporters, so even though there is no substance to the manufactured scandal, it really doesn’t matter to people who believe lies like pizzagate, etc.

    Also, recall that Obama wasn’t really affected by his “guns & religion” remark which was a very elitist thing to say. Why didn’t that affect him as much as Clinton’s “basket of deplorables?”

    The clincher for me is the breaking news of Trump’s pick of the Exxon CEO for SoS. His ties to Putin cannot be dismissed, as well as Trump’s and for those reasons, I find it very credible that the CIA’s assessment is very accurate.

    Basically, we’re witnessing a corporate coup d’etat, specifically by and for the fossil fuel and financial elites, with Trump as the front man, and Russia in the background offering covert assistance.

    This is downright frightening. Our democracy is now essentially the slow-boiled frog. We might have a very short window to jump out of the pot before it’s too late.

    .

    • “I look at this as the cyber equivalent of Watergate, i.e. a ‘break in'”

      But the difference is that the Watergate break-in was a real thing, as in: it happened and everyone nows it happened. Not so with “Russian hacking”… there is no evidence at all for this. All we have to go on is the CIA’s say-so. I am astonished that anyone would find this a reliable source.

      See: link to theintercept.com

      “Remember, facts aren’t important to Trump supporters”… or Hillary supporters, apparently.

      Look, I understand the urge to want to delegitimate Trump at all costs. But this is just grasping at straws.

      What’s lost in all of this is the content of the emails. If Russia hacks emails and the emails contain no scandals, then how do the Russians affect the election? They can’t! It’s the content of the emails that affects the election.

      If you want to argue that we had no right to that content, fine. My understand of democracy is that it cannot work if the public is kept in the dark about such things as their would-be president having distinct and antithetical “public” and “private” positions on Walls Street.

      According to Wikileaks, the emails were *leaked* to them by a concerned person within the Clinton machine. They were not *hacked*. Of course the CIA claims otherwise, but I’d say Wikileaks is a far more reliable source. They have a unmarred record for reporting true information. The CIA, ahem, does not.

      The emails are real. They have not been tampered with. This is a verifiable fact: link to en.wikipedia.org

      • It’s more than the CIA, it’s the collective determination of the intelligence community that this happened.

        There was/is legitimate skepticism post-Iraq war over US intel capabilities and motivations. But to dismiss every conclusion they’ve come to since 2003 is sheer lunacy.

        It’s not Hillary supporters who are spreading lies like pizzagate, it’s primarily Trump supporters. Sorry, but that’s a fact.

        It’s no secret that right-leaning viewers of Fox News or Limbaugh listeners still believe that Iraq attacked the US on 9/11, so this is nothing new. So it’s not surprising that recent studies show that Trump supporters believe lies like pizzagate.

        The Watergate break in of 1972 also didn’t have an impact on the defeat of McGovern, so whether or not the hack was effective is meaningless. What matters is that it happened, and that Trump and his surrogates are dismissing it, like Nixon and his staff and surrogates.

        It’s impossible for Wikileaks to determine the original source of the hacks simply because they don’t have the resources that the US intel community does.

        Also, a point not being considered: If it turns out that Russian actors also hacked the RNC and/or Trumps cyber communications, they are now in possession of potentially embarrasing/damaging information that could potentially be used against Trump and the RNC.

        And if the reverse were true, if Clinton was the President-elect, would you be so quick to dismiss the potential for blackmail?

        • “it’s the collective determination of the intelligence community that this happened”

          Actually, there has been no collective statement from all 17 intel agencies, which is what happens when there is a consensus.

          “It’s impossible for Wikileaks to determine the original source of the hacks”

          You’re still calling them hacks, as if that is a fact. Wikileaks does know who is giving them the information. They know the identity of the leaker, and they say it *is* indeed a leaker. Again, maybe they are lying, but based on past performance, I trust Wikileaks much more than the CIA.

          “to dismiss every conclusion they’ve come to since 2003 is sheer lunacy.”

          I don’t dismiss every conclusion they’ve come to. I just don’t trust them automatically, which is the appropriate response when dealing with professional deceivers. Why on earth do you?

          “if Clinton was the President-elect, would you be so quick to dismiss the potential for blackmail?”

          There is potential for blackmail no matter who is elected. This is a complete red herring. But I’d be more concerned over Hillary, because she chose to put her emails on a private server specifically to avoid accountability. And that made them vulnerable to prying eyes. It also made her do and say stupid things, thinking she wouldn’t ever be held accountable. Now THAT’s a real and blackmail risk. Your idea about Trump is just what one could say of any President elect. In other words, you’re grasping at straws.

        • Also, via Craig Murray (fromer British Ambassador to Uzbekistan):

          “The CIA claim they ‘know the individuals’ involved. Yet under Obama the USA has been absolutely ruthless in its persecution of whistleblowers, and its pursuit of foreign hackers through extradition. We are supposed to believe that in the most vital instance imaginable, an attempt by a foreign power to destabilise a US election, even though the CIA knows who the individuals are, nobody is going to be arrested or extradited, or (if in Russia) made subject to yet more banking and other restrictions against Russian individuals? Plainly it stinks. The anonymous source claims of ‘We know who it was, it was the Russians’ are beneath contempt.

          […]

          “And it should be said again and again, that if Hillary Clinton had not connived with the DNC to fix the primary schedule to disadvantage Bernie, if she had not received advance notice of live debate questions to use against Bernie, if she had not accepted massive donations to the Clinton foundation and family members in return for foreign policy influence, if she had not failed to distance herself from some very weird and troubling people, then none of this would have happened.

          link to craigmurray.org.uk

  29. While what you say is true, it doesn’t tell enough of the story. As it has turned out, Clinton has now gotten as many votes as Obama in 2012 and just lost in key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin by a total of less than 100,000 votes. Given the narrowness of the win/loss, a small change in votes could have changed the outcome. Given that Trump gained a fair number of votes in the last two weeks, when the Comey letter and the fake news had their biggest effect, that could very well have been the difference. Here is one of the latest analyses: link to latimes.com We shouldn’t ignore the importance of Russian meddling.

  30. It is true that Americans have no one to blame but themselves for the fact that the election was close, but given the constant drip of leaks on the news and the way the Trump campaign exploited the leaks, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the Russian/Wikileaks intervention was decisive in deciding the election.

  31. You really don’t remember any of the emails??? Like the one where Donna Brazile fed her the debate questions? Or when they suggested using Southern “Christian” voters’ antisemitism against Sanders?

  32. Should have been Putin on the Time Cover.
    Put Ukraine and Crimea out of the news. Syrian rebels with major defeats and Western midEast strategy in disarray. Right wing admirers winning European elections and the EU falling apart. And now manipulated the US election and about to cause further mayhem as the US fights over Trump’s legitimacy.
    He can’t claim credit for everything but he must be pretty satisfied with the year.

  33. I’m on the other side of most of you. What is amazing to me about this election is that there are 20-30 things Hillary could have done or refrained from doing, ANY ONE of which would have put her over the electoral college 270 threshold, and she and her party managed to screw up EVERY ONE of those 20-30 items.

    This election will be a case study for something like forever I suspect, and everyone will look at individual factors. I tend to agree about the significance of the “deporables” issue though. I’ve got a B.A. in Russian from a purportedly elite Quaker liberal arts college, a JD from an Ivy League law school, and despite living on the coasts in major urban areas since 1974 I am from one of the middle states full of “deporables” and that statement crystallized my general visceral response to everything Hillary said, did, and emanated.

    But the real lesson here as a case study is kind of simple. If you get every single thing wrong you can lose when it was so easy for you to win. If you have to win by getting at least one or two things out of 20-30 right, you have to get at least one or two of those things right. You can’t fail to execute on every single item and expect to win.

  34. Like it or not, there has always been a double standard in the Great Power system (the multipolarity that anti-Americans keep praising as the replacement for America’s dying hegemony) when it regards the right to interfere with other countries’ internal politics. The rule is, you can mess with states in dispute between the Great Powers, but you can’t mess with another Great Power.

    So anyone crowing that America is getting what it deserves for helping Yeltsin back in the ’90s better stop and think what the consequences are of Putin blundering his way into getting Trump. Yes, organizations in the US helped Yeltsin with Clinton’s approval. But we didn’t help Zhirinovsky, the fascist.

  35. Timothy Sha-Ching Wong

    Putin and Trump working in concert with Wikileaks seems to have accidentally created a new form of psy-ops.

    Which is completely out in the open, *overt* (as opposed to covert) psy-ops.

    And neither Moscow nor Washington can possibly be in control of the effects and the blowback.

    Which is characteristic of what Immanuel Wallerstein describes as the systemic and structural “chaos” which is occurring now and which is a consequence of the terminal historical crisis of the Capitalist World-System.

  36. Hillary got more votes than any white man that has ever been elected. The election came down to 3 upset wins for Trump. In those 3 state, if two out of every 100 people decided the last second based on accumulation of misinformation, hacking to tip the scale, or politically driven bogus investigations then the election was affected and it is silly to rule Russia, Comey, or any other bad actor out just so we can make the political observation that we want to make. A last second TD was awarded to the Trump team and the question is did it cross the line or did the instant replay people reviewing a doctored replay. The question is not why did the Hillary team not run a bunch of plays in their game plan.

  37. WHY is the working class (white, black, Latino, Arab, all) so dissatisfied and WHAT can be done about that, in terms of help for our real problems? So few people discuss HOW to help fix our problems. A tiny new party, Working Class Party in Michigan, ran a downballot campaign and received 224,124 statewide votes for its Board of Ed candidate. Working class people are looking for a candidate and they can’t find one.

    • There is substantial speculation at who is behind the “Working Class Party” in Michigan. One observer felt it had a Trotskyite socialist orientation. One of its leaders is a United Auto Workers activist and it appears to have its major support network in the City of Detroit.

      In a number of Detroit voting precincts, its nominees received more votes than GOP candidates.

  38. Yes, America did have its eyes wide open and did this to herself. That’s the tragedy. Trump was selling snake oil and we refused to believe it. We deserve what’s in store.

    One minor quibble with your post. No doubt It’s an overstatement to argue that the Russians elected Trump. But if Russian involvement in the leaks can be proved, let’s weigh how much of a role that played in fostering doubts and questions about Clinton in the 3 battleground states where it was widely assumed she was going to beat Trump. The combined margin of victory for Trump in Pa, Michigan and Wisconsin wasn’t large. How many of those people were “Reagan Democrats” who believed the bogus Republican line that she was a congenital liar – “Benghazi, Benghazi!! ” — or were minorities and former Bernie supporters, who viewed her as a sellout and so decided to sit home Nov. 8 and instead watch television? What’s clear is that the media drumbeat of negativity related to the Podesta/DNC/Clinton correspondence – carried in mindless network reports or through paid media – had impact. I would love to see that quantified.

    In the meantime, I’m sure Putin and his regime cohorts are feasting on caviar and chilled vodka as they watch our joke of a political transition unfold.

  39. The USA has intervened in at least 80 countries (counting multiple times in some countries, like Haiti and Iraq) to attempt to change regimes since WW2. If we’re going to dish it out we better expect to take it back.

    • Yeah, we’re not political virgins. But at this point, I think anybody who has paid attention knows that. But this is the present and future we’re talking about. Pointing out our less than spotless history doesn’t justify what Putin and his cohorts are doing. Again, I’m waiting to see the evidence published and in full. But if this doesn’t turn out to be a Kremlin operation, I’ll be quite surprised.

  40. I might add, that given Trump is pretty much the ultimate evil to Democratic voters, why, oh why would the democratic party nominate as weak a candidate as Clinton?

    The primaries were crystal clear that the electorate wanted change, and at the end of the day, details be damned, there was only one major-party candidate offering this.

    And, what a shock it was to discover that in the US, the Presidency is decided in about 10 states, in which Clinton did not win the majority of the votes. The DNC should be the target of any blame, but the wikileaks did have one newsworthy revalation — that the DNC was in Clinton’s pocket. Game, Set, Match.

    • No, a part of the electorate wanted “change”. If they’re too stupid to distinguish between progress and regression as forms of change, then the country is doomed anyway, but I think a large part of the White electorate wants “change back” all the way to the 19th century and Trump was their avowed weapon. A lot of older minority Americans rightly fear this and wanted whichever Democrat seemed the safer bet so they could hold on to what little of America they have. Sanders did not have time to make his case to those Americans, because to put it bluntly, he’s from Vermont and he hasn’t spent decades engaged in the rituals that White politicians on the national stage normally perform to obtain minority support, just as right-wing politicians engage in opposing rituals to obtain White Christian support.

      There is no one electorate. In fact, this country appears to be headed to civil war. Now that will be a change no one will enjoy.

      • You say . .

        “this country appears to be headed to civil war.”

        Actually we have had a defacto “civil war” for decades. It has just become much more visible lately.

        The simple reality is white “Christians” have been losing power for decades (very rightly in my opinion and I am a privileged white).

        This just follows a 5000 year flow of power through human groups. That is, humans make a group and take power away from other humans, then another group forms and takes power away from the first group. and so on and so on for all time. The powerful group at any one point in time ALWAYS loses that power, usually forcibly. There are very few times in history when a human group with power willingly and peacefully gave up power.

        In the end, the USA white “Christians” can NOT win this civil war, but that doesn’t mean they will not make things very bad for everyone for a while.

        This election is the “last gasp” of the white “Christians” who will inevitably vastly over-reach and alienate most of the population, since the white “Christians” are actually a MINORITY in the USA.

        Hopefully it will not get too bloody.

  41. Your article raises some good points but what you leave out entirely the possibility of homegrown election fraud in one, or more, of the formerly blue states that ever so slightly flipped red (WI, MI, and PA). There’s evidence of problems in all three states that likely won’t be investigated. In particular, thanks to MI’s assinine election law and the work of its GOP Attorney General and Trump’s lawyers, we’ll never know what happened to cause 59% (87) voting machines to “break” on election day in Detroit alone, which is American’s most black city with a very strong DEM base. Until the U.S. finds a way to insure our elections aren’t manipulated at home, or from abroad, and requires that they can be recounted (paper trail) if necessary, our democracy is in serious danger of being compromised, IMO.

    • Having resided in Detroit previously, the problem of vote fraud has been a running joke for years.

      The obituary of former Detroit City Clerk Jackie Currie in the 12/29/2009 edition of the Michigan Chronicle:

      “Currie and her office were accused of casting absentee votes in deceased people’s names. Her employees were also accused of assisting incapacitated people, encouraging them to use absentee ballots with intentions of securing their votes for specific candidates”

      Here is an excerpt of City of Detroit voting results from the Clinton/Trump election publicly available on the Wayne County MI website:

      (A) Precinct #52: Straight Ticket: 228(D) 2(R), Clinton/Trump: 268/1:

      (B) Precinct#104: Straight Ticket: 123(D) 0(R), Clinton/Trump: 151/0;

      (C) Precinct#181: Straight Ticket: 120(D) 0(R), Clinton/Trump: 120/143;

      (D)Precinct#218: Straight Ticket: 179(D) 2(R); Clinton/Trump: 215/0

      Obviously, if one votes straight-ticket GOP he/she must necessarily vote for the GOP presidential nominee, so the result in Precinct#218 is false on its face.

      I could have also cited other Detroit precincts where the Trump/Pence ticket received zero votes however the Penny Crider observation that she only saw 50 paper ballots in the sealed precinct box upon unsealing for recount purposes – when the box certification and election report both indicated 306 precinct votes – is perhaps the strongest proof of fraud by election officials.

      Here are some links to the recent vote fraud history in Detroit:

      link to michiganchronicle.com

      • Michigan Secretary of State Elections Director Christopher Thomas announced today that he is auditing twenty Detroit voting precincts where irregularities appear to exist – as a prelude to a possible vote fraud investigation – including the notorious Penny Crider precinct.

        This was done at the request of two GOP state senators in Michigan.

        Thank you Jill Stein for exposing this issue!

  42. Dr. Cole, I recall vividly the moment when I heard Sec. Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables’ comment.’ My first thought was ‘she just lost.’ And I think it’s true. She wasn’t a great candidate to begin with, but, in that moment she demonstrated her elitist attitudes – who talks like that, anyway? – and provided Trump supporters with a group identity that they would embrace, in a way that Trump himself had failed to do.
    I agree with your assessment in its entirety, with one caveat: Hillary Clinton could not have been a worse candidate to face Donald Trump, and I believe that just about any other typical or even atypical(Bernie Sanders) Democratic candidate would have soundly beaten Trump. His voters were so at ease knowing that they were being conned and even embracing the scam because Clinton was simply unable to demonstrate just how ugly the scam was.
    The reason? Her candidacy was a kind of scam as well, and those who were on the fence until late in the game found Trump’s less degrading. Absurd, in any other context, but both parties turned the election into a train wreck in their own ways…

  43. American media wanted a Trump win so that they will have millions of viewers for the next four years. They pushed Trump in many more hours of attention than given any other candidate, including Hillary and Bernie. Now the media are all happy. Shocker stories are a sure bet, day after day after day – trump vs truth? aĥ, trump is more interesting than truth

  44. I do not understand, why so much fuss even if Russia has interfered in US elections. A fact that everyone knows that America interferes in other countries elections & you are writing, “So does the United States of America”.

    USA has not only interferes, but has overthrown democratically elected governments, has brought dictators in power & supported them for decades, no matter how brutal & repressive they were, how many people they killed.

    So, if there was interference in US elections by Russia, why all of a sudden it has become so bad. How dare Russia to interfere, as if it is only USA’s job to interfere.

  45. There is an important dimension of Russian hacking receiving far too little attention, in part because of all the disappointed Democrats. The real issue is not Russian hacking of Democratic National Committee e-mails or the Clinton materials, it is Russian hacking of Republican National Committee files and Trump’s e-mails. We do not know what the Russians have on Trump, either through hacking or other espionage, that can be used as leverage or for blackmail. Now in some cases they do not need to be overt, i.e., encouraging the appointment of a friendly face as Secretary of State removes a potential obstacle. But suppose the Russians could show $20 million moving into Trump PAC accounts from Russian sources…..would Trump want that to get out? What could the Russians reveal that would cost huge amounts in losing lawsuits, or that the Trump Organization is paying millions to ISIS as protection against embarrassing attacks on Trump properties?

    An interesting dilemma for Republicans is the Republican Party made national security its center point for two generations. Suddenly Donald Trump, who cannot be bothered with a security briefing more than once weekly, is kissing up to the Russians. He is destroying the credibility of the Republican Party as the protector of national security, and his willingness to do so should be visited on the head of every Republican officeholder. If Trump does not come clean on all this by January 20th the House of Representatives should move Articles of Impeachment on January 21st.

  46. Cross Check removed tens of thousands of Black and Hispanic voters from the polls. These so called “double voters” with last names like Brown and Rodriguez were part of Chris Koback, a Trump advisor’s scam. Greg Pallast has fully exposed this in his film “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.” Can’t understand why THIS isn’t the subject of Mr. Cole’s article.

    • Vote fraud in the inner city is real.

      In Detroit, the absentee ballot program was placed into receivership in 2005 as a result of federal and state court lawsuits confirming the City Clerk’s office was engaged in irregularities on a massive scale. A Detroit News investigation found that incorrect names and addresses occurred on 380,000 registered voter entries.

      The findings were outrageous:

      (A) deceased persons voting;

      (B) city clerk staff supplying mentally incompetent nursing home patients with absentee ballots with votes already written in;

      (C) mass mailing unsolicited absentee ballots to a juvenile detention center.

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