Is Foreign Influence in the Election a Threat to Our Democracy?

What are the implications of Russia hacking and interfering with the U.S. election? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Allan Lichtman, Distinguished Professor of History: American University, Political Analyst, on Quora.

Russian hacking has profound implications both for this election and for the future of our democratic system. This hacking represents an unprecedented effort by a hostile foreign power to influence the outcome of an American presidential election. The hacking is also a serious violation of American law. Under the federal Stored Communication Act, it is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison to hack into a private email server. So far leakers linked to the Russians have released tens of thousands of Democratic documents and zero Republican documents. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out who the Russians are attempting to elect this year.

From the earliest days of the Republic our founding fathers have warned against foreign influence in American elections and taken action to prevent such interference. Alexander Hamilton wrote in 1793 that" Foreign influence is truly the Grecian horse to a republic. We cannot be too careful to exclude its influence." In his farewell address of 1796 George Washington warned against "foreign influence and corruption" in our politics.

In the 1790s, the French ambassador to the United States formed political societies in America favorable to France and otherwise meddled in American politics. President Washington refused to tolerate such foreign intrigue. He demanded that France recall the ambassador and Americans have until now unequivocally condemned and rejected any foreign interference with our democracy.

The media's complicity in Russian hacking by using its spoon-fed one-sided leaks tilts the playing field in favor of Donald Trump because we have no Republican documents to compare with the material contained in the hacked Democratic emails, which may or may not have been doctored. It also threatens the long-term health of our democracy. By selectively leaking illegally obtained documents that the media dutifully covers, the Russians have proven that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain from such meddling in our elections. Vladimir Putin must be laughing uproariously at our naiveté.

The Russians, with help from the media, have thus opened the door to unchecked foreign meddling in future elections. Any hostile foreign power will now have an incentive to selectively leak stolen information, whether authentic or manipulated, to influence our elections in pursuit of their own interests. Based on what has occurred this year, such powers will have every reason to believe that their leaked documents will be covered by the media and become part of the campaign no matter how prejudicial and one-sided.

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