In a post-truth political sphere, it’s almost impossible to find consensus.
Trump won the Electoral College resoundingly; Clinton won the popular vote by millions. Trump’s November 8th coalition comprised as unusual and diverse an ideological coalition as the U.S. has seen; nearly half of Clinton voters thought Sanders should’ve been the Dem nominee.
But here are three things all Americans, no matter their politics, agree on:
1. Foreign governments should play no role in the outcome of American elections.
2. No person should ascend to the presidency due to the interference of a hostile foreign government.
3. We have absolutely no idea whether a foreign government played a role in the outcome of the recent general election, and therefore we have no idea whether a political candidate is about to ascend to the presidency due to the interference of a hostile foreign government.
I’ve been watching wall-to-wall coverage of the election for the past month, and I can’t recall hearing any Republican or Democratic operatives disagreeing with any of the above premises.
So here’s the good news: we have it within our power to determine whether a foreign government played a role in the outcome of the recent American election; we have it within our power to determine whether a political candidate is about to ascend to the presidency due to the interference of a hostile foreign government; and we have it within our power to end our ignorance on these topics in short order.
Most importantly, we have a chance to seek the knowledge we need in a timely way—one that won’t result in a delay of the January 20th inauguration.
The White House has confirmed that an investigation into Russian hacking can be completed by January 20; senators from both parties have confirmed that they consider such an investigation necessary. Powerful figures in the intelligence community are beginning to whisper about a national re-vote—which is a very bad idea, and would be incredibly damaging to the legitimacy of the next president (especially in the absence of any hard proof that it was necessary). Thankfully, a month-long investigation into Russian hacking before and during the general election will be more than sufficient to put everyone’s fears to rest.
Ensuring that the nation’s electors meet to cast their ballots prior to January 20th, but after an investigation into Russian hacking, is little more than a matter of asking these electors to briefly postpone their work. No harm, no foul—indeed, if Trump ends up being inaugurated on January 20, as is almost certain, his presidency will be dramatically strengthened by Americans being confident it wasn’t the product of Russian interference.
If you’re a Trump voter and agree with the three premises listed above, and also believe that there’s no chance a pre-Electoral College investigation into Russian cyber activity will change the result of the general election—and therefore that the investigation would only strengthen a Trump presidency—you should support this investigation and a brief postponement of the December 19th Electoral College vote.
The only reason for a Trump voter to feel otherwise (assuming the voter accepts the three premises listed above) would be (1) if they believe the intelligence community is planning a political coup through a massive misinformation campaign and the installation of Clinton as president, or (2) if they believe an absence of proof of Russian interference is itself proof that no such interference occurred—a logical fallacy. (By definition, we can’t prove something true or untrue until it’s been fully investigated. And in addition to the three premises above, all Americans can agree that there’s not yet been a full investigation of Russian cyber activity during the election. That’s the very reason even Republican Congressmen are demanding that we hold just such an investigation now.)
If you’re a Trump voter and you believe either (1) or (2) above, this article isn’t for you.
And if you’re among the 90% or more of Republicans who don’t believe either (1) or (2), you shouldn’t want to support any position on Russian cyber activity held by those who do.
Finally, if you’re a Democrat and worry that Donald Trump’s election was somehow illegitimate, you should support this pre-Electoral College investigation even though there’s little likelihood that it reveals any foreign interference with the election—as finding that to be the case would put you at least slightly more at ease about Trump being your president for the next four years. Don’t believe me? Take every fear you have about what a Trump administration will do to America, then imagine that Trump was installed as president by Vladimir Putin. How does that change your reaction to, for instance, Social Security being privatized, or universal healthcare being dismantled, or over ten million deportations being ordered and executed via a paramilitary deportation force entering American communities with guns drawn?
So everyone benefits from carefully putting this issue to bed, and soon.
There’s just no valid reason to oppose getting all the truth about a situation as important as this one.
Trump himself has often called for getting information about potentially destabilizing situations before making any final decisions about how to proceed—for instance, with respect to immigration from certain war-torn Middle Eastern countries, or as to the utility of waterboarding, or even on the very subject we’re now discussing as a nation: potential voting irregularities in the United States.
Please share this article widely on social media if you agree with the three core premises I’ve outlined above. This should be a non-partisan issue; indeed, supporting a temporary delay in the December 19th Electoral College vote is no more than saying that American sovereignty matters.
A former public defender, Seth Abramson is currently an assistant professor at University of New Hampshire, the series editor for Best American Experimental Writing (Wesleyan University Press), and the author of the forthcoming Golden Age (BlazeVOX, January 2017).