It has been obvious to every rational observer that, since November 2016, the Democratic Party and the American left has trotted out a series of talking points aimed at delegitimizing the election of President Donald Trump. One of them insisted that Russian interference in the election literally altered the result from what It would otherwise have been, stealing Hillary Clinton’s inevitable victory and handing it to Trump. In the wake of the Mueller report disclosure, that false and already discredited narrative has been resurrected.
It is certainly beyond dispute that Russia sought to sow confusion and spread misinformation during the 2016 campaign. That the Russians have meddled in America’s political system for decades – going back to the days of the cold war and the former Soviet Union – is no big secret. The idea that Russia’s information war affected the actual voting decisions of the American people or that these foreign interlopers somehow hacked the results themselves is nothing more than a myth.
A Long-Debunked Myth
During the 2016 campaign, then-President Barack Obama addressed the issue in response to Trump’s suggestion that the election could be “rigged.” Obama said: “No serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even rig America’s elections.”
In fact, then-FBI Director James Comey, along with Obama’s homeland security advisor, Lisa Monaco, also made public statements at the time, dismissing the idea that U.S. elections could be altered by hacking. While numerous U.S. intelligence agencies eventually concluded that Russia had indeed meddled in the election campaign, mostly through the use of fake social media accounts, none of those agencies were able to say – with even the smallest degree of confidence – that Russian interference altered a single American presidential vote.
In his final report, special counsel Robert Mueller laid out in great detail how a Russian company called the Internet Research Agency used social media and even orchestrated political rallies to misinform American voters. Mueller asserts that, in 2016, Russia interfered “in a sweeping and systematic fashion.” The leftist media and some Democrats have taken this and run with it – never mind that Mueller did not find evidence that Russia’s activities affected the outcome of the election.
Russia Hysteria was a Gift to Putin
The great irony, of course, is that the Russia investigation itself was a gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin. No doubt, the former KGB officer has delighted in watching the more than two years of confusion, division, and recrimination the investigation has caused. To howls of indignation from the Democratic Party’s propaganda wing – otherwise known as the legacy media – the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has made this very point.
Speaking at the Time 100 Summit in New York on April 23, Kushner put some much-needed perspective on the scale of Russian meddling in 2016 and compared it to the damage done to the nation by the investigation into that meddling.
“I think they said [the Russians] spent $160,000. I spent $160,000 on Facebook every three hours during the campaign,” Kushner said, adding: “If you look at the magnitude of what they did, the ensuing investigations have been way more harmful.”
He is right, of course, and to say so is not partisan in any way; rather, it is a simple statement of fact. The final price-tag of the 2016 presidential election campaign came in at more than $2.65 billion. The total figure for digital advertising in the 2016 campaign season (not just by the presidential candidates but for all races) was around one billion dollars. According to findings from U.S. intelligence agencies, the Russians spent quite a bit more than Kushner suggests but, against the avalanche of cash thrown into the campaigns, their efforts were still hardly significant.
The idea, then, that Russia’s fake ads and social media accounts altered the course of the election is almost laughable. The idea that the alleged hacking – and later, releasing – of Clinton campaign emails changed the course of the election is equally amusing. There have been no subsequent studies or polls that prove any significant number of 2016 votes were influenced by either the Clinton email server investigation or the releasing of Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign emails.
The Attempted Destruction of a Political Legacy
Trump’s political opponents, though, are desperate to resuscitate the myth that, without Russia’s help, he would never have become president. They need that to be the underlying theme for 2020: That the American people have an opportunity – perhaps duty – to set right a terrible hijacking of democracy by voting Trump out of office.
In response to Kushner’s comments, the leftist media scrambled to salvage this favorite myth of theirs. Vox claimed Kushner “conveniently rewrites history of Russian interference.” CNN’s Anderson Cooper accused him of “gaslighting.” Leftist, Trump-hating Fox News host Shepard Smith claimed Kushner’s remarks were “disingenuous and deceptive,” before launching into a monologue in which he regurgitated a list of things his researchers lifted from the Mueller report without actually providing a single example of proven Russian success in altering the course of the election.
This theme of Trump being an illegitimate president was planned from the moment the presidential vote tallies were in – perhaps even prior to that – and it will be kept on life support for as long as Trump remains in office – though it will also outlive Trump’s presidency for decades. It is the ultimate act of not just denial but also of intolerance: Unable to win the contest of ideas, the left delegitimizes any political policy they do not like by delegitimizing the people or person who enacted it.
Trump’s entire agenda moves the country in the opposite direction to what the left has in mind. Since they are unable to explain specifically why the direction is wrong, leftists must convince America that the course needs to be changed simply because the man behind it was never supposed to be there and, therefore, everything about it is unjust and unfair.
Destroy Trump; strip him of his right even to be called president and his entire agenda – and the values and aspirations behind it – can be simply washed away. This is the hope of the left and this is why the myth of his having attained power through Russian subversion will never die. Even after he leaves office – be that in 2021 or 2025 – he will leave a presidential legacy; not the least part of which will be Supreme Court nominations. Painting the president as an imposter, a Russian stooge, and a charlatan discredits not just everything he does while in office but every way in which America changes as a result of his presidency.
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