The Democrats, the left-wing media, and other detractors of President Donald Trump are again changing their narrative on Russian interference in the 2016 election. This new talking point, however, is doomed to gain very little traction. As they quietly back away from accusations that the Trump campaign team colluded with Russian authorities to steal the election, leftists are now pointing to Russian propaganda efforts as the latest reason for Hillary Clinton’s defeat.
On several levels, this idea is weak at best and outrageously deceptive at worst.The notion that a relatively small-scale Russian disinformation campaign made a decisive difference in an American presidential election would have been preposterous enough. That the Russians were aiming for something far more modest in scope makes that notion even more fanciful.
The far more plausible conclusion, of course, is that the Russians had not the slightest intention of affecting the final vote-count; their activities were designed to sow discord and confusion, to undermine the trust of the American people in their own political system and, by extension, to damage the future president. Clinton’s victory was widely assumed to be beyond doubt. It is unthinkable that the Russians did not share in the certainty over the election outcome. They sought to promote every candidate in the race, other than the one candidate they assumed would become the next president.
Recent Indictment Deals Collusion Theory a Heavy Blow
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recently announced the indictment of thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies for interference in the United States political system. Revealing the indictment at a press briefing, Rosenstein stated that no American citizen had knowingly colluded with the Russian interlopers.
With this one statement, the Department of Justice number two effectively killed off the idea that Trump and his associates had entered into a scheme – supported by Russian agents – to influence the outcome of the election. To be sure, the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller goes on and the full extent of what his team continues to examine is not publicly known. Nevertheless, this latest indictment certainly appears to have marked the end of one phase of the investigation. The Trump campaign has survived that phase without being connected, in any way, to attempted political subterfuge.
Putting The Russian Information Warfare In Perspective
Once and for all, questions about whether the Russians meddled in the 2016 election have been put to rest. Clearly, the individuals and companies named in the indictment did exactly that. This was a propaganda campaign, involving the spreading of fake news and politically-charged ads and statements spread across the most prominent social media platforms. It was a campaign that involved Russian individuals posing as American political activists. What this campaign was is, perhaps, less important than what it was not.
The Russian efforts in 2016 – which, we now know, began in 2014 – were not nearly sufficient to influence to the final result of the election. As with past presidential races, political parties, action committees, special interests and wealthy donors poured vast amounts of money into this race According to OpenSecrets.org, the total cost of just the presidential component of the general election was more than $2.3 billion. “More than $1 billion was spent on political ads during the 2016 presidential campaign,” Reuters reported. By contrast, Facebook claimed to have sold $100,000 in ad space to the Russians.
The scope of Russian interference was limited to ad spending, the use of bots to troll political discussions on Twitter and Facebook and the organizing of a few relatively small rallies. It is also worth noting that Rob Goldman, Facebook’s VP of Ad Sales, confirmed that the Russians spent more money on ads after the election. The conspirators had no access to voting machines, they had no agents planted at polling stations, they had no pre-stuffed ballot boxes ready to drop in. In short, the Russians had no means to interfere with the actual process of electing a president.
another factor Affecting the Vote Count?
Trump’s opponents are left with only one theory; that the Russian propaganda could have swayed enough voters to deny Clinton a victory in 2016. This theory is totally reliant on the idea that, by some incredible twist of fate, this hypothetical group of easily-persuaded voters all reside in certain key counties in certain key states – upon which the electoral college result often hinges. As if this proposition was not already stretching the boundaries of credulity, there is one more factor that renders it even less likely.
The number of illegal immigrants in the United States is not exactly known. Estimates range between 11 and around 20 million. Tens of millions of those illegals live in states where no identification document is required to prove eligibility to vote. The very idea, then, that no illegal immigrants voted in the last general election is ridiculous. How many voted is something that may not ever be determined but one can be certain that those who did vote, cast their ballots for Clinton.
Which is likely to be the larger number of voters? Those who were intending to vote for Clinton but were persuaded by Russian bots or campaign ads not to do so or an undetermined number of illegal immigrants who did vote for her?
It is entirely possible – even though not proven – that hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, if not more, voted for the Democratic candidate in 2016. It is inconceivable that more than a couple thousand Americans across the entire country, who intended to vote for Clinton, choose not to after being exposed to a relatively small campaign of deception.
Had the Russians earnestly intended to change the outcome of the 2016 election, they would have spent tens of millions. They would have deployed hundreds of agents, both within the U.S. and working from abroad.Their goal, quite obviously, was to fuel destabilization and distrust. In light of subsequent events, they appear to have succeeded. For the sake of future political stability, is it not time, finally, for Trump’s opponents to accept the reality of what happened in 2016? Is it not also time for them to accept the reality of what did not happen?