“Illegitimate” Trump is a seductive idea, and dangerous

A nesting doll in a Moscow souvenir shop—photo by Andrey Rudakov

Like many people, I would like to believe that Russia made Donald Trump president of the United States. That would solve a lot of problems for me—for example, the problem of reconciling tomorrow’s inauguration with my faith in American democracy and the people who operate it. That took kind of a hit in November. As a person who would not like to see Trump and his ilk win again and again, believing Russians hacked the election would also relieve me of my concern that Democrats could not beat the worst presidential candidate in American history.

But that phrase—“Russia hacked the election”—is simplistic and dumb. There is no evidence that Russia or its agents did anything to interfere with ballots or their counting. No election-related computer systems were compromised. Russians “hacked the election” by releasing to the public emails from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta. Surely, Russia favored Trump, because it could have done the same thing to him but didn’t. But the fact remains that Russia “hacked the election” only in the sense that it gave voters accurate information about Clinton they didn’t already know.

The actual election—the part where Trump becomes president by winning the electoral college—happened at the will of the American people in accordance with our constitution. It’s completely terrifying and sad that it happened that way—more terrifying and sad, probably, than if the Russians changed the vote count. But we should confront this state of affairs in our politics, so we can cure it. Blaming the Russians and declaring Trump illegitimate only denies that we are sick.

It is for this reason I must humbly disagree with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who told Meet the Press he will not attend the inauguration because he does not consider Trump a legitimate president. Lewis is a damn hero, and he can do whatever he wants. But I think it’s a mistake to pretend that Trump did not ascend to the presidency within our existing system, according to the will of the American people constitutionally expressed. Russia didn’t do this. We did. I think we should reckon with that, and the narrative that Russian interference renders the result of this election illegitimate lets us off the hook. You can read all about it in this week’s column in the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!

Clinton took Michigan for granted, non-Russsian source reports

If you want to know how the Democratic Party is both not wrong and not likely to win an election ever again, consider this sentence from a recent letter to the Missoula Independent:

Blaming the Democratic Party for the election of Donald Trump excuses the real culprit: the uninformed electorate.

If you programmed a computer to identify Yogi Berra aperçus, this one might fool it. It’s not my fault I lost; they were the ones who didn’t vote for me. Anyway, Beth Taylor Wilson of Missoula is right: on every issue, Hillary compared to Trump as sense compares to nonsense, and the Democratic Party put up a progressive platform this year. They were also the only major party not to nominate a walking personality disorder. And yet they lost. They lost even though the admittedly uninformed electorate did its job and picked Clinton, by a margin of three million votes.

My question for the B.T. Wilsons of the world: How is it the voters’ fault that Hillary lost the electoral college? Perhaps some share of the blame lies with the professionals who spent nearly one billion dollars in donations to get her into office. Like you, I assumed the Democratic Party attracted the canniest politicians in America. Then I read this Politico story about how they campaigned in Michigan. Here’s a morsel:

The only metric that people involved in the operations say they ever heard headquarters interested in was how many volunteer shifts had been signed up — though the volunteers were never given the now-standard handheld devices to input the responses they got in the field, and Brooklyn mandated that they not worry about data entry. Existing packets with notes from the volunteers, including highlighting how much Trump inclination there was among some of the white male union members the Clinton campaign was sure would be with her, were tossed in the garbage.

I don’t want to be a negative Nancy Pelosi, but this is the second time Clinton has blown a sure thing. Sure, it’s mostly Russia’s fault. But sometimes I wonder whether Democrats are overestimating how many people are still with them. They might even be taking some of their constituents for granted. That’s easy to do when the Republican Party has gone berserk and nominated a Batman villain for president. Only an idiot would vote for that, obviously. It was so obvious that here we are, now, a nation of idiots without even a smart lady to lead us.

“The voters were too dumb to pick Clinton” might be true. It sure looks that way from a certain perspective. But if that is your perspective, “it’s the voters’ fault” is a poisonous idea. If you believe electing Trump was a mistake, as I do, then you have to consider how the Democratic Party allowed that to happen given the electorate we have. Democracy means the customer is always right.

Circle of heroes expands to include CIA

CIA Director John Brennan defends the use of waterboarding in 2013.

On Friday, the CIA announced that “the consensus view” of US intelligence agencies is that Russia used computer hackers to influence the election in favor of Donald Trump. Democrats agree. Can you blame them? It’s comforting to think Americans didn’t really choose Trump. Like the Michigan recount, the CIA report holds out the possibility that last month’s disturbing vote didn’t really happen. And even if it did, blaming Russian cyberspies lets Democrats off the hook. They wouldn’t have lost to the worst major-party candidate in history, if Vladimir Putin hadn’t put his thumb on the scale. Never mind that we don’t know how much this possible Russian hacking actually influenced the election. The important thing is that the CIA is right, and to suggest that they might be mistaken is unconscionable. After all, those people are heroes:

Updated head count of sacred cows after the jump.

Continue reading

Friday links! Cheat to win edition

Russian athletes at the Sochi Olympics celebrate before tipping over a car.

Russian athletes at the Sochi Olympics earn their families’ freedom.

We all know that it’s “cool” to work hard and play by the rules. That’s what our heroes do, from Captain America to Hillary Clinton. But what if hard work and rulesmanship were not, in fact, what we admire about those two fictional characters? What if winning were actually the coolest thing a person can do? Obviously I’m being facetious, since our society remains deeply committed to ethical behavior. But perhaps someday, in the distant future, cheating might become not accepted, per se, but so widespread that it no longer provokes outrage. Today is Friday, and cynicism benefits the crooked. Won’t you pretend it’s a big deal to catch ’em with me?

Continue reading

Friday links! Strict realism edition

Jesus rides into Bethlehem on a dinosaur, just like in Exodus.

Jesus rides into Bethlehem on a dinosaur (Exodus 4:20)

At this turning point in modern civilization, we must throw off what we merely wish were true and cleave to what is absolutely certain. Only by reasoning scrupulously according to the evidence at hand can we hope to grapple with the complicated problems of 21st-century living. Philosophy, sociology, climate science—these are exciting realms of conjecture, but in the end, they are only castles made of sand. Give me hard facts and established knowledge, i.e. the Bible. Today is Friday, and we can’t afford to live in a fantasy world much longer. Won’t you embrace realism with me?

Continue reading