By Colleen O’Connor
This election is where faux news, conspiracy theories and fears are colliding like a Super Nova explosion.
Already, no less than the FBI, Homeland Security, and others are issuing clarion calls about possible cyber interference in the coming presidential and local elections.
A national coordination task force is in the making. Fears of the “Russians are coming. The Russians are coming” permeate usually sane media spaces.
Add to this the very real possibility (if the latest polls are to be believed) that the race is tightening—with Donald Trump ahead in the popular vote and Hillary Clinton leading in the Electoral College—and the ingredients for political chaos are complete.
First, the establishment fears.
– The FBI issued a “flash” alert this summer to state election officials that foreign hackers had breached the election systems in two states, Arizona and Illinois. Arizona shut down its network for a week, according to the staid Sacramento Bee.
– The Washington Post reported that intelligence and law enforcement officials are looking into a secret, widespread effort by Russia to undermine public trust in the U.S. presidential election and in the country’s political institutions. The newspaper said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was “deeply shaken” following a briefing about the investigation by a top official in the intelligence community.
– Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson suggested that the nation’s election system, an uneven mosaic of 50 state-operated fiefdoms, should be viewed like the national power grid, part of the country’s “critical infrastructure.”
– Johnson volunteered his agency’s help by offering to inspect state election systems for holes hackers could crawl through. Several states have taken up his offer. Others – such as Georgia, which has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1996 but where polls now show the race between Democrat Clinton and Republican Trump tied – have spurned it.
The recent purging of voter registration lists, the history of voting graveyards, the previous Diebold election machines’ errors, and the chad debacle of the Bush v. Gore race, make the latest conspiracy theory of “martial law” look plausible.
If this is what the “establishment” is saying, imagine what the Twitterverse is suggesting, let alone the late night radio talk shows if Trump does win the popular vote and Clinton takes the Electoral College.
Our democracy is at risk.
Little do Americans realize, but our “elections” and “democracy” have always been at risk.
Once upon a time, we had no political parties (thought to be almost evil and divisive by the Founding Fathers), no secret ballots (they interfered with landowners and overseers from marching their captive workers to the polls to mark their “X” in the proper slot (or lose their jobs) and no votes for blacks or women.
Remember, in the original U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 for the purposes of taxation and representation, slaves would be counted as 3/5ths a human being. It took a Civil War, and the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights movement to alter this. Women won their vote after WWI.
Until then, the local Sheriff was the most powerful official because he decided when the polls would open and close. Open long enough to get his herded voters to the make shift polling spot (only disclosed to his friends) and closed as soon as the opposition showed up.
Horses, wagons, carts, or feet carried the bodies to the polls. Not a love of “democracy.”
Fraud has almost always existed in our campaigns, politics, and voting. As has “dark money,” salacious attacks, voter suppression, and nonsensical conspiracy theories.
Here is the latest “martial law” conspiracy theory gaining traction:
If Trump loses, the election is “rigged,” as the candidate himself asserts. “Rigged” is this seasons’ coin of the realm used by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the Left and Trump and others on the Right.
A split election (popular v. electoral votes) will cause riots in the streets (stoked by an overwhelming mistrust in the government and globalism), and President Obama will be “forced” to declare “martial law;” thus securing the status quo indefinitely.
See: “The Russians are coming. The Russians are coming.” It is not just a Cold War slogan or spoof any more. It is the prevalent conspiracy theory held by the establishment; only this time, the “Russians” are using computer malware, not tanks.
What an election! It is vintage American.
Colleen O’Connor is a retired college history professor and native San Diegan.