Late last year, over drinks with a long-time veteran southern Republican political operative, he leaned over and fairly shouted:
“Heckfire! Donald Trump didn’t even collude with the GOP to get elected in 2016! How could the Russians have put up with him long enough to ‘col-lood’ to beat Hillary Clinton?”
He has a point. Most of the money and media time spent in 2016 was decidedly against Donald Trump, not for him. How did hackers from Russia figure out how to overcome all that opposition to help him win, if in fact, they did?
The Mueller team reported the Russians spent $1.25 million per month which, when compared to the $2.2 billion that was spent from all sources on the presidential race, would account for maybe 0.5 percent of the total amount of money spent in 2016.
When you consider how much disinformation was flying around the internet from all sources from 2015 to 2016, heavily negative against Trump from Republicans and Hillary supporters alike, if the Russians disproportionately made a decisive impact with 0.5 percent of all money spent, they really were magicians to begin with.
Foreign involvement in any election is bad. In 2015, President Obama was accused of using taxpayer funds to meddle in the Israeli election of Prime Minister Netanyahu. That was “bad” just as well.
The open channels of the internet make it possible for any hacker to interfere anywhere they want. However, it is impossible for any single person on the globe to influence an American political campaign all by themselves due to that same degree of openness.
If the Russians figured out how to get “their” candidate elected in America with the limited amount of funds they spent on fake Twitter accounts and ads against the avalanche of money that was spent to defeat Donald Trump from all sides, they should sell that secret potion. Every campaign manager, pollster and operative in America would pay millions for it.
Many people make voting decisions solely on name recognition. Others vote based on a candidate’s appearance and demeanor. If one candidate is more well-known than the other and they are more appealing, they usually win.
During any presidential election cycle, any number of factors can determine which candidate wins or not. Lack of enough money usually is the determining factor. A candidate who can’t buy enough TV or social media ads to tell voters who they are or why the other candidate is “so bad” is probably going to lose.
General organizational skills such as calling voters or knocking on enough doors to get your people out to vote play important roles in every election.
What is the greatest “get-out-the-vote” mechanism? Motivation on the part of voters. They are either highly motivated to vote for one person out of hope or against the other candidate out of fear. No amount of “fake” Twitter accounts or ads can manufacture or defeat those waves of voter sentiment once they hit a crescendo.
The choice to “blame Russian hackers” for Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016 came right from Hillary Clinton and her top advisers. In their book “Shattered,” political reporters Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes wrote, “(Hillary’s) team coalesced around the idea that Russian hacking was the major unreported story of the campaign” less than 24 hours after her concession speech, and they concocted a media strategy to spin her loss on them.
Not on anything she did wrong in the campaign.
Lo and behold, the media took the bait and swallowed it. We are now one year into the Mueller investigation with no end in sight and close to $20 million of taxpayer money spent.
Russian hackers didn’t cost Hillary Clinton the 2016 election. She lost it fair and square. It is time for this version of the “long national nightmare” to end.