Nobody Is Lifting a Finger to Protect US Democracy

Congress, Nero, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan
While democracy burns. Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0) See complete attribution below

President Donald Trump might be one of the few people in Washington who doesn’t understand — or does he pretend not to understand? — that there was massive foreign interference on various levels in the 2016 elections.

It ranged from Russia’s confirmed use of targeted social media ads and bot accounts to the dissemination of fake news and the highly likely attempted or successful hacking of state voter registration databases. Elements of the US intelligence community also believe that the regime of Vladimir Putin was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee as well as the account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

The many contacts between Trump’s campaign and various Russian officials are murkier, and no evidence has surfaced so far that proves collusion between them. But the conclusion is inescapable that there was a coordinated attempt to undermine US democracy.

The true extent of that interference is still unknown, and we may never find out how much of an effect Russia’s actions had on the outcome. Congress is certainly trying to get to the bottom of it with various investigations that are being commendably conducted in a more or less bipartisan manner.

But knowing that a foreign power managed to easily tamper with the US election does little good if nothing is done to prevent it from happening again.

It’s clear the Trump administration isn’t going to do anything about it. Its “voter fraud” commission, led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is more likely to muddy the waters than anything else. Compared to Kobach, who has orchestrated various voter suppression schemes, Putin is a complete amateur at influencing US elections.

Nor can Americans count on state governments, which are, in their bids to stay in power, often more culpable than Russian hackers of undermining US democracy. While both parties are guilty of gerrymandering when in power, Republicans have gone to unprecedented lengths to tailor the electorate to their needs. And GOP efforts to make it harder for Democratic-leaning voters to even cast ballots is ongoing. In fact, a slew of such measures — including stricter voter ID requirements and curtailed opportunities for voter registration — have already been introduced or enacted this year in states across the country.

This means that the burden of safeguarding future elections falls on Congress. Plenty of impressive-sounding bills have been introduced, on both the state and federal levels, to address vulnerabilities and injustices in the current systems. But whether any will result in significant action is dubious. The “DISCLOSE Act” would add campaign spending disclosure requirements for “corporations, labor organizations, Super PACs and other such groups;” the bipartisan “Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act” would reform the dysfunctional Federal Elections Commission; the “SAFE Act” would improve the security of elections-related information technology; and the “Voting Rights Advancement Act” would guarantee federal supervision of blatantly discriminatory state election laws.

None of these bills should be controversial. But since the systems now in place work for Republicans — who control the White House, Congress and most state governments — it won’t be surprising if they fail to lift a finger to advance any of them.

That leaves us with congressional Democrats, who have been none too active on this front. They will get a chance soon, however, if their votes are needed to prevent a government shutdown. Among the many things they should insist on, in exchange for their support, are the much needed reforms that would protect the elections from foreign — and domestic — forces seeking to undermine US democracy.

The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: Chuck Schumer caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), Nancy Pelosi caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), Mitch McConnell caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), Paul Ryan caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), National Statuary Hall (Greg Palmer / Flickr – CC BY 2.0) and quartet (Thorsten Krienke  / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0).


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Columbia (Library of Congress / Wikimedia).

Where else do you see journalism of this quality and value?

Please help us do more. Make a tax-deductible contribution now.

Our Comment Policy

Keep it civilized, keep it relevant, keep it clear, keep it short. Please do not post links or promotional material. We reserve the right to edit and to delete comments where necessary.

print

10 responses to “Nobody Is Lifting a Finger to Protect US Democracy”

  1. Judyz says:

    While we’re all focusing on Russia no one has paid the least bit of attention to the fact that the Republican Party has been hacking elections for years. They use all sorts of tactics such as voter ID’s that suppress minority votes by requiring an ID that they know the elderly and minorities don’t have such as a driver’s license then close a lot of the offices to make it difficult to get. Fewer polling places in minority districts or those leaning Democratic. Caging which they were prohibited by law from doing has made a comeback. It’s where they mail out letters to students during the summer to their address’ on campus when they know they’re not there and black soldiers at their home address’ when they know they are overseas. The letters are undeliverable of course and so they are returned at which time their names are purged from voter roles. They slow down or “lose” voter registration forms or claim they never got them, like they did in GA this year. Put dysfunctional voting machines that are proven not to count correctly in largely democratic districts (happens all the time and lawsuits have been filed in multiple states). Alabama just now has a bunch of districts that won the “right” to turn off safety features, readers, etc. on machines in democratic districts. And the coup d’etat? Kansas SOS Kris Kobach who Pence asked Trump to appoint to head up a :voter integrity” commission and his interstate cross-check where he compares first and last names only which are Hispanic, Asian or typical African-American names while ignoring middle names and Jr., Sr., birth dates, etc. from different states and then declares them as voting in two or more different states even though they haven’t and purges them from both states’ voter roles. Did that big time in the 2016 election mostly in the swing states. So, where’s the rage over all their actions? Not even the Democratic Party who Republicans are pushing very hard to completely destroy (who will they blame then?) say much for fear they will turn off voters. Really? Don’t worry because the Republicans will make sure they don’t vote for you or their votes will be flipped to the Republican. And Senator Flake said the system wasn’t “rigged”? Believe that and I’ve got a bridge to sell you,

  2. james warren says:

    So we should just forget the whole thing…

    • PecosinRat says:

      Sorry to paint such a dismal picture, James. Fixing this isn’t impossible, but it starts with knowing who we are actually struggling against. The comment above does offer an important positive point, specifically, that “rank and file legislators” understand the need for real transparency in elections. Unfortunately, the rules by which legislatures are run are written by the leaders of the leg and they effectively place all the power in the hands of the leaders. An effective strategy in my state to combat this problem (and ultimately make elections more transparent) might well be to generate an initiative petition (that puts an issue on the ballot) that would take the power to write the rules for how legislators pass laws away from the leaders of the legislative branches and put it in the hands of the public. With power back in the hands of more people within the legislature, dictation of what will or will not be passed by moneyed or politically powerful interests will be a lot more difficult

  3. Nick Smegg says:

    Twitter and other social media went after RT to get them to advertise. The total amount of advetising turned out to be on the order of $100,000. In the context of US election advertising that’s pretty much zero. In any event, about half of the RT ads were placed AFTER the election, so how on earth did they influence the election?

    This article is high on hysteria, lwo on actual facts. It doesn’t refect ther eality of the world, which is that the united states interferes in the elections and referenda of every other country on the planet.

    Shame on whowhatwhy for posting such idiotic nonsense.

  4. Steve Brown says:

    Such bills should absolutely be controversial. It is a stepping stone to state-run media.

  5. Postkey says:

    ” . . . and domestic — forces seeking to undermine US democracy.”

    “And it’s deadly. Doubtless, Crosscheck delivered Michigan to Trump who supposedly “won” the state by 10,700 votes. The Secretary of State’s office proudly told me that they were “very aggressive” in removing listed voters before the 2016 election. Kobach, who created the lists for his fellow GOP officials, tagged a whopping 417,147 in Michigan as potential double voters.”
    (Greg Palast, 12 May 2017 article)
    Civil Rights Groups Challenge

  6. Jason BMW says:

    The Republican party, as it currently exists, is a clear and present danger to the Nation. It should be disbanded and outlawed.

  7. disqus_XBlxbBe7p1 says:

    Since we live in an corporate oligarchy! Who Cares?

    The supposed democracy has been dead for decades.

    • Bob Anderson says:

      Hehe….politics as market place….beliefs as product…

      Ya gotta wonder how this concept of net neutrality is gonna play out.

    • Marko says:

      Right. You’d think we might want to give democracy a try , just as an interesting experiment.

      Nobody lifts a finger , though. Weird.