Red Dawn: 2016

The more I think about it, the more I’m curious about why Comey did that press conference just before the election.

It’s weird how the timing of every leak throughout the primaries and presidential campaign benefited Trump, which is especially concerning given the amount of hacksscandalsquestionslawsuits, and investigations swirling around his people, and continuing to do so.

The DNC hack was in May 2016, and by June identified by three independent cyber security firms and a London professor of cyber security as Russian in origin. Identification was aided because such attacks were far from the first known hacks by Russia agents of foreign government servers (or US servers, of both parties), and the spring hacks were primarily unique due to the speed in which they were detected.

Apparently the RNC was also hacked, but chose not to report it because they were not concerned about a security breach. In Dec 2016 — eight months after the DNC hack, six months after the leak, and one month after Trump won — Trump’s chief propagandist, Sean Spicer, confirmed the RNC was also hacked, but claimed it was not relevant because a subsequent cyber security investigation showed the hackers only acquired out-of-date emails from a single former RNC employee (the implication being that RNC security was superior to DNC security).

The problem, of course, is that even if what they’re saying is true, it still doesn’t explain why they waited 8 months to confirm they were also hacked (whereas the DNC immediately notified the press), or the inexplicable difference in details/ openness between how the DNC and RNC have handled the investigations and examination of hacking data and cyber security reports in the fallout. (Hint: the DNC has been open with the code, investigations, and results; the RNC waited months, then stonewalled with assurances that an unnamed cyber security expert assured them they were not comprised.)

In May 2016, unconnected to Russia, Bernie Sanders was surging ahead in the primaries. He was hailed as the potential “people’s” presidential candidate. Numerous articles and polls indicated he was a stronger candidate than HRC against Trump.

When he began losing the primaries in June, those losses were accompanied by a growing sense of unfairness and accusations that the political process had been rigged — accusations of voter intimidation, voter suppression among revelations of voter purges and reduced polling locations led to grassroots attempts by some to demand recounts, while others filed local lawsuits in an attempt to nullify the state primary results and force a re-vote.

Given the intensity of the primaries, HRC was always going to have difficulty winning back a certain segment of the Sanders supporters. It didn’t help matters when — as June 2016 turned to July and Clinton’s victory was assured –HRC supporters appeared to respond to the outrage and accusations of voter suppression/ tampering by Sanders supporters as little more than bruised/ sensitive feelings and the whining of sir losers (or, more offensively, evidence of the lack of progressive credentials and/ or internalized sexism/ racism on the part of Sanders supporters for preferring a white male candidate over a white female candidate).

The message Sanders supporters were getting was, essentially, get over it and fall in line, because HRC was now “their” candidate. It was in this already non-ideal climate that HRC won the primary, as we all know.

I am not here to argue about whether or not her win was valid. Personally, I supported Sanders in the primary, but HRC in the presidential — but I’ll admit that it took me some time to come around, which is interesting because before the primary campaign I fully supported HRC as a candidate, based on her political, academic, and activist history.

In retrospect, I believe it took longer than it should have for me to recognize the clear fingerprints of emotional manipulation from the cumulative effect of this anti-HRC media blitz, due to the Julu DNC Convention Guccifer leak.

That leak validated the sense of injustice and outrage which dogged Sanders’ supporters in the final weeks of the primary, and was especially frustrating in states like mine, where Sanders won the primary vote overwhelmingly, but the electors announced they would be supporting HRC as the nominee.

Furthermore, the anti-HRC media blitz became toxically pervasive at such a gradual rate (at least in liberal/ progressive circles) that, from hindsight, it is difficult to pinpoint when verifiably fake news about HRC began circulating among Sanders supporters.

I know it did, because some of those stories were passed to me. Further research revealed some as the product of slanted information — a truth, half-told, but lacking the consideration or acknowledgment of valuable context/ extenuating circumstances — while others were outright lies.

So, back to the leaks: the timing of the July Guccifer leak was nearly 2 months after the DNC hack; meaning the “smoking gun” emails indicating the DNC engaged in preferential techniques to benefit HRC had been in the hackers possession throughout the messy contentioness of the primary … but they waited to release those emails (and did so via an intermediary to provide plausible deniability) until just before the Democratic National Convention.

Perfect timing, really: It was too late to actually challenge the DNC party nomination; but by leaking just before the formal declaration, it created a sense of false hope that because nothing had been formally been announced, it could still be challenged/overturned — a false hope fanned by unsubstantiated rumors Sanders was going to lodge a formal challenge (denied by his campaign).

HRC started her presidential campaign with her base in shambles, progessive/ Sanders supporting protesting the nomination, and a highly-publicized scourge of top DNC officials.

Throughout and after the presidential campaign, whenever former Sanders supporters talk about whatever method they did not vote HRC (Trump, third party, or abstaining), it was framed less as support for their chosen candidate/ action and more as a protest against the perceived corruption of HRC and the DNC: “Did you see the leaks?!”

I always find myself thinking, “And?!”

Okay, yes. The deal-making and internal corruption wasn’t great. But honestly? Also not unusual for either side.

We all know that. That’s what the whole appeal of Sanders was — not being beholden to money in politics. And after Sanders defeat; Trump (falsely) co-opted that appeal (it still baffles me people somehow think a billionaire CEO  — the literal embodiment of a business interest — who refuses to release his tax returns is preferable to a government employee who was funded by business interests. One of those situations you can address via legislation.)

But that leak — think of the timing! That wasn’t about altruistic information, or truth for the sake of an informed populace creating a stronger democracy!

If those were the goals, the emails would’ve been leaked shortly after the hack, in May 2016, when the results of the primaries could still be influenced. But Russia didn’t want to take the risk of a Sanders v. Trump presidential campaign; they wanted HRC as the nominee so they could cripple her presidential campaign with whispers and rumors from the outset. She was already being investigated for her email servers! All they needed to do was fan the flames of distrust — and boy howdy, did they.

Normally, a presidential candidate can rely on a significant proportion of their base turning out — even after a harsh primary — and spend the presidential campaign focusing on the swing/electoral college states.

A lot of post-election critique made much of how HRC ignored the states Trump won, but nobody really talked about why: I think it was a response to starting the presidential campaign with a deeply splintered voter base and the DNC purges. She was campaigning to win back her base; the votes she should have been able to rely on in a normal electoral season.

By the time the Russian-Guccifer link was confirmed, it was too late — the outrage of alienated progressives who supported Sanders felt validated, and trust in not only the candidate, but organized/ official institutions overall was severely undermined. Reports of HRCs innocence in the collision were met by too many with mockery and disbelief.

As a result of HRC’s campaign’s focus on winning back the base, they relied on social media/ TV/ debates to get her message out to the swing/ independent voters. Impossibly, this approach actually seemed to work — as election day approached, and it looked as though, against all odds, the HRC campaign had recovered, what happened?

Another devastatingly timed scandal headline, just days before the election. From James Comey, no less — top government official and known political opponent of HRC. The same man who had recently publicly exonerated her of wrongdoing in a highly publicized investigation; a statement which (arguably) went a long way to clearing her character and improving her chances of winning.

It also made Comey look good: fair and honest. A registered Republican for “most of his life,” who donated to the Romney and McCain campaigns, Comey had an investigation record known as careful, nonpartisan, and evidence-based. When he’d cleared HRC of wrongdoing in the server email scandal, it pissed off Republicans as much as it reassured everyone else.

So his sudden, unprecedented, unnecessary letter announcing new email-related developments — given his much-established character and credentials–was all the more damaging.

And, again, perfectly timed: explosive and headline grabbing; seeding doubt in voters just before the election deadline, yet so baseless it was already fizzling away to nothing by election day and disappeared completely by the end of the month.

But it was enough, with all the other whispers that dogged the HRC campaign, to erase any lead she may’ve had. Those swing voters and former Sanders supporters who might’ve gone out? They stayed home, or voted third party. Some of them, sadly, betrayed Sanders’ values and campaign altogether to vote Trump.

The thing that bothers me most is that all this meddling would have been for naught if it weren’t for the electoral college. She still won the popular vote. Russia literally leveraged our flawed democracy against us.

Everyone talks about the effect of false news inflaming the right wing voters so they went out and voted; but what about the demoralizing effect of the leaks on progressive voters?

Those leaks were timed to alienate the progressive base, in the hope HRCs campaign would be so occupied with winning back and consolidating her base, they would neglect the key swing states — and that is exactly what happened.

The hack and fake news are made much of, but I think it’s important not to forget the influence of the paid human trolls from Russia, or discount the real possibility they inflamed the internecine conflict of the DNC primaries.

It is true DNC preferred HRC as a candidate. Traditional politics is once again infused and corrupted by corporate/ big bank finances. This is a situation which has historically recurred in the US political system, and been addressed not by outsiders with no working understanding of governance but career politicians (some despicable).

It could have been addressed again, in our own house. By a politician at the very least rigged in our system, as opposed to implemented by the interference of outside manipulation. We have a Manikin President, a stooge whose failure upward was machinated not by a foreign power who seeks to control him — no, I do not think that’s Russia’s endgame at all.

They wanted Trump as the US president because he’s a fool who knows nothing of politics, and rather than serve US interests, his policies and mishandling of governance will undermine and devastate US standing on the world stage.

At this point, Russia doesn’t need to do anything else. From here on out, all the failures of this administration will be their own doing.

HRC would have been the status quo, or slow change. The leaked emails which indicted her campaign, while inflammatory, were not the outright smoking gun of illegal and amor action many claimed them to be.

I suspect for maximum effect, the Russian trolls (defined as Russian citizens who represented themselves as US citizens in social media and discussed the election with the intent of sowing dissent) amplified the simmering sense of injustice by:

  1. Posing as HRC supporters and insulting Bernie supporters/ encouraging actual HRC supporters to insult Bernie supporters, and
  2. Signal-boosting each lawsuit and failed attempt to verify primary election results, which cast more doubt on the validity of HRC’s nomination.

I just wish we could somehow get the election results discounted because of Russian interference and have the winner of the popular vote take office.

I have heard rumors HRC is thinking of running in 2020. I really hope not. She is one of those politicians who is, no doubt, extremely skilled, but she lacks a certain je nais se quoi, and it cripples her in national campaigns. I do not think this is anything as reductive as sexism, btw — I’m not denying sexism exists, and plays a strong role in how she is perceived. I’m just saying, whatever it is that makes her such an appealing candidate off-season seems to evaporate once the actual campaigning starts, and I can’t stand to watch it again.

I think I’d prefer Elizabeth Warren, or Kshama Sawant, or Pramila Jayapal. Michelle Obama would be amazing, obviously, if she had any interest in running — but she doesn’t, so I kinda feel like people should stop with the daydream.

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