Much has been said about “Russia hacked the election!” by Hillary Clinton supporters who would rather blame a foreign power for her loss rather than admit that she was essentially unelectable even to her own party which is why they had to rig the primaries.
Here is how influence operations work. A secret peek behind the curtain if you will.
In any population, you have people who are firmly on “Side A” and people who are firmly on “Side C” and you have some people between those two that are not firmly decided on A or C.
If you want to influence people to side A or to side C, who do you spend your time and effort to influence? The people NOT firmly A or C. Because those people have already made up their minds, and will not be influenced by you. You must focus your efforts on the people who have not made up their minds yet, who by definition are able to be influenced.
So… ask yourself this simple question, “Going into the election last November, how large was the undecided population? Was it big enough to sway the election one way or the other?”
If you sit down and do a rational analysis of who voted, and how they voted, it is very hard to come to the conclusion that any foreign power was able to influence the election.
Do you really want to know who set the conditions for Donald Trump to win the election? The DNC and the RNC. They put together the absolute worst pair of presidential candidates in living memory and ensured that third party candidates would get more press than every before as the people who weren’t firmly D and weren’t firmly R looked for any way to save out of that horrible binary choice.
Stein and Johnson soaked up plenty of votes in the states where they were on the ballot. And in some states Trump won over Hillary by less than the amount of votes cast for Stein and Johnson. If we assume that all Stein voters would have gone Hillary, and all Johnson voters would have gone Trump, the election outcome wouldn’t have changed. Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, North Carolina and Florida all went to Trump by fewer votes than Johnson and Stein received.
Does this mean that third parties cost Trump the election? No, not really, what it did was set the stage for Trump to walk away with a plurality of votes the way Bill Clinton did in 92. Had the DNC and RNC not played such games of chicanery during the primaries they wouldn’t have alienated the undecided middle ground.
As of right now, it looks like a gamble the RNC won. But I predict it will be a Pyrrhic victory as Trump will prove uncontrollable by the party, and Republicans in Congress are stuck dealing with the blowback because for better or worse he ran as a Republican.
So, in the light of how influence works, it should be very clear that Russia did not in fact “hack the election” as there simply wasn’t an undecided ground that was able to be influenced. If there was, the third party votes would have been less than 2% of the popular vote instead of 4.9% of the popular vote. Almost one in twenty voters said, “I hate Clinton, I hate Trump, I’m going to waste my vote and save my conscience.”
But all the polls going in were for Hillary right? Well yeah, if you’ve been on social media at all you’ll know that it is a pretty unpopular time to be a Trump supporter. But “Dewey Beats Truman!” is a historical event, not just an internet meme.
I’m positive that Russia did their best to influence voters through their national information operations goals, but that is essentially all above board and legal. It certainly isn’t “casus beli” unless we also want to set the legal precedent that “Voice of America” is now an act of war. I’m also positive that Russia saw Trump as someone more in line with their national interests, especially after attempting to work with Hillary when she was SecState. However, that Trump won? Well, that surprised a lot of people.
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