By now, many Americans believe (or are at least familiar with) the narrative of the corporate media and the cultural left elite regarding “election interference” in the United States. Their account goes something like this: through gerrymandering and purging the voter rolls, elected Republicans have engineered unfavorable outcomes for Democratic candidates. Further, agents of Donald Trump (and likely the future president himself) “colluded” with agents of foreign governments in creating an anti–Hillary Clinton misinformation campaign, which ultimately swung the election. And the fantastic tale continues to unfold. Now, by requesting that Ukrainian officials look into corruption in the previous administration, they say, Trump works to rig 2020 in his favor.
Of course, all that is hogwash. It is unclear how much of an impact (if any) the redrawing of electoral boundaries had on recent elections. But even if it did have an impact, courts at all levels have acknowledged the legality of such redistricting. Courts have also affirmed the states’ rights to remove inactive or deceased voters from the registration lists. Voter ID laws, sponsored by conservatives to decrease election interference, are derided by the Left as a form of election interference. The collusion yarn and the Ukraine charade have been debunked in too many ways to count. But CNN, the New York Times, and NBC know that if you repeat something enough times, people will believe it. And given the overwhelmingly leftist agenda of the mainstream media, too many Americans remain unaware of the voluminous evidence of two (two!) attempts by elected and unelected agents of the administrative state to frame the president with an (allegedly) impeachable offense.
While the wildly exaggerated allegations of conservative election meddling are easily disproven, there has, in fact, been a great deal of interference in American elections over the past decade. Virtually all of this malfeasance has been orchestrated by representatives of the Democratic Party and their allies. And while much misconduct has been extensively documented, the Left’s point guards in the elite media have ensured that the evidence is shielded from the public gaze. Although many Americans are aware of some of these instances in isolation, documenting how the various abuses worked in coordination is essential if voters are to see how an ongoing campaign of interference can impede the basic functioning of our democracy.
After the Citizens United decision in 2010, various revisions were made to the regulations governing the funding of political campaigns. Allegedly in response to a glut of new applications for tax-exempt status from PACs, the IRS elaborated a procedure for reviewing these applications: certain groups’ petitions would be scrutinized in greater detail while most moved through an expedited process. In practice, the guidelines clearly targeted conservative-leaning applications for longer reviews: opposition to Obamacare, emphasis on constitutional governance, connections with the Tea Party, or concern with taxation were all criteria that were flagged in the process. The increased scrutiny delayed approval by many months — and in some cases by years.
Obviously, these delays severely impacted conservative groups’ abilities to raise money in the lead-up to the 2012 election — an election in which a vulnerable Democratic president was running for reelection. This amounts to a politically motivated attempt to undermine the GOP nominee in 2012. The media wasn’t particularly interested, though. Conveniently, internal emails that might explain the origins of these discriminatory practices were deleted. And wouldn’t you know it? The backup tapes that archived them were deleted, too. Not because of any wrongdoing, though; just an accident, the kind that seems to keep happening with data that might document Democratic malfeasance. After lecturing Congress about her innocence and their overreach, the IRS’ Lois Lerner pled the Fifth. And that was that.
As the Obama 2012 campaign unfolded, the president literally laughed in Mitt Romney’s face at his assertion that Russia is the nation that poses the greatest threat to America. In Obama’s mind, the Russian Reset was a success — so successful, in fact, that he thought nothing of asking our friends from Moscow for some quid pro quo to assist his reelection efforts. If the Kremlin would not directly challenge U.S. foreign policy on issues of concern to Russia until after the election, Obama promised that he would make favorable policy concessions in his second term. There is recorded evidence of this exchange that is much more damning and cut-and-dry than anything Adam Schiff has come up with regarding Trump’s conversations with Ukrainian leaders. Indeed, Obama’s actions could reasonably be labeled bribery. Somehow, though, the mainstream media didn’t find a whiff of an impeachable offense here.
Obama was reelected. During his second term, Hillary was warming up for her coronation in 2016. Her secret email servers, housed in the fetid bowels of the Clinton compound, ensured that her communications from her tenure as secretary of state and her subsequent exchanges with the Obama White House would remain shielded from public view and those annoying FOIA requests. The secret servers were a form of election interference in themselves; it is hard to believe that she would have gone to those lengths if she hadn’t been preparing for a presidential run. But with the Clintons, you never know. Either way, the public has rightful ownership of her communications as an elected official. Circumventing laws ensuring an accessible public record of government decision-making was a means to undermine the public’s ability to assess her performance as secretary of state as they considered her worthiness for a promotion.
When the servers were discovered, and subpoenas were issued for them to be turned over to law enforcement, the Clintons essentially refused. There were no pre-dawn raids at the Clinton residence. An acquiescent FBI and Justice Department politely waited until Hillary’s minions had finished sorting and deleting 30,000 of the subpoenaed emails that contained “personal information.” There were no arrests for this flagrantly felonious behavior. No prosecutions. Eventually, the Clinton camp got around to turning over phones and other hardware that had been used to transmit top-secret information. Unfortunately, they had all been wiped and smashed with hammers. Funny how that happens. And darn it! The archives that would have allowed the recovery of some of these deleted emails (from the accounts of those communicating with Hillary’s team on sanctioned government devices)? Well, somehow they got deleted. The scam was a success. The public was only allowed a Clinton-curated view of her performance as secretary: more election interference.
As Trump consolidated his primary victories and the 2016 contest began in earnest, the Clinton campaign must have recognized that there was a chance — a very remote chance — that Trump could win. But even that slim possibility could not be tolerated. Taking care to work through intermediaries to conceal the collusion, the Clinton campaign hired Fusion GPS and a known foreign intelligence agent to put together a “dossier” of unsubstantiated rumors that could be used to smear Donald Trump. A presidential candidate working with foreign agents to influence an American election? Sounds familiar … sounds like election interference.
Unfortunately for Clinton, massive communication records were illegally seized from Democratic National Committee archives and leaked to the press. The private contractors hired to do the digital investigation tell us that the network was remotely hacked by Russian agents. But the DNC’s refusal to allow government entities to independently assess the servers gives ample reason to doubt the explanation proffered by the investigators paid by the DNC. The emails documented at length the rife corruption of the DNC and the Clinton campaign and made clear that they had worked together (or “colluded”) to rig the Democratic primary elections in favor of Hillary. More election interference.
As philanderers like Pete Strzok were working at the FBI on their “insurance policy” to protect against a Trump victory (election interference — by government agents, no less!), crooked bureaucrats like James Comey, John Brennan, and James Clapper were working to spin the dossier that Hillary bought into an honest-to-goodness FBI investigation. They achieved this feat in time to counterbalance the news in October that the Clinton email investigation had to be reopened — an inconvenience that was forced by a government worker who raised concerns that the investigators had ignored crucial data and ways to recover it. Ultimately, the collusion of Fusion GPS, Christopher Steele, Hillary Clinton, the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Justice, and the Obama White House legitimized the false information of the dossier — a way to manipulate public opinion and interfere with the election. Importantly, they had also laid the groundwork to interfere with the consequences of the election if the impossible happened: if Trump won.
Trump’s candidacy, which had been the funniest joke in America since 2015, stopped being funny really quickly sometime around 9:30 Eastern Time on Election Night. In the days after Trump’s astounding win, the campaign to interfere with the results of a fair and free election was born. They called it the Resistance. The Russian collusion rouse entered Phase Two when the same officials who circulated an unsubstantiated dossier of election research pretended that this very circulation supported its veracity and required the appointment of a special prosecutor. Other commenters have exhaustively documented how an incestuous orgy of anti-Trump officials catalyzed the investigation. Suffice it to say, the nonpartisan media insisted that Trump was obviously guilty, that Mueller had the goods, that the walls were closing in. The infest-igation and the media’s coverage of it was ultimately meant to influence public opinion as a precursor to Trump’s removal.
Mueller’s work dragged on — and on. People indicted for process crimes unrelated to the imagined collusion were (literally) dragged out of their homes, placed in solitary confinement, and held up as incontrovertible evidence of Trump’s guilt. We now know that the infest-igation went on for months after Mueller had collected all evidence and completed all interviews. Why? Likely because Mueller knew that he would have to exonerate Trump and that would be very helpful for Republicans running in the 2018 midterm elections.
Election Day arrived with most voters still hypnotized by the propaganda that Trump was probably — certainly? — guilty of some major crime. More election interference. And it worked. The House of Representatives flipped, allowing Democrats an unchecked power in imagining and infest-igating new fantasies of criminal behavior by the president.
When Democrats’ hearts were broken by the report that there was, in fact, no collusion, the problem stopped being about collusion. It was obstruction of justice that was the problem: Trump didn’t cooperate with their attempts to impeach him for a crime he didn’t commit. Then, when a doddering Robert Mueller was dragged before Congress in hopes that he might prop up the collapsing narrative of obstruction, he looked like he missed a nap. And America was tired, too: exhausted by the collusion nonsense.
Right after the collusion dreams died, the Ukraine coup was born. An anti-Trump bureaucrat reported that Trump had committed crimes by asking Ukraine to investigate well-supported evidence of corruption in the previous administration. Vice President Joe Biden was accused of threatening to withhold American money if the prosecutor who was investigating his son for corruption wasn’t fired. Sounds far-fetched … except we have a recording of Biden laughing and bragging about it. Sounds like bribery. Or, to put it politely, quid pro quo. We now know that the “whistleblower” had no firsthand knowledge of the phone call in question. Conveniently, the requirement that whistleblowers have firsthand knowledge of the misdeeds they report was eliminated just weeks before Adam Schiff and his team began colluding with Eric Ciaramella and his colleagues to coordinate how the latest election interference would enfold. And this is to say nothing about the fact that Ciaramella’s lawyer has explicitly stated his involvement with a “coup” as early as 2017.
And so, as we enter the heart of the campaign for 2020, “impeachment” “hearings” unfold daily on television, as breathless journalists talk again about how “the walls are closing in.” If Schiff and the administrative state get their way — and recent history suggests they will — the president will be impeached by the House of Representatives before the election. Only months ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised that if impeachment proceedings were undertaken, it would only be if a clear crime had been committed and if there was bipartisan support. Not only did no Republicans vote in favor of the impeachment inquiry, but two Democrats voted against it. So why the about-face? Only because, as Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) laudably admitted, “If we don’t impeach this president, he will get reelected.” If that’s truly the objective — and it clearly is — then we have yet another example of election interference.
Taken as a whole, all this shows a coordinated project of interference. It is meant to undermine conservatives’ electoral prospects. It is meant to undermine the ability of elected conservatives to do the work that they were elected to do. And this decade-spanning attempt to help Democrats is profoundly undemocratic. The damage to conservatives is intentional. But the damage to our democracy is an unintended byproduct. With each new interference by elites and state insiders, the people’s ability to participate in American governance is subverted. This tragedy must be evident to people on the left. The fact that they are willing to accept the erosion of participatory democracy as the price of undermining conservative interests is nothing short of tragic. And I have not even touched on the gross, incessant, daily manipulation of public opinion and truth in favor of leftist ideology, which is itself a form of election interference.
In this tsunami of interference, somehow it is only the political Right that seems to pay the price for their interferences. And interferences do happen on the right. But all of them pale in comparison to the sustained attack on American democracy by so-called Democrats that I documented above. If Donald Trump can overcome these forces once more in 2020, it will be a promising opportunity to enact reforms that minimize future interferences. But Trump is no savior. Even with a second term, 2024 will come. Conservatives need to stop thinking in four-year intervals. It will take decades to reclaim democracy from its opponents in American spheres of elite power. Our success in doing so will depend on our ability to recognize the election interference described here as election interference — and our willingness to treat it as such.
Adam Ellwanger is an associate professor of English at the University of Houston – Downtown. His new book, Metanoia: Rhetoric, Authenticity, and the Transformation of the Self, will be released by Penn State University Press in the spring of 2020.