After a year of #RussiaGate, the Democrats have both their base and the entire country right where they want them.
It started out with a clear and forceful assertion: Vladimir Putin personally directed a cyberattack against the Democrats in order to damage Hillary Clinton and swing the 2016 election to Donald Trump.
This basic assertion has since morphed into a more expansive narrative, one which now includes the accusation that Donald Trump and his campaign personally “colluded” with the Russians to “rig” the election so that Trump would win and, by way of quid pro quo, would do the bidding of the Russian Government in a wide variety of areas from lifting sanctions to making military concessions to Russia in the Middle east and in Eastern Europe.
The #RussiaGate narrative has indeed come a long way since the fevered election night strategy huddle by Robby Mook and John Podesta that was described in Shattered, the insider tell-all book about the Clinton Campaign:
That strategy had been set within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.
Since then, the Democrats have succeeded in getting a Special Investigator, Robert Mueller, appointed to look into the Trump-Russia connection, culminating recently in the issuance of an indictment against 13 Russian nationals who were working in a “troll factory” in St. Petersburg to spread dissent and discord on social media, with a purported goal of swaying sentiment away from Clinton and towards, well, just about anyone else. Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein have now joined Trump as the knowing or unknowing benefactors of the Russian trolling.
The result of this year-long #RussiaGate campaign has been nothing short of a stunning success for the scions and power-brokers of the Democratic Party establishment.
The Economist/YouGov conducts frequent polls on American attitudes about a wide range of topics. Two of the questions they have asked for the past year have to do with the Democrats’ Russian narrative:
- Did the Russians hack the emails of the DNC and John Podesta in order to swing the election to Trump, and
- Did the Russians tamper with the actual vote tallies in order to ensure a Trump victory.
In both cases, the trending results of these two data points must have the bigwigs at the DNC popping champagne corks and celebrating their imminent reconquest of the levers of power in DC.
First, regarding those emails:
While it has never been proven that the Russians had anything to do with the leaking of either the DNC or Podesta emails, and indeed these leaks are not mentioned anywhere in any of the indictments handed down by Mueller, it is a narrative that persists in Democratic circles, and one which has been strengthened over the past year:
The Democrats have managed to cement the accusation of Russian “hacking” as an accepted matter of fact in 9 out of 10 of their base, while increasing the percentage of true believers among Independents as well, to the point where now a majority of the entire country believe that Putin “hacked” the Democrats in order to help Trump win.
But there’s more:
What is surprising, however, is that the entire prosecution of the #RussiaGate narrative has resulted in a “supermajority” of Democrats now believing that Russia literally changed the vote tallies in the election to give the victory to Trump:
This is stunning in its implications. It means that 7 out of 10 Democrats now believe that Russia actively intervened not just to sway opinion, but to directly manipulate the electoral process itself. As with the previous question, the number of people believing this particular story to be true has also increased dramatically over the past year. Indeed:
Over the past year, the #RussiaGate campaign has led 30% MORE Democrats to believe that the Russians physically altered the 2016 vote tallies in order to elect Trump.
This is a powerful result, as it completely vindicates the Democratic Party in the eyes of its base. No longer can anyone successfully argue that Hillary Clinton lost because she was so disliked, or because she ran a bad campaign. No — Hillary lost because of RUSSIA.
Shortly after the 2016 election Nancy Pelosi was asked whether there would be a reckoning, a change in direction for the Party given the drubbing they had taken at the polls. Pelosi fired back sharply:
“ I don’t think people want a new direction.”
Pelosi was roundly criticised at the time for failing to come to grips with the Party’s disastrous performance in 2016. Thanks to #RussiaGate, however, Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic Leadership can now safely tell their base, “we had the winning strategy, and we would have won had not the Russians intervened.”
Beating Back the Berniecrats
Even the most casual observer can see that there is a civil war going on in the Democratic Party. Insurgent Progressives, led by Bernie Sanders and a group of left leaning organisations, fuelled by grassroots activists, are challenging the orthodoxy of the Democratic Party and the institutions and structure that have governed the Party since Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council pulled the Part to the right back in the 90’s.
During his bid for the 2016 Presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders travelled the country seeking to, as he put it, “transform the Democratic Party” through what he called a “Political Revolution.”
Emboldened by the crushing electoral defeat of 2016, Sanders has pressed the fight against the Democratic establishment, and now the so-called “Bernie Wing” of the Party is openly and brazenly challenging the “Clinton Wing” of the Party in what the rebels call a “fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.”
But the Democratic elites will not go quietly. If #RussiaGate continues to progress as it has over the past year, they may well be able to crush Bernie’s rebellion before it has a chance to make any real inroads at all.
Indeed, the recent Mueller indictments have provided some important weapons with which to beat back the Berniecrats, namely by tying the Bernie campaign to the Russians.
This new narrative alleges that Bernie was either an active Russian operativeor at least a willing beneficiary of the Russian hacking, and that he then has complicated matters by lying about the Russian interference and appearing to cover up or at least ignore Russian involvement in his campaign.
Moreover, an integral and perhaps even more damaging subplot to this narrative is the idea that Bernie’s supporters were fooled or hoodwinked into supporting him by Russian disinformation campaigns.
This is important because it allows the Democratic leadership to discount and condemn the insurgent “Bernie Wing” as hapless dupes, “unwitting agents” doing Russia’s bidding. In a Senate hearing, former NSA Director General Keith Alexander lent his military gravitas to the “useful idiot” argument abut Sanders supporters:
“Senator, I think what [The Russians] were trying to do was drive a wedge within the Democratic Party between the Clinton group and the Sanders group”
So: the Democrats do not need to pay attention to the Berniecrats because their demands are not their own — they are Russian plants.
Democrats become the Party of National Security
Democrats are benefitting from the #RussiaGate narrative in another way: they have been able to out-manoeuvre the Republicans and get to the RIGHT of the GOP on matters of defense and national security.
Now Democrats are the ones praising and propping up the FBI and CIA and NSA. They are defending the “Intelligence Community” against the Republicans, who are being ridiculed by both Democrats and the Media for their “conspiracy theories” about the so-called “Deep State” attacking Donald Trump.
Today it is the Democratic Party that is covering itself with the flag and portraying itself as the clear-eyed patriots who
can see the threat from that “bear in the woods” that Reagan once warned us about.
Indeed, the Democratic leadership seem to be putting us on a Cold War footing with calls for an additional $300 million in spending to “safeguard” our elections in 2018.
But what about War?
There are some who worry that the #RussiaGate scandal is going too far, only because it has now become commonplace for Democratic Congressmen as well as TV anchors and newspeople to talk about the Russian “hacking” story as a “new Pearl Harbor” and a “new 9/11.” The idea being that FDR and George Bush reacted strongly once the US was “attacked”, and now we must criticise Trump for not “punishing Russia” as he should.
It is unclear, however, what exactly these people have in mind as “punishment”, and it is possible that such additional steps might lead to an escalation and, potentially, to World War Three.
The Outlook for 2018
All in all, the #RussiaGate narrative has served the Democratic elites very well, and will continue to do so for as long as they can keep the Mueller investigation going, and as long as Rachel Maddow and the mainstream media continue to push the Russia story. Whether this is good for the country or good for the planet is another question.
But one thing that is NOT in question: the Democratic Party, secure in its belief that Russia caused them to lose in 2016, will not change in 2018 or any time after that; they will also ignore any calls for change from the “Bernie Wing”, which they consider to be hapless idealists, duped by the Russians into believing a set of policies “that can never, EVER happen.”