Last week, news surrounding the complex and nefarious conspiracy between President Donald Trump and Russia had a new development. The development? That the conspiracy might be substantially less complex and nefarious than initially predicted. As reported by Buzzfeed, some on the Senate Intelligence Committee have quietly begun admitting that they do not expect to find evidence of direct collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. These sentiments have been echoed by the chairperson of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Nuñes (R-CA).
While much of the raw evidence is still under review, suspicions are that the results will fall short of people’s expectations. However, to be fair, for the findings to match the conspiracy theories proliferating both social and mainstream media would be quite frightening. It would not only necessitate the Kremlin engaging in the direct hacking of voting machines but, for Russian soldiers to land on the lawns of suburban households using parachutes emblazoned with the Hammer and Sickle.
The Democratic Party’s core liberal base and intelligentsia have succumbed to paranoid derangement in their desire to connect the dots between Russia and Trump. So much so, that it is not uncommon to see musings regarding Russia being responsible for the GOP’s awful health care bill, in order to kill massive amounts of Americans, or editors at the Washington Post waxing nostalgically about the Cold War. Yearning for those halcyon days of yore when nuclear annihilation seemed more a question of “when” as opposed to “if.”
While, according to the article, at least one member of the investigation believes there is still room to find connections in the data, it seems as though Russia is not the silver bullet that many Democrat’s were hoping would be their solution to the Trump problem.
The probe was initiated by President Obama in December, who ordered a full intelligence review of the November election to determine whether there had been interference by Russia. On January 6th, a DNI report was released concluding that the CIA and FBI had a “high confidence” that Russia had sought to influence the election in a variety of ways. Despite this report being adopted by many as gospel, critics are quick to note that it is devoid of any compelling, concrete evidence.
Instead, the sparse 26-page long report merely asserts that there is, in fact, evidence, but that revealing it would compromise future intelligence gathering. However, they insist that they have a “high confidence” based on the evidence that could not be shown, as well as Russia’s past actions, that the Russian government had indeed engaged in an “influence campaign” with the intent to delegitimize Hillary Clinton and the United State’s democracy in the eyes of voters.
Given what is known about the United States’ Intelligence Community, and their tendency to both mislead and outright lie, this was already hilariously dubious. However, in light of information that became public in the recent Wikileaks Vault 7 CIA leaks, it becomes even more questionable. Specifically, the revelation that the CIA is capable of planting evidence that cyber crimes were committed by other countries under the code name: “Umbrage.”
Unfortunately, any good (bad?) conspiracy theory is much like The Thing in John Carpenter’s magnum opus, The Thing. It has the ability to incorporate new, often contradictory information into itself, only serving to make the plot more complex and thus more nefarious. As such, it is now apparent that for many who believe that Russia “hacked” the election, Wikileaks has simply become another arm of the Kremlin.
Granted, the Trump administration did not help ease the conspiracy-addled minds of many in the country. Admittedly, the sketchy manner in which they conduct themselves in relation to Russia only serves to fuel suspicions. Especially notable is their handling of the communications of Michael Flynn. Communications which were arguably innocuous, despite the resulting traffic the Wikipedia page for the Logan Act must have received. Yes, Trump was vocal during his campaign that he sought to improve relations with Russia. However, this would have once been laudable, considering Russia is the world’s second largest nuclear power. It has only taken on a sinister air due to the partisan hysteria surrounding Russia.
While some might find this turn in the investigation disappointing, it could arguably not have happened at a better time for the Democratic Party. That is assuming they are willing and able to de-emphasize rabid Russophobia as part of their political strategy.
Democratic Party: Super Geniuses
Recent polling data indicates that the Democratic Party is in trouble. According to a Suffolk poll, they and Hillary Clinton, currently have a favorability rating below Donald Trump’s 45%, sitting at 36% and 35% respectively. Interestingly enough, it is possible to map a negative correlation between the Democratic Party’s rating and their focus on Russia. While it would be disingenuous to imply that there is a direct causal relationship between these two variables, there are some conclusions one can draw when this is viewed in conjunction with other research.
Researchers at Wesleyan recently determined that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party ran a unique campaign. One devoid of policy in a way that had not been seen in the past four elections, or even in her opponent’s campaign. They instead chose to focus mostly on the personal temperament of Trump. Using this study, it is possible to provide a more plausible explanation for the connection between the Democrats falling approval rating and their rising rhetoric surrounding Russia.
As the Democrats talk more about Russia; they talk less, or appear to talk less, about their concrete policy agenda. As Democrats continue to ignore the minimum wage, universal healthcare, and a host of other issues, they continue to alienate those voters who were already left dissatisfied with the party’s lack of policy focus during the election. Specifically, voters who chose to either stay home or vote for Trump, when they had voted for Obama in the past.
The Trump-Russia conspiracy is just another scheme. One only comparable to those concocted by Wile E. Coyote in its needless complexity and potential to backfire dangerously. Along with The Hamilton Electors, the Russia-Trump Connection seems to indicate a dangerous trend in the #Resistance. That their sole goal is to impeach Trump, as quickly as possible, regardless of the long-term implications.
In so far that it can even be considered an electoral strategy, as opposed to a mass delusion, it is poorly targeted one. #Russiagate, from the onset, was the kind of narrative that very loudly and busily goes nowhere. Adequately describable as a masturbatory exercise, it is a way soothe the egos of the Democratic leadership and also to avoid contending with many upsetting facts about the state of their party, and who led it there.
Apart from being red meat for those loyal Clintonites and Liberals, it is another attempt at shaving off Republican support for Trump. Assuming that they might be more amenable to irrational, nationalist hatred of Russians. There is definitely a lot of room to work with the other side of the aisle on the issue of rehashing the Cold War. Especially when it is populated with Republicans such as Sen. John McCain, the consummate war hawk, and Sen. Lindsay Graham, who tends towards hysteria on most issues of geopolitics.
One key fact is important to remember. While the narrative’s framing is that Trump winning would require a vast international conspiracy, it also implicitly makes the claim that for the Democratic Party to lose would necessitate such a conspiracy. In a move that would make William of Ockham turn over in his grave, the Democratic Party has subtly declared that their defeat did not come at the hands of decades of Neoliberal policies, their refusal to prosecute banks, their poor ground game in key states, or the nomination of the most unlikable politician in history, but a conspiracy that stretches back decades.
This will be an unpopular opinion, however from solely the point of view of political expediency, those Democrats concerned with taking their party winning would be better off quietly letting this investigation die. For the sake of national security, pursuing it in a more measured, less publicized way is probably prudent. While there should be a special investigator, if the Democratic Party is serious about winning midterm elections, they should abandon this Trump-Russia narrative as their primary point of attack.
It was never going to help Democrats win back the voters who have left the party in disgust over the outcome of both the primary, general and DNC elections. Convincing those who did not vote, or chose to vote for Trump after voting for Obama in preceding elections, in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio that Russia was responsible for the factories in their town’s closing would have been a hard sell. However, the Democratic party might find themselves struggling to downplay Russia as part of their strategy.
In anticipation of the House Intelligence hearing on Monday, some key figures in the intelligence community and Democratic party have started to walk back their claims. Michael Morrell, the former Acting CIA Director, stated at an event that there may be smoke, but there is “no fire.” Of course, this comes after the Clinton supporter publicly called Trump a “dupe” of Russia. On March 5, Gen James Clapper made similar statements.
Specifically, that he had seen no evidence before leaving office on January 20 of collusion. In a press conference following a meeting with FBI Dir. James Clapper, Rep. Pelosi seemed forlorn, refusing to make any statements regarding Russia. However, considering the frenzy that many Democrats have already been whipped into, it might prove difficult for Democrats to extricate themselves from this.
Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate Russia
The media’s role in contributing to the hyperbolic rhetoric around Russia and Trump cannot be understated. Rank and file investigators describe the role of the media in drumming up these unrealistic expectations as “frustrating,” and a distraction from their investigation. Seeing a way to increase traffic, outlets such as the Washington Post and Huffington Post are purposefully feeding this new trend of Russophobia present in Liberals. Articles claiming that Russians were responsible for spreading “Fake News” are common. Along with verbatim reporting of unverified information from anonymous sources within intelligence agencies.
However, Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann are perhaps the two loudest Liberal voices stoking this obsession. The former recently had a 24-hour countdown on MSNBC to her “Trump-Russia Connection” episode. A special that led to her finishing #1 in the ratings in the 9 PM slot. The latter now produces short clips for GQ. Some that are more reminiscent of an Orson Welles’ prank or a cutaway from a Paul Verhoeven movie than actual news.
They, along with certain Democratic leaders, have convinced the #Resistance that the singular way to “resist” is to impeach Trump. An outcome that the investigators have said is not likely to be the result of their investigation. However, this remains the goal that most ignited Democrats have clung on to, to the exclusion of many others. Reports indicate that Democratic town halls are known to transition into scenes from Dr. Strangelove regardless of the impetus for the event.
Rep. Peter Schiff’s (D-CA) saw his February town hall on immigration frequently returning to the topic of Russia’s connection to Trump. One to which he responded to with baseless and confident assertions that the Russians “hacked” the election. Whether Schiff actually believes this or is afraid of the political consequences of not feeding into this hysteria is unknown. However, he certainly is not seeking to clarify language at a time when indications are that the outcome of the investigation will not bear this to be true.
Buzzfeed has proven itself quite adept at playing both sides on this issue and they are useful in illustrating another unfortunate byproduct of this hysteria. Even in their articles criticizing the dangers of conspiracy theories, they still insert that there exists “serious evidence” that Russia engaged in hacking the DNC. Even Matt Taibbi and others are treating the initial charge that the Russian’s “hacked” the DNC as a given in their articles warning about the dangers of conspiracies.
These all seem to be predicated on that initial, flimsy DNI report that mainly contained assertions and the guarantee of high to moderate confidence from the Intelligence Community. Functionally, we are seeing how healthy skepticism dies in real time. Where the existence of extraordinary claims that lack extraordinary evidence are treated as fact and normalized for two reasons. The first, normalization through constant repetition. The second, normalization because there exist even more extreme incarnations of that claim, which serve to make the original claim seem more reasonable by comparison.
It is uncertain if the Democratic Party will be able to de-emphasize the Trump-Russia connection in their #Resistance strategy. For many in the resistance, Russia has become symbolic of the very idea that Trump’s presidency is somehow Un-American, and does not represent the country’s values. A symbol to the rest of us that they are still struggling to cope with the social and material realities that led to his election and therefore lack the ability to construct policy to change them.
Furthermore, it is uncertain if there is any evidence that can disprove this Trump-Russia connection in the minds of those who believe it most passionately. Conspiracy theories are very rarely based on coherent facts and evidence. For example, in late December, a YouGov poll showed that 52% of Democrats believed that Russia literally changed the vote tallies of the election. This position existed, despite President Obama publicly saying that this was not the case.
What is certain is that the Democratic Party is going to take a hit for this ill-advised and reckless Russia narrative, if they have not already. However, slowly abandoning it now and switching to a more proactive, policy-based strategy might still allow them to pick up key seats during mid-term and special elections. The alternative might mean a prolonged, highly publicized investigation. One that, if it turns up nothing, would only lead to further losses in 2018.