The Corner

Politics & Policy

Stop Overselling Russian Influence on the Election

In response to Ratzinger and Macintyre

I agree with every word of Charlie’s rebuttal of Matthew Olsen’s and Benjamin Haas’s “national security” argument against the electoral college, but there’s something else to note. The factual premise of the Olsen/Haas piece is flawed. They write:

Hamilton and his colleagues never could have envisioned a year like 2016, when an enemy state—Russia—was able to manipulate America’s election process with stunning effectiveness. But it’s clear the national security rationale for the Electoral College is outdated and therefore it should be retired. Simply put, it enables foreign powers to more easily pierce the very shield Hamilton imagined it would be.

Notice the problem? Where’s the evidence that Russia was able to actually “manipulate America’s election process?” After all, Russians didn’t hack voting machines, and there’s no credible evidence that their propaganda efforts moved the electoral needle in either direction. The bottom line is that we simply don’t know what impact, if any, Russia had on the outcome. 

A foreign power didn’t penetrate our electoral “shield.” It did sow chaos, and it did increase distrust, polarization, and confusion. The vast majority of that chaos is due to post-election finger-pointing and concern over collusion, not over a realistic argument that Russia turned the election. Putin was preying on the partisan rage of the American people, not on the vulnerability of the constitutional system to foreign interference.

We could change to a straight popular vote, and Clinton and Trump voters would feel exactly the same way about the candidates. Trump voters would be just as vulnerable to anti-Hillary propaganda, and Hillary voters would be just as furious at foreign meddling. If she lost, they’d also be just as eager to find a scapegoat. 

In other words, amending the Constitution would be a cure for a disease that doesn’t exist. There’s just no evidence that our electoral college system is vulnerable to foreign hacks. There’s a lot of evidence that Americans are angry with each other and therefore likely to think the worst of their opponents. That’s a problem constitutional amendments simply can’t fix. 



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