What the hell do we do now?

December 10, 2016

Quick update, for those who haven’t been following the news.

The CIA has reportedly concluded that, not only did Russia interfere with the US election, it did it not to increase distrust in our system in general, but specifically to elect Donald Trump.

This is based on the conclusion that not only was the Democratic National Committee hacked, but the Republican National Committee was hacked as well—and that information was not released. This is among other preexisting evidence that it was Russian agents who performed the DNC hack. President Obama has ordered a full review.

This all comes in a day when Rex Tillerson, the chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, is expected to be named Trump’s Secretary of State—a man with numerous ties to Russia, and Putin in particular, who would then be in a position to lift the sanctions preventing ExxonMobil from consummating a deal potentially worth $500 billion with Russia’s Rosneft.

This has led to a movement called the Hamilton Electors, who are so named because of Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist No. 68, which said that the electoral college was there to prevent foreign powers from gaining an “improper ascendant in our councils.” At least one Texas Republican elector has vowed to not vote for Trump, and the Hamilton Electors movement is trying to coalesce around an alternative, with Ohio Governor John Kasich being most often cited.

I have a lot of thoughts about all of this, and a lot of them are conflicted.

When I look into my crystal ball to a future where the electoral college overturns the election results as previous understood and award the election to John Kasich, or Hillary Clinton, or anyone but Donald Trump, I can’t help feeling that won’t go well. We, as a nation, have gone down this road before, so it’s not entirely uncharted, but the world isn’t as it was when it stopped an Aaron Burr presidency and delayed an Andrew Jackson one. Yet, when I see the future with a President Trump, it looks increasingly untenable—if he’s willing to govern on the back of explicit Russian support, and appoint a Secretary of State who would so clearly have a massive conflict of interests (rivaling only his own), it becomes harder to imagine that we’ll have much of a democracy to vote him out of office in four years.

That sounds like hyperbole. That feels so much like hyperbole. But consider Watergate. For once we have a scandal that can actually be usefully compared to Watergate, and we’re not giving it a nonsense ___gate name. Fucking ridiculous, but that’s the world we’re in.

Notice what I said there. A scandal that can be “usefully compared to Watergate.” That’s burying the lede—this may well exceed Watergate, and for similar reasons.

Recall that the problem with Watergate was not that Nixon lied. Bill Clinton lied too, and he didn’t get impeached—though it was a near-run thing, so such baldfaced lying isn’t suggested. Or it used to not be. But anyway, the problem with Watergate was not that Nixon lied, but that he was willing tamper with the democratic process. I’ll let the man who tipped me off to this say it in his words, pulled from a tweetstorm I suggest you read in its entirety.

So, that’s where we are. Or where we might be. It still feels like hyperbole. It took a long time for me to come to terms with the reality that the Great Recession was big enough that students would be learning about it for decades to come, and that still wasn’t as big as its prior, the Great Depression. Now we face a scandal that may exceed the greatest political scandal in US history, Watergate.

We truly are living in interesting times, and I’m not talking about the 2000 election interesting, a hiccup that will fascinate history buffs as they wonder what might have been if it had gone just a little differently. I’m talking treason and impeachment, or even worse. This could be Death of the Republic territory. This could be our own fall of Rome.

And we don’t even get a dictator as remarkable as Julius Caesar. We get Donald Fuckin’ Trump. So the American experiment might implode, and we’ll be a laughingstock in history forever after. Lovely.

Or it might not. I remain conflicted because I’m not the kind of man who gets riled up, and anything said in such a dire tone sets off all my internal alarms, even if I’m the one saying them. Crazy stuff has happened before, and we’ve survived. We’ve always survived. And even though I know past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results, it sure doesn’t feel like we’re at the end of the Republic. Everyone thinks they’re living through the end times, and they never are. We’ve always survived.

And yet, in what shape will we survive? And for how long.

I’m conflicted because it seems unlikely that enough electors will coalesce around a consensus candidate to block Trump. Maybe enough will refuse to vote for Trump and it’ll get thrown to the House of Representatives—and I’m not confident they House will do what they ought in that situation. I damn well hope so, but I’m not confident of it, and it’s going to be a rough time if it comes to that.

Even then, the cogent matter from my point of view is whether I should push for the Hamilton Electors to decide for us. My gut instinct after the election was no—the system sucked, but that’s the system we had, and with all his (many) warts and all, the electoral college vote came out on the side of Trump. So we would have to survive. But when it becomes so clear that he has no idea what he’s doing, and that Putin is playing him like a fiddle, and that America four years from now might not be recognizable from the one we see today—well, let’s say a couple of years ago. Today is pretty messed up too, but not irreparable.

I think about all this, and I come back to one missive I read earlier, which I can’t get out of my head.

A foreign government sought to manipulate our election for their benefit, and they succeeded. Maybe he would have been elected anyway, but that’s not the world we live in. Russia meddled in our election, and if Donald Trump becomes president, they’ll get what they want.

I’m right to be outraged. You should be too.

I’m a contrary son of a bitch. If someone messes with my election, I don’t want them to get what they want, even if I don’t get to have the candidate I would have preferred.

If it was Mike Pence, or Ted Cruz, or damn near any Republican, I would not be worried. If they won fair and square by the rules of the system, even if that system sucks, I would live with it. I would continue to try to reform that system, but I would not advocate for anything like the Hamilton Electors; I would live with it, as we all did after the 2000 election.

But this is not that. I would welcome a Mike Pence presidency. I would get down on my knees and weep for a President Cruz. I vehemently oppose almost everything those men stand for, but Mike Pence knows that booing is “what freedom sounds like,” and if anyone thinks Ted Cruz would be a friend to Russia, you do not know Ted Cruz. He’s a thorn in the side even to his allies. Putin would not find an ally in that man.

I say all that to describe where I’m at emotionally, but it bears repeating: Democracy is not about who wins. Democracy is about the process. The CIA says our process was sabotaged. We should be outraged. If Trump had rejected Russian help, and the Republican establishment had stood up against outside interference, we would be in a different place. I’d be where I was after the election, not happy, but not nearly so scared.

That is not the world we live in. We should be outraged. They tampered with our elections, and are getting everything they want. We shouldn’t let them get away with this. I’ll be contacting my representatives, and broadcasting my voice as far as it’ll go, in the hopes that we can stave off this disaster.

We can afford a bad president. We’ve had a lot of bad presidents. We’ve never had a puppet of a foreign government in the White House. Real patriots, the kind who care more about the fundamental principles our nation was founded on rather than what someone does with a flag or who chooses not to stand during the anthem, should do everything in their power to make sure that doesn’t happen.

I’ll leave you with two more thoughts, encapsulated in tweets.

This, from a man who once talked about “grabbing [his] musket.” And then:

If it’s time for a South Carolinian senator prone to fits of hysterics to ride to our rescue, I’m ready for that reality. Hysterics may be necessary. I hope Senator John McCain is with him as well, and shows us the man he was when he took the microphone away from his own supporter and said that Obama is “a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with.” And I hope enough others, in the Senate, and the House, and across the nation, do the same.

Resist.

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By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.

7 Comments

  1. Reply

    Steven

    We’ve already had the scandals of a politicized IRS harassing conservative groups, a politicized ATF in the “Fast & Furious” scandal, a politicized DOJ blocking enquiries into the Clinton Foundation, a politicized FBI letting Hillary off without indictment even after admitting that her server did indeed constitute gross negligence, a politicized CENTCOM where analysts reports that we are not winning the war against ISIS were altered, and of course… The CIA on WMDs in Iraq.

    With all due respect to the Agency, this just looks like another politically motivated move by people who aren’t supposed be playing politics. I know exactly what “consensus” means in terms of intelligence reporting: It means “we aren’t sure, so we’re going with what we want it to be”. Nothing there but confirmation bias.

    The biggest threat to our democracy isn’t overseas, it’s stunts like this. You know what the DNC leaks revealed? That one of our parties repeatedly violated legal and ethical standards. I approve of that coming to light. You know why the RNC hacks weren’t released? Because there wasn’t any “dirty laundry” in them to use. You can’t blackmail or embarrass an honest party. As far as I’m concerned, that “Russian interference” actually helped ensure the integrity of our election. If the Democrats had won so narrowly thanks to their cheating, THAT would have been a scandal bigger than Watergate.

    1. Reply

      Stephen W. Gee

      All of this is wrong, but that doesn’t matter. This is not about sides. This is not about politics. This is about a foreign fuckin’ country putting a thumb on the scales of our democracy, and getting what they wanted.

      Don’t think like a Republican. I’m not thinking like a Democrat. I was being serious—I would get down on my hands and knees and weep great big tears of relief for President Pence, or even President Cruz. And remember, he’s a Texas Senator, and I’m a Texan—I’ve taken every opportunity up to this point to vote against that guy. But I would love him to be President now, as opposed to what’s happening.

      Don’t think like a member of the narrow tribe. Republican and Democrat doesn’t matter. What’s important is keeping the system going, and this endangers the system. That’s why Watergate was a big deal. That’s why this is a huge fuckin’ deal. It should be investigated.

      Just a warning, if anyone tries to pull this back to a nonsense right/left angle, I won’t be responding again. That’s not the damn point.

      1. Reply

        Steven

        None of it is wrong. It’s not a right-left angle, it’s a “our own fucking government tried to distort the process” big damn deal. At that point I don’t give a shit who blew the whistle on it. That’s a service to our nation. You’re shooting the messenger when it’s the message itself that should be provoking your outrage. That looks a hell of a lot like the exact tribalism you claim to protest.

        If you want to accuse me of tribalism you might want to first determine my tribe. I’m Christian > Conservative > Republican, which makes Donald Trump 0 for 3 by my standards. Trump is a RINO who displaced the conservatives with populists. I pray to God that both sides of Congress will reassert Constitutional checks and balances against yet another overreaching executive. If I were falling in on MY tribal leaders I’d be echoing Sen Linsey Graham (who is as you quoted currently raising about six kinds of hell about this). Given that I’m neither agreeing with him nor trying to blame this on a 400lb slob in a Jersey basement, I’m not parroting the party line from either side of my own party.

        So no, this is me personally, with 9 years of experience in the intelligence community and 3 years in cyber security specifically saying that you are seeing light through a damn peephole while I’m standing inside the room itself with a whole fucking forensic team. This ain’t shit.

        Hacking foreign governments and their parties is an internationally recognized national interest and every country that can do it does so constantly. Collecting “foreign intelligence” through espianage is literally the mandate of entire agencies in pretty much every country. The only thing here that isn’t business as usual is that they released the stolen data because it was even better than their usual propaganda. We’ll slap them on the wrist for it and probably do the exact same thing if we get the chance. Just like the Chinese hack of OPM, that’s how the game is played.

        And Rosneft? I don’t like it either but Obama and Hillary approved the Uranium One deal giving Russia 20% of our fucking Uranium. Apparently selling out to Russian companies is bipartisan. If giving our one existential threat even more nuclear material didn’t provoke your outrage than you don’t have a leg to stand on regarding mere sanctions.

        1. Stephen W. Gee

          I may be wrong, which is something I try to keep in mind, though honestly, I’m mostly just fuckin’ exhausted at the moment (that three jobs thing again). I do like hearing that you’re a Christian who realizes Trump has nothing like Christian morals, ’cause seeing so many people trample all over the faith my grandmother loved so much (she’s always been the ideal Christian to me—kind, loving, forgiving, patient, etc) to justify that asshole’s behavior has been a depressing thing to see.

          For now, let’s move to the following posts, which are liable to be more interesting conversation fodder. Also I need a nap.

        2. Steven

          Sure thing. Sleep well.

      2. Reply

        John A

        — slight off topic rant, but on topic, maybe —
        I saw this response by SWG, and was like “WTF, I need to respond to this, but after I cool down”. Then when I finally came back to it I see it’s already been handled.

        @SWG, your kind of dismissive response is exactly what pisses off so many republicans/conservatives with so called “diversity aware” liberals. The automatic dismissal of any idea that doesn’t match their star shaped hole of what’s acceptable is automatically wrong with no argument allowed. I realize you are tired and overworked from reading your other blog posts (a good thing to be in this economy apparently), but you should still check yourself and ask, “Is this a knee-jerk reaction because it doesn’t fit what I think is the case, or am I making an actual rational response here”.

        Even if you are right, your actual response is very condescending and shuts down any form of dialog and education on both sides. I’m glad the other Steven did not take it laying down, and I hope you’ll be more aware of how you phrase your responses going forward.

        — now on topic —

        I generally agree with your sentiment, but it is also important to realize that espionage is basically what other countries are supposed to do to each other. This is mainly why, when Edward Snowden released all the classified information, countries only talked about being upset about it. They didn’t DO anything because they already knew that the NSA was probably doing it already. They were mostly mad only because of how well the NSA did it.

        Also, for Other Steven (like Other Mother? do you have button eyes?) I doubt that the republican party is dirt-less. What may be true is that their dirt was less interesting, but I seriously doubt that they are squeaky clean.

        1. Steven

          Squeaky clean? Probably not. It’s just that the threshold for “people care enough for anything to be done about it” has been pushed so high in the last decade that anything short of a felony doesn’t register unless you can tweet or meme it effectively. At that point a leak is less effective than traditional propaganda smears.

          (Which I think is BS and I’d love a full audit and corruption investigations of both parties on a recurring basis, but this is the situation we have.)

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