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May 23, 2018

Hacking of Minds

The Russian hacking of our Presidential election is no longer in doubt. However, there are some misunderstandings about it.

Some on social media clearly think it was our ballot boxes that were hacked. It wasn’t our ballot boxes that were hacked; it was the minds of the electorate. Why were we so gullible? James Clapper said it when testifying on May 8, “We need to educate our people.”

Some believe that Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate or that she ran a bad campaign. Yet she was attacked by the left, the right, the Russians, the FBI, and still won the popular vote by more than 3 million votes.

There is a gender factor. Just because a lot of white women voted for Trump doesn’t mean sexism isn’t a factor. Sociologists have done studies showing that children are choosing gender specific toys by 3 years old, and it’s not just little boys. We are trained to gender roles from the time we are born and put in pink or blue blankets. I was having a conversation during the election with a progressive man who supported Hillary Clinton when he commented that she was “shrill” in the Benghazi hearing. He didn’t even realize he was using sexist language until I asked him when he had heard a man referred to as “shrill.” But sexism was just a piece of it.

There is a valid claim that the Democratic party failed to bring the working class back to their side. That is clear by the results in the rural areas of the rust belt. But was that her fault or the result of GOP messaging that has covered decades? The turning of the working class/middle class began with Reagan’s fictitious “welfare queen” and union-busting, and it has escalated for over 30 years. The hacking of minds didn’t start with Russia.

When Barack Obama was campaigning, he had clear disadvantages, but he also had some advantages. He had to deal with the racism that has worked to destroy us since this country’s inception, and that was no small thing. But on the other side of the coin, there was the Bush economic failure as well as the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan plus the issue of Bin Laden on the loose. Obama was young, brilliant, charismatic and he connected with that desire for change with “Yes we can.”

And he did. He rescued us from what was rapidly becoming another Great Depression. He was a thoughtful leader who dealt with problems both domestic and foreign with a patience and brilliance that will be recognized much more in a historical context than it is now. And he left office with historic popularity.

So why didn’t his popularity carry over to the 2016 election? In spite of his popularity, there was still rumbling in the heart of the rust belt. The Obama recovery was real with record-breaking stock market numbers, yet too many were left out of that recovery. Why didn’t they feel it in their lives? McConnell said on the day Obama was inaugurated that it was their primary goal to make him a failure, and they did…in the minds of the rust belt working class.

They did it by blocking every jobs bill. They did it by blocking every infrastructure bill, even while our bridges and roads were collapsing. These were fundamental parts of the New Deal that brought us out of the Great Depression. They did it by refusing to allow changes to a tax code that allows corporations to get massive subsidies and tax breaks while exporting jobs instead of tying those subsidies to investment at home. It is how they made sure the economic recovery wasn’t felt nationwide.

As a result, Democrats came into 2016 with a major disadvantage. The working class, especially in the rust belt, now felt as if neither party supported their interests. Whether it was true didn’t matter because politics is about perception.

They were so desperate that they forgot everything that had given us the greatest super economy the world had ever seen with a rising standard of living for all came from the Democratic leadership. They were so desperate that they would even give the reality show host consideration. And there were plenty who were willing to use that frustration to their advantage.

Assange and WikiLeaks used it. He attacked Obama, and the Democrats by default, with the NSA dump. Everyone who knows anything about telecommunications knows that there has been no guarantee of privacy since the invention of the telephone. The service began with party lines and manual switching operators. Then he moved on to Hillary Clinton. Assange is hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid answering to criminal charges, and it has become clear that he is a Russian tool. Why did anyone believe he or Snowden were heroes?

We knew about the Trump campaign’s Russian connections long before the election as well. Anybody who was paying attention knew when he picked Manafort as a campaign manager if they hadn’t known before.

Why didn’t we care? Oh yes, broadcast media was busy talking about an email server that was never hacked and was a non-existent threat to national security while the other side was apparently colluding with a foreign adversary.

Putin is no different than he has ever been. He may have new tools with the internet, and he used them. He hacked into the DNC emails (not Hillary’s server…he evidently couldn’t get into that), and used WikiLeaks to dump selected information. They used programs to create and spread fake news stories on social media and to targeted voter inboxes. But the only power he had over us was our willingness to listen. He played us like a fiddle because we do not use critical thinking skills, and he is laughing about it. And he will keep doing it as long as it works. If we want to continue to rule ourselves, we have to be smarter that this.

2016 is over, but 2018 is coming like a fast-moving train. And there are still people trying to divide the left with labels such as baby boomers, millennials, gen Xers, liberal, neoliberal, progressive, etc. Divide and conquer is one of the oldest battle tactics in the history of the world, and that is what those labels are about.

There are no messiahs in politics, so if you want to join a cult you are part of the problem. You either want progress or you don’t, and there have been essentially two sides since the Federalists v. the Anti-federalists. Pick a side and get on the bus, or we could well lose the right to rule ourselves as the ancient Romans did when their Republic was replaced by an Empire.

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Cheryl Creech

I am old enough to remember a time when Americans worked toward a bright future with hope and promise. We went to the moon because JFK said we would. We marched on seeking that more perfect union. People born after Reagan and the era of negativity never got to see what we can do when we stand together with and for each other, so I feel it is a duty for the ones who remember those times to tell the younger ones who haven’t seen what this country is capable of being. It's why I write.

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