With the battle over the Kavanaugh confirmation in the rearview mirror, we turn now to the midterms and the low frequency stress we're all experiencing in the face of another Election Day that could be hijacked by Russian military intelligence operatives.
So far, there hasn't been any real proof that the Russians hacked the vote totals two years ago, but we know for certain the Russians sent out the digital equivalent of skirmishers to test our election systems for vulnerabilities. Indeed, 21 states were infiltrated, and voter registration records were, at the very least, thumbed-through if not altered, perhaps disallowing Democratic voters to cast ballots due to incorrect or absent registrations.
However, last time the Russians really didn't have to alter votes on the day since they so effectively changed the minds of voters through malicious hacks and an unprecedented, unchecked psyop via Facebook and Twitter, as well as via compliant segments of the news media. If minds were changed before-the-fact, why risk breaching servers on a day when everyone's attention will be focused on the same?
This year is different. From what we know with 28 days out, the hacking attempts have been thwarted, and the propaganda has been relatively minimal. It's worth noting, however, that discussions on Twitter about voting against red state Democrats for their conservative leanings, especially incumbents like Joe Manchin, have been stoked by obvious Russia trolls and bots, encouraging liberals to either stay home or vote against the Democrats because, they say, fuck 'em.
But as I said, compared with 2016, we're more prepared to deal with trolls and bots this time, and the various social media platforms have wised up a little, blocking some of the more obvious efforts. What we don't know, however, is whether the Russians will shift their attention onto hacking the vote on Election Day or sooner (given early voting).
Here's how it could go down:
1) Watch the tossup races carefully. If I were Putin or Foreign Minister Sergey Shoygu, I would target all personnel on the tossup races -- the ones within the margin of error. This'd be races like the Texas Senate race, with Beto O'Rourke within close striking distance of Ted Cruz. Democrats McCaskill, Tester, Donnelly and Nelson are also polling with razor thin margins. Same goes for Phil Bredesen in Tennessee. On the House side, there are many more tossups that could be hit: the Florida 26th, California 48th (that's Russian stooge Dana Rohrbacher's race), Kentucky 6th, North Carolina 9th, New Jersey 7th, and so forth. Watch out for possible irregularities in these races on Election Day.
Back in 2016, which states were the ones that mysteriously flipped to Trump? The battleground states: Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Michigan Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. This way, the press could seal the deal by suggesting it's economic anxiety or some other excuse that pushed Republican margins over the top. This leads us to...
2) The press will look the other way. The Russians might be looking at these and other tossups because if the GOP squeaks out victories in too-close-to-call races due to Russian interference, the political press will likely say the results were due to a sudden turnout surge by Republicans or, better yet, they'll suggest the Kavanaugh debate energized conservatives to turn out.
A note about that last part, while we're here. It's highly unlikely conservatives will be energized by Kavanaugh's confirmation a month later. The fight will have been over by 30 days and the outrage will have been plowed over by further devilry from the ongoing firehose of news. On the other hand, Democrats, especially women, will be out for blood. They say "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," and they tend to remember things like alleged sexual predators being confirmed to lifetime judgeships. Contrary to the bullshit common wisdom among the DC press, the most energized and unified faction in politics right now is the Democratic Party -- with a level of motivation not seen since 2006.
3) Russia might not bother at all. The Kremlin made its point last time. American democracy has been sufficiently scrambled. Good job, Vlad. Thus, it might be realistic to assume Russia's done for now. The very threat of Russian hacking might be enough to make some of us stay home out of a misguided and capitulating sense of hopelessness. Additionally, there might be too much heat, so Putin may have temporarily hit pause on his plan. We can't know for sure, but it's possible nothing untoward will happen, short of the usual Republican shenanigans: gerrymadering, voter ID, voter purges, limited voting machines, and deliberately long lines.
The upshot is this: if the Democrats fall short of overwhelming turnout, the Republicans will retain control of both chambers of Congress, not to mention vitally important state and local posts. Given the myriad obstacles, Democrats have no choice but to set new all-time records for turnout in a midterm. We're talking presidential turnout levels and greater, particularly in the aforementioned tossup races.
As of right now, per Nate Silver, Democrats have a 73.8 percent chance of winning a House majority, while the Republicans have an almost identical chance of retaining their Senate majority. Let's put those figures into further perspective: Hillary Clinton had a 71 percent chance of winning, according to Silver.
So, when we suggest corralling all of your Dem friends and family on November 6 (or sooner), we're not exaggerating. The threat is real. The consequences are potentially catastrophic. But we have the collective power to change history and to hold Trump accountable for his crimes and atrocious behavior. The Democrats have to win the House, and we have to try like hell to win the Senate, too. About the Senate, chances are there will be another vacancy on the Supreme Court while a Republican, likely Trump, sits in the Oval Office. We won't have a shot at a Dem president until January 20, 2021, but a Democratic Senate, however, could thwart another Kavanaugh situation, and a lot more.
This is an all-hands-on-deck situation. No Democrat gets left behind. And the Russians can't be allowed to steal another one.