Other Forms of Election Interference 9/15/19

An opinion piece by Richard Bleil

There is a lot of discussion these days on election interference by Russia in the previous presidential election. This was largely accomplished (evidence strongly suggests) by a misinformation campaign flooding social media with false stories targeting the disenfranchised and intending to cause fear. The president won the election by a few thousand votes in a handful of key states for the electoral college, so there is little doubt that we now have a president that was put in the White House by the Kremlin and other hostile governments who may have contributed to this misinformation campaign, including but not limited to China.

There, a bold statement that is contrary to the White House, but even supporters of the President would have a hard time refuting the evidence supporting it.

There is no doubt in my mind that this was not the first time that a foreign government attempted to sway the election, and I’m certain that it will happen again. What’s more, I know that the US has “installed” governments in foreign countries, either through subtle or not-so-subtle influence on their elections, or, frankly, by flat out supporting rebels in coups and other hostile actions. Again, there is no refuting this evidence. We are still fighting a war in Afghanistan, one that celebrates a dubious honor this year as 18 year old soldiers entering the military service were not even born when it began. Ostensibly, the war was begun to find and capture Osama Bin Laden, but that is a false narrative. Coming off of a ten year war with the Soviet Union (the USSR withdrew only 12 years before the American invasion), the US had the ability to suppress any anti-aircraft defenses and surgically withdraw Osama Bin Laden were that our only goal. Instead, President Bush made it clear that the intention of the invasion was to topple the fledgling government that had formed and replace it with one of our own design. While such a government has been formed, it has yet to take root, as is evidenced by the remaining US forces in the country, mainly because the country is basically divided up regionally by warlords, rather than one concrete opposing group.

But, neither of these concepts are the purpose of today’s post. Instead, I wish to discuss another way that the US presidential election can be influenced by a foreign power, a manner that has had influence on US elections previously. And, honestly, the president knows it. See, he granted this power to China, and he has already spoken on the subject.

His administration began on several platforms; to do things differently, to support business, and on his ability to negotiate and close deals. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, he lacked the political savvy and was too quick on the trigger to do so effectively. One of his earliest actions was to attempt begin a world trade war by imposing tariffs on a variety of nations until they decide to treat the US “fairly”. The result was, well, let’s just say that it hasn’t worked out as he had anticipated.

The favored target of his wrath in the Trade War seems to be China. I can’t say how China has been treating the US as a trading partner, but unfortunately the president has demonstrated a propensity to lie or exaggerate, and if China were that bad, I doubt we would have had such a strong trade relationship with them. But, again, off topic. The point is that, rather than caving, China pushed back with counter tariffs (as, in fact, many countries have done). Today, three years later, the war continues, and “the closer” seems no closer to closing a deal.

Recently, the president made the statement insisting that he will, in fact, come to an agreement with China. He has made claims (of which there is not proof) that negotiations with China are making good progress, and that the Chinese economy is taking a terrible hit and on the verge of collapse.

Unfortunately, so is ours.

But this also points to a gift that he gave to China, a tool with which to have a potentially powerful tool in his re-election bid, or failure to secure a second term. Frankly, if China digs in and he is unable to secure the deal he has been touting throughout his presidency, it will represent a major failure in his stated priorities, and cause tremendous harm to his reputation of being able to “close deals”. This will quite probably cost him votes, especially in the agricultural sector that was so critical in his initial victory which is now seeing tremendous losses and closures because of China’s decision to import crops from alternative nations over paying the tariffs.

Incumbents always have a decided advantage to challengers in this nation. It’s the old saying, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”. Roughly seventy-five percent of presidents win their re-election bid, including George W. Bush who went into the election with less than a 50% approval rating at the time of the second election. However, the current president won the first election by about 8,500 votes, and failed to get the popular vote by over three million. This is the kind of leverage that he really doesn’t want an unfriendly nation to have.

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