Russia interfered in our 2016 presidential election. And things could be a lot worse in 2020.
Among anyone who’s paying attention, there should be no argument about either of those statements. The evidence of Russian meddling was convincing already, and that conclusion is one part of the Mueller report that is crystal clear.
We can argue endlessly about who in this country might have been involved, who knew what was going on and who might have covered things up. But we shouldn’t argue about the very real threat of foreign interference in our electoral process.
So rather than wasting time trying to deny what’s obvious, we should get busy making our elections secure. “We” means everyone, Democrats and Republicans.
Too bad that two of the people in a key position to make things happen — or, in this case, keep them from happening — are President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Trump, incredibly, says he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin, who still insists Russia didn’t meddle. Evidence doesn’t matter to Trump, who as usual thinks everything is about him. He doesn’t like to hear about interference in the 2016 election because he won. If we admit there was meddling, he seems to think, that could mean people could question the legitimacy of his “great victory.”
McConnell, meanwhile, has long opposed federal regulation of elections, partly because he doesn’t like limits on donations and donors. He apparently doesn’t care that this time, the interference has come from a foreign power that’s not exactly our friend.
There’s bipartisan support for several measures that might make elections more secure, but McConnell is blocking action on them all.
Of course, McConnell also doesn’t want to rub Trump the wrong way.
But the need to make our electoral process more secure isn’t about Trump and his ego. It’s about the need to protect the integrity of our elections and the public’s faith in the fairness of the results.
It’s funny that Trump and his supporters are easily outraged about the largely nonexistent problem of voter fraud — which they assume is perpetrated by minorities and immigrants — but they don’t seem to care about actual, documented interference by Russia.
The Russian meddling in 2016 mostly involved cyber attacks — manipulating voters through fake accounts on social media used to promote Trump at the expense of Hillary Clinton, and hacking into the emails of Democratic campaign officials. Some of the proposals McConnell is blocking would make such actions less likely.
But there’s also evidence that Russians at least tried to find out where the election system itself is vulnerable. Next time, they or some other foreign power might try to tamper with voting machines, change votes or otherwise take a more direct approach.
Other measures, also going nowhere, would provide money to state and local governments to shore up cyber security, encourage states to adopt paper ballots and set up networks so federal and state officials could share information.
We need to act, now. This shouldn’t be about Trump, or about partisan politics. If we let other countries control our elections, we’re all in trouble.