Like a moonless night in a high mountain wilderness, what is remarkable is the silence and the stillness.
Long and self-proclaimed bastion of hard-line opposition to first the Soviet Union and later to Russia, the Republican Party in the era of Donald Trump has been utterly mute in opposing a direct Russian Attack on the heart of our democracy, the election itself. Ignoring Robert Mueller’s stark warnings in his July Congressional testimony, the next day Republicans led by Sen. Mitch McConnell thwarted legislation that included backup paper ballots to help states defend against future Russian or other foreign meddling.
Of course, the Republican Party is now the party of Donald Trump and not the party of Richard Nixon or Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan, all of whom espoused tough, often jingoistic positions against the Russians. Now a smirking Donald Trump jokes with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a press conference in Osaka, Japan about Russian meddling in our elections and the Republican Party is struck dumb.
They are silent in deference to Trump, who, it is said, sees any suggestion that the Russians might have affected the 2016 election as casting aspersions on his legitimacy as president.
That poses a sinister question. Does the Trump Republican Party believe the triumph of Russian interference in our elections is preferable to a triumph of the Democrats? If the answer is yes, the future of American democracy that has been around for 230 years is in serious jeopardy.
In 2016, Russians manipulated social media and other data platforms to help elect Donald Trump. For 2020, Russians are focused on attacking the vote count itself so they can electronically change the actual numbers to tip a key precinct or county that swings a key state a certain way to decide the election.
Doubt cast on the election results would shake the confidence of the American people, but perhaps Trump and the Republicans prefer a contestable election result in the event they once again fall several million votes short in the popular vote.
Now it is known that Trump’s loose lips in meetings with Russians, Putin included, contributed to prompting the quick extraction by American intelligence services of an operative reported to be highly placed in the Kremlin. This person provided the CIA with some of the most specific information regarding Russia’s 2016 election interference, including the fact that Putin himself had authorized it.
Trump’s adversarial attitude toward human intelligence gathering has given U.S. intelligence services pause about what information should be passed on to him. Intelligence services of allies that provide some of our best information about terrorism threats are also reluctant to share information with us out of concern that their sources and methods could be compromised by Trump being unable or unwilling to keep his mouth shut.
This is really not a partisan issue. This is about preserving our democracy, which in the words of Winston Churchill is “the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried.”