The incredible “group-think” that has seen the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, President Obama, the Clinton campaign and most of the corporate media braying that Vladimir Putin scandalously upended American democracy and threw the election to his favored candidate Donald Trump is based on a ludicrous premise. That premise: that the election went Trump’s way because several tens of thousands of voters in a few states — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — switched away from Clinton to Trump because of an alleged (and factually unproven) Russian “hack” of Democratic National Committee and of Hillary campaign chair John Podesta’s emails.
According to this conspiracy theory — and that is what it is — the “Russian” hack fully explains those narrow Trump wins in three key swing states. Its proponents argue that as a result of the alleged hacks allegedly passed on to Wikileaks (which denies it was a hack or that their source was Russian), and of the subsequent release of emails that showed that the DNC had conspired to throw the primary election to Clinton, and that revealed the contents of Clinton’s secret sycophantic quarter-million-dollar speeches to Wall Street banks, those states normally securely Democratic went for Trump.
What is ludicrous about this alleged conspiracy theory is that Sanders supporters already knew the DNC was in bed with the Clinton campaign. They’d already learned that first hand from Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who quit in disgust as DNC vice-chair back in late February, explaining that the DNC was secretly undermining Sanders and working for Clinton. As for the bank speeches, Clinton did all the damage herself first by making them, then by refusing to disclose what she’d said in those extravagantly paid gigs, and by getting caught in a lie that she couldn’t release the texts because they were “under the control” of the banks (she actually owned the copyrights). She also hurt herself by lying and saying during one debate that she hadn’t asked for the high fees when in fact her agent had demanded them. This infuriating information was all out there way before Wikileaks started releasing the documents in had in its possession.
The truth is that it was Clinton’s own actions that lost her the support of Sanders voters. There was her repeating lying about Sanders positions during the campaign (for example the repeated claim that he wanted to end the ACA and leave people with no medical insurance), and her gratuitous dissing of Sanders and his supporters even after it was becoming clearer that she would win the primary because of the corrupt support she had lined up from the party’s unelected so-called “super delegates.” Then there was her decision in the fall, after winning the nomination, to ignore the 13 million Sanders voters from the primary and instead to pursue the support of what she hoped were disenchanted Republican voters upset that Donald Trump had won the Republican nomination, all doomed her in the general election.
The anger among Sanders backers by the time of the convention at the end of July was palpable and was demonstrated when over 700 Sanders delegates walked out of the convention en masse, many tossing their convention credentials over the tall security fence. Clearly they were not going to back Hillary Clinton in November. Remember, those delegates were Sanders activists who represented millions of voters back in their home states, and they were going back to talk to them.
Hillary Clinton didn’t lose Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and most importantly Florida because a small percentage of voters switched from her to Trump in those states. She lost those states because millions of Sanders voters nationally, and hundreds of thousands of Democrats and independent progressives in those crucial states, decided they couldn’t vote for her because they were disgusted by both her and the Democratic Party. Some voted Green, some wrote in Sanders’ name, which in most states meant their votes weren’t counted, and some just got fed up and didn’t vote at all, or just skipped the presidential line on their ballot. Total turnout, which in an election with Trump as the alternative should have been at 2008’s record levels, was closer to 2012, when Obama only eked out a narrow victory.
In other words, even if the Russians did hack the DNC and Podesta emails, and even if the leaked emails (all of which by the way were true and accurate, not fake or doctored!), did manage at the last minute to persuade a few thousand Clinton voters to switch their votes to Trump, or to simply not vote for Clinton, that only had an impact because so many hundreds of thousands of more progressive voters had already written her off as a voting option. The point is that the races in those states never should have been that close in the first place, and wouldn’t have been had the Clinton campaign not played so dirty in the primary, and then been so patronizing and vengeful towards the Sanders campaign and Sanders voters after gaining the nomination.
Leaving aside the reality that there is no evidence that Russian government hackers did obtain those emails and handed them over to Wikileaks to release during the last weeks of the campaign (the evidence is really that they were obtained by insider leaks, not by Russian hackers), the truth is that mounting evidence of Clinton corruption and of cheating during the primaries — evidence that was coming to light even without and often before disclosure of the emails — led millions of furious Sanders backers to decide they would never vote for Clinton.
The “false news” about Russians hacking US democracy, peddled incessantly, and even now, by the Clinton campaign, sclerotic Democratic Party leadership, elements within the intelligence establishment and the Obama administration, and parroted endlessly by the corporate media and by normally sentient liberals usually quick to condemn “conspiracy thinking,” doesn’t bode well for any real effort to wrench the Democratic Party away from its thoroughly discredited corporatist political stance, and raises the prospect of further Republican gains in the coming off-year Congressional elections in 2018.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the only way forward is going to have to be an abandonment of the Democratic Party by progressives and its replacement by a genuine progressive socialist party that is clearly of and for working people, and for those who cannot find work in this increasingly dystopic America.