There is currently a great deal of alarm being expressed in the public sphere over the evidence [which I consider reliable] that the Russian government has attempted, and continues to attempt, to influence American elections surreptitiously. Some people on the left respond to these expressions of alarm by calling attention to the many successful efforts by the American government to influence the outcome of elections abroad or indeed simply to bypass the electoral process and overthrow foreign governments, charges that I consider to be well-established.
I am never entirely clear what conclusion I am supposed to draw from this left response. That America is reprehensible? To be sure. That the mainstream expressions of alarm are hypocritical? No doubt. But there is sometimes an additional implied assertion, namely that we on the left ought not therefore to share the alarm being expressed, and this I believe is wrongheaded. Let me explain why.
I want to see the United States changed in very deep, fundamental, and far-reaching ways. I can summarize these changes briefly with the slogan, suitable for a bumper sticker, “Make America Socialist.” I am too old and too wise to imagine that anything remotely like this will happen soon, if indeed ever, but that is what I want, and I am pleased, indeed thrilled, by any steps taken in that direction.
Leaving aside divine intervention or the arrival of benevolent space aliens, I can see only two ways in which the changes I want can come about: through the electoral process, or violently and extra-legally. It is my considered opinion that violent social revolution in the United States is right up there in likelihood with the Second Coming. Which leaves the electoral process. That is why I welcomed the emergence on the national scene of Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a Democratic Socialist even though his policy proposals are really FDR New Deal Liberalism. That is why I was delighted by the appearance and electoral success of Democratic Socialist Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. And that is why I am tickled to read that among young people, “socialism” ranks high as one of their preferred economic and political systems, despite the fact that almost none of those responding to the poll have any coherent notion of what socialism is.
I want candidates like Ocasio-Cortez to run for election and win. There are only two ways that can happen. Either people supporting such candidates come to the polls, vote for them, and have their votes recorded and counted, or some foreign or domestic hackers meddle with the voting process to the benefit of socialist candidates. I can see very little evidence that those currently screwing with the electoral process electronically are inclined to do so to the benefit of left candidates.
Which explains why I am alarmed when Russians meddle with our elections.
But, some will respond, desperate not to be seen agreeing with those they hate, what about gerrymandering and voter suppression? Why aren’t you alarmed about that? But that is a silly question. Of course I am alarmed about gerrymandering and voter suppression. I have been for generations. Indeed, if we recall that the most successful voter suppression effort in American history was Jim Crow, I can say that I have been alarmed about voter suppression my entire very long life. Now doing something about gerrymandering and voter suppression requires, among other things, gaining control of state legislatures. And how do we do that? Either by spending millions of dollars essentially bribing state legislators or by electing progressive state legislators. We on the left are not entirely without financial resources, but the noblest among us [perhaps foolishly] look askance at bribery.
Which leaves us, once again, with elections.
Look, the big structural problem with capitalism is that it puts most of the power in the hands of capital. That is a feature, not a bug, from the standpoint of defenders of the existing order. All we on the left have to fight with is the truth [good luck with that] and numbers, great big overwhelming numbers.
Which is why I am alarmed by efforts, foreign or domestic, to screw with the electoral process.