Accuracy in Media

Mainstream media has taken up a Democratic cause and is now pushing to undo the Electoral College.

The Democratic candidate won the popular vote for president in 2000 and 2016 but did not capture the White House, because, they say, the Electoral College gives an advantage to areas of the country that tend to vote for their opponents. But rather than modify their message, they want total political primacy of the huge population centers on the coasts.

In the last few days, the calls have intensified. “The Time Has Come: Reform the Electoral College Now,” beamed a Daily Beast headline . “It’s time to abolish the Electoral College,” said Hillary, who won the popular vote by more than 3 million votes but lost the Electoral College vote.

It must go, the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago said, because as long as Illinois is so reliably in the Democrat camp, candidates will ignore it.

Democrats and their media allies have long made those arguments with minimal impact, so they’ve taken a different tack – that the Electoral College threatens national security.

The argument put forth in Politico by Matthew Olsen, who was director of the National Counterterrorism Center under President Obama, and Benjamin Haas, a law school student, is that Alexander Hamilton said in the Federalist Papers the Electoral College could “shield the United States ‘from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.’”

But thanks to the Internet, the Electoral College “enables foreign powers to more easily pierce the very shield Hamilton imagined it would be.”

The authors briefly discuss attacks on voting systems – but nobody seriously posits these gave Trump the victory, and electoral integrity is not their concern. Persuasion is their concern. As in, it’s a threat to national security that voters could be persuaded to vote for Trump.

“In Hamilton’s day … it would have been nearly impossible for a hostile power to co-opt dozens of briefly chosen electors flung across 13 states with primitive roads,” they write. “But in the social media age, the Electoral College system provides ripe microtargeting grounds for foreign actors who intend to sabotage presidential elections via information and disinformation campaigns, as well as by hacking our voting infrastructure.”

The authors then launch into a lengthy discussion of how Mark Warner, a Democratic senator from Virginia, has aided “upwards of 1,000 paid Internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia, in effect, taking over series of computers, which is then called a botnet.” Warner further suggested these botnets targeted voters in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – the surprise victories, by a combined total of fewer than 80,000 votes, that put him in the White House.

They then quote a former FBI agent saying in March, “Today, you can create content, gain the audience, build the bots, pick out the election and even the voters that are valued the most in swing states and actually insert the right content in a deliberate period.” They can even disguise the bots as humans with local flavor.

It’s the oldest trope among losers in politics – the opponent won because his supports were duped by secret messaging whose motivation they weren’t capable of understanding.

But it does not take into account the reality of campaign fundamentals that Clinton ignored or failed to execute. It doesn’t account for the time Clinton spent in private meetings with high-dollar donors in the last weekends before the election, while the Trump campaign visited electoral hot spots Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

It doesn’t account for the fact Clinton never visited Wisconsin and refused to move resources to Michigan and Florida despite party officials’ warnings. Or that she got caught in a series of lies about her secret server or that she failed to come up with a memorable message.

Olsen and Haas suggest “making public the false narratives that adversaries push through fake news stories and encouraging social media companies to identify and block fake accounts and bogus ad campaigns designed to tilt our elections.”

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