In yesterday’s post, I described writing a senior high school paper on author Sinclair Lewis. What I didn’t mention was that in addition to being a fairly prolific novel writer he penned a large number of short stories which were primarily published in magazines. As part of the preparation for writing my paper, I spent many hours in the main branch of the N. Y. Public Library’s periodicals room reading these. As I recall I made my way through thirty or so of them.
Although I no longer remember the title of this particular story, there was one that dealt with causality. It described a man who worked for a company that manufactured munitions. He forgot to set his alarm clock the night before an important meeting and as a result over slept, catching a later train than usual and so was late for the meeting. This set off a series of five or six different events which ultimately resulted in a revolution occurring in some unnamed South American country and a military takeover of the same. The story was unusual for Lewis, almost science fiction-like in content. But it does speak to the current brouhaha over Russian influence in our recent presidential election.
It would be foolish for any rational person not to believe that hostile foreign nations including Russia, North Korea, China and Iran, to name a few, would not engage in activities which they see to be in their best interest to the detriment of the United States or any other country they believe to be their adversary. After all, wasn’t that why we so staunchly supported and financed the activities of Radio Free Europe during the cold war with the Soviet Union? What is remarkable is that there seems to be so much surprise on the part of our elected officials that this happens.
As I recall, during the 2012 Presidential Debates, candidate Romney was asked what he considered to be the greatest threat to the security of the United States. His almost immediate response was, “Russia.” In his rebuttal, President Obama ridiculed Romney for his answer. So one of two things is true. Either Romney was correct and Obama had it wrong. Or, if Russia did not pose that threat in 2012 but now does, then the failure of U. S. foreign policy under the Obama administration has allowed Russia to become that threat.
Those who are arguing that Russia’s influence affected the outcome of the election must hold to the same simple causality that Lewis describes in his short story. One thing leads to another to another to an unexpected outcome, as surely as night follows day. That makes for a good story or perhaps an engaging movie – but it is not how things generally work in this world.
There are several issues in this now wide-raging debate that are not in question.
The first is there was an almost cavalier attitude toward cyber-security on the part of both Hillary Clinton and John Podesta which allowed Russia, if in fact they were the ones who actually hacked their emails, to gain entry into their systems.
The second is that no one has alleged that the emails were in any way massaged or altered before their release. This, of course, begs the question, should the American electorate not have been allowed to see this material so that they could make a more informed decision on the candidate for whom they would vote?
The third is that everyone agrees that neither Russia nor anyone else were able to alter the actual vote totals as they were recorded precinct by precinct.
The fourth is that everyone agrees that whatever influence the alleged Russian hack had on the election results is unquantifiable – just as it would be naïve to attribute the fall of the former Soviet Union solely on the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe.
It doesn’t require a lot of imagination to hypothesize why the election turned out as it did. Perhaps there were a lot of Clinton supporters in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan who simply were either too sick or to unmotivated to show up at the polls and cast their ballots.
Or perhaps there were some undecided voters who simply concluded that after years of Clinton controversies, whether or not anything had been proven, there just seemed to be far too much smoke so there may well be a fire burning somewhere.
Or perhaps millions of Republican voters in New York or California either never bothered to register or if they were registered didn’t vote, knowing that their vote would essentially be meaningless. Perhaps the number of GOP voters who sat it out would have been sufficient for Trump to win not only the Electoral College vote but the popular vote as well.
But let’s talk about my adopted state of Nevada for a moment – one of those “swing states” as political pundits like to call it. What if something specific happened here which had a far more direct impact on the election than Clinton’s emails or Benghazi or the failure of Obamacare? What if an employer in this state tacitly suggested to its employees how they should vote in the presidential election? That employer (and perhaps others) is MGM Resorts International.
MGM is an international corporation headquartered in Las Vegas. It owns and manages properties in Nevada, several other states and internationally, primarily in Macao, China. The company employs approximately 50,000 people, 35,000 of those being here in the Silver State.
MGM has a very civic corporate conscience. It has received a number of awards from several “progressive” organizations for their support for the LGBTQ community and for minority groups, primarily Hispanics, many of whom it employs. And what would being a good citizen be other than to support the most important right which we have – the right to vote?
During early voting here in Nevada, MGM allowed it’s employees time off from work in order to execute their franchise. In fact, it provided free buses to local temporary polling stations so their employees could vote more easily. All that is fine. But MGM took this one step further.
In order to simplify the voting experience, MGM provided its employees who took advantage of their free transportation a sample ballot to take with them into the voting booth. The problem was that this “sample ballot” contained the note at the top that “MGM recommends a vote for the following candidates and propositions on the November 8th ballot.” The names of Hillary Clinton for president and Catherine Cortez Masto for U. S. Senate were checked and highlighted in yellow on the pre-printed form. As it turns out, Clinton carried Nevada by a margin of 27,202 votes and Masto won the Senate seat by 26,915 votes, obviously fewer votes than the number of MGM employees who received their “suggested ballot.” I only know this because a friend who is an MGM employee and who supported Trump in the election was infuriated about this and gave me the copy she received from her employer.
It is, of course, a moot point as Clinton lost the election. But Masto, whose background is sketchy at best, is one of our one hundred senators and a protégé of Harry Reid’s. With a margin in the Senate as tight as it is, her election may well make a difference. And while I’m not sure whether MGM broke the law in providing this ballot, I believe it would be fair to suggest that if you were employed by a company that handed you a completed “suggested ballot,” you might feel pressured to vote as indicated.
We can only speculate about either Russia’s or MGM’s motivation in involving themselves in our election. Perhaps MGM’s management simply was expressing their liberal bent. Or perhaps they are concerned about their property in Macao and the nature of our relationship with China under a Trump administration. That the President-Elect took a call from the democratically elected President of Taiwan the day after his election must be giving them fits.
One thing that is certain is that the 2016 election will be a boon to the publishing industry. I suspect enough will be written about it to fill a presidential library.