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On Elections – The Question Is: How Stupid Are We?

Dear Editor, 

With November 3 just weeks away, it seems that actors both at home and abroad are setting the stage for the United States to unravel after the election. They will succeed only if we Americans truly are stupid. 

Troubling signs are all over the media. Both parties are undermining the perceived integrity of the election with dubious claims about mail-in voting. Russia, China and Iran are flooding social media with inflammatory content. Fringe groups from the right and the left are turning protests into riots across the country. None of these actions will have any lasting impact if we stand strong and smart. Let’s take them one at a time. 

Mail-in voting: It is sadly ironic that Hillary Clinton was (rightfully) flabbergasted when candidate Donald Trump would not commit to accepting the results of the 2016 election but now she is encouraging Joe Biden not to concede if he loses on election day 2020. President Trump repeatedly raises the legitimate but minor risk of mail-in voter fraud. The chances that voter fraud could swing the Electoral College are ridiculously small. Meanwhile, candidate Joe Biden and his allies have raised the overblown concern that the Postal Service will disenfranchise their voters by failing to deliver mail-in ballots on time. The USPS manages to deliver way more Christmas cards in December than ballots in November. Even with recent operational changes, the mail will go through. If you need to play it safe, mail your ballot a few days early. (The real risk is incompetence at the local board of elections but I digress…) We Americans have easy options when it comes to making sure our votes count in a fair election. Don’t fall prey to weak leadership from Democratic and Republican die-hards. Set a better example by accepting the judgment of our fellow citizens, no matter who wins. 

Social media manipulation: Countries have always tried to influence our elections and vice versa. Social media makes it easier but let’s get real. Hillary Clinton didn’t lose in 2016 because voters saw the Facebook posts that claim she has alien DNA or other ludicrous stories. I do not believe that “fake news” influences many undecided voters. If a story is too good to be true or too bad to be true it is probably bogus. In 2020, we should all be smart enough to have a healthy skepticism of social media posts and even stories from the “real” news outlets. The risk from foreign adversaries isn’t that they are going to sway the election it is that they’re going to exploit divisions (black vs. white, rich vs. poor, radical right vs. radical left) in hopes of inciting violence. Let’s not take the bait. None of these countries can stand up to us militarily or in the battlefield of ideas. Their only hope of damaging America is for us to do it to ourselves.  Similarly… 

Fringe groups: I used to snicker when a militia leader would invoke the “next American Revolution” at some standoff between armed federal agents and a handful of yahoos with rifles. Not that these extremist groups on the left and on the right are wrong about everything (some are) but they know from decades of experience that they cannot win over the general public nor can they defeat the law enforcement agencies that protect us. The tactics they’ve employed this year have been shrewd and destructive. They show up at protests to allegedly support the cause but “borrow the crowd” so that things turn violent and chaos ensues. Chaos is their goal. Only if the fabric of our society completely falls apart will these fringe groups have any chance of forcing their way to the front. It’s horrible to see images of Portland and other cities enduring riots and fires. However, it is important to remember that the bad actors represent only a tiny portion of our society.  They are irrelevant as long as the rest of us stand firm against lawlessness. 

We are still America. We will vote as we always have. Some will vote by mail, some will vote early, most will vote in person. Either Biden or Trump will win. Agitators will push us to revolt. We should not follow these people in action or in spirit. Tough times come and go. America will endure — as long as we do not allow bad actors to trick us into tearing our nation apart. That would be truly stupid.