“Mr. Franklin, what kind of government have you given us?” a woman asked the eminent Founding Father at the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. “A Republic, madam,” Franklin quickly answered. “If you can keep it.”
Today, in the 240th year of our independence, our status as an independent Republic is now open to question as a result of revelations by the CIA pointing to interference in our election by a hostile foreign power.
According to the intelligence community, there is little doubt that our electoral process was compromised by Russian intelligence agencies. In a revealing article in the Washington Post, which provides details of a CIA assessment that “Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency,” this statement stands out:
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”
Donald Trump, on the other hand, does not believe the CIA or the 16 other intelligence agencies who were also privy to Russian cyber activity during the past year. “I don’t believe they interfered,” he said this week in a TIME Magazine interview. With regard to allegations of Russian hacking, Trump said that it “could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
By his own words, Donald Trump has proven once again that he is unfit for the presidency.
As someone who famously said that he knows more than the generals, this statement also shows that Trump believes he knows more about intelligence than the professionals, people who have the competence to determine whether or not hacking activity directed against an American political party originated from the home of someone living in Bayonne or Cape May.
Or anywhere else.
But unlike those who live in Jersey, we don’t need to fuggedaboutit. No way. This is way too important. If Franklin was worried about our Republic back then, we need to be equally worried about the state of our nation state right now.
The state of constitutional anxiety – or worse – that we are facing right now comes in two parts. Most obvious is the first part, where the winner of the popular vote, by more than 2.8 million votes and a 2% victory margin, winds up as the loser in our anachronistic 18th century electoral system. The second part is the realization that the vote was manipulated by the presence of the Kremlin and its intelligence agencies, led by former KGB colonel Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, in their hacking of the Democratic National Committee and affiliated websites.
In looking at these two parts of our constitutional anxiety, Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and a former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, offered this startling view of our current national malaise:
The fact that the CIA has concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency bears on the upcoming decision of the Electoral College about whether Donald Trump becomes our next president.
The framers of the Constitution intended that the Electoral College guard against the possibility that a foreign power influences the outcome of a presidential election. In Federalist No. 68, Alexander Hamilton wrote that a major purpose of the Electoral College was to stop the “desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.” He said that the College would “Guard against all danger of this sort … with the most provident and judicious attention” from the electors.”
The CIA report must be made public immediately, and the Electors of 2016 should take careful note.
On December 19, the presidential electors will convene to cast their ballots for the next president. While it is doubtful that the CIA findings about Russian interference and possible manipulation of the election results will change the expected outcome, there is nevertheless some anxiety about what the future holds for our antiquated system of choosing a president.
And then there is the anxiety caused by Federalist No. 68.
In a statement this weekend, the Trump transition team admonished those who have raised concerns about the Russian presence by saying that the election is over, and that it is time to “move on.”
That clearly is not going to happen, particularly when Republican figures like Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain are raising questions that irritate Trump.
On Saturday, in an interview with NBC News about reports that Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson may be named the next secretary of state, McCain was forceful in stating his concerns about someone like Tillerson, who has very close ties to Putin.
“I believe that Vladimir Putin is a thug and a bully and a murderer,” McCain said.
The Arizona senator’s views no doubt were informed by the long list of Trump allies who have demonstrated relationships with the KGB alumnus, including Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager, and retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has appeared on RT, the Kremlin’s media outlet, and sat next to Putin at a banquet last year. Now, Tillerson joins the list of Putin admirers in Trump’s inner circle.
In July, Plunderbund readers were invited to look more closely at the many relationships held by Trump allies, and the new CIA assessment only confirms the warnings expressed earlier about Trump and his Kremlin bromance. With the new assessment and a comprehensive report ordered by the president, the voices of alarm can only get louder.
Heaven help us in this, the 240th anniversary of our independence.
Whatever the outcome of continuing investigations by the intelligence community of Russian interference in our electoral process, it now appears that the United States, the world’s only superpower, may have lost its independence due to Russian hacking and the release of emails that proved quite damaging to Hillary Clinton and her campaign. We will find out more soon about how our system of self-governance and the selection of our leaders has been badly compromised.
Of all that has been written about the campaign so far, there is no doubt that retired KGB colonel Vladimir Putin will have the last laugh.
On June 17, 2016, Putin took a swipe at our electoral system and the anachronism called the Electoral College. “You call that democracy?” he said.
For once, we might agree with the Kremlin boss. We don’t have a democracy, and the fact that the Electoral College will determine the next president on December 19, in spite of Hillary Clinton’s 2.8 million vote victory on November 8, proves him right.
So we don’t have a democracy when it comes to choosing a president. But as far as Franklin’s Republic is concerned, the 18th century model is certainly in need of a major overhaul.
A Republic. If we can keep it. In the days leading up to December 19, we need to be working on it.