Why Dems and Never Trumpers like me have to be cautious about Russia stories

It’s clear now that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election. Let’s get a few things straight about that, though.

  1. Russia doesn’t have the military capabilities to win a conflict with the United States.
  2. Russia doesn’t have the economic capabilities to win a conflict against the United States.
  3. Russia does have the political capabilities to win a conflict with the United States.

Why? Well, our military – and our alliances – remains stronger than Russia’s. Meanwhile, its economy isn’t strong enough to support an economic or military conflict against us. However, while our freedoms are what make us strong, they also offer an Achilles’ heel. Anyone can buy into an American business. Anyone can publish political content in America.

We now know that Russia created fake Americans on social media. That it bought ads on social media. That it attempted to hack some states. And on and on. In other words, Russia was really busy.

It’s also clear that Russia’s meddling has knocked our political center of gravity off its axis pretty significantly. Since Nov. 9, the Trump Administration has basically ruled by chaos. We’ve had one disaster after another and he’s degraded our trust in valuable institutions significantly.

That we were primed for this result is our fault, which is why we should guard against future attempts by Vladimir Putin’s agents. We can’t count on the federal government’s help in this because the Republican Party is in power and too many of its leaders – namely Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell – were craven when real strength and patriotism were needed.

If you were Vladimir Putin and you wanted to continue to weaken the United States, what would you do next? You’d attack Trump and his people. You’d make the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections seem compromised. You’d want to drive down electoral participation. You’d want to capitalize on the fears and hopes of Never Trump Republicans and Democrats.

People who created fake news and studies have repeatedly said it was harder to trick Democrats. However, I know from my own personal experience that liberals can fall for it. I’ve seen friends share stories from The Onion without knowing it was satire. I’ve seen friends share memes that were easily proven untrue. I was guilty of being too quick to share stories with faulty math or sourcing.

But my fear in the coming months is that we’re going to see more of fake stories aimed at tricking democrats. That the national press corps could be tricked by a seemingly legitimate, but bad source.

That fear set off alarm bells when I read this NBC story about Putin being behind the meeting with Donald Trump Jr.

Here’s the upshot: My honest expectation is that some people in the Trump campaign did collude with Russia. That means I’m going to have to be very cautious in believing anything I read that reinforces that opinion.

Ultimately, the best case scenario for the country is that Congress and Bob Mueller’s team get to the bottom of the issue and come up with strong protections against interference. But, again, that seems to be too much to hope for.

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