Staff Columnist

Russia hubbub is convenient distraction for Iowa Dems

Foreigners didn't rig the 2016 election; Americans did

Supporters of Bernie Sanders cheer at a Democratic Party caucus at the Field House on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Supporters of Bernie Sanders cheer at a Democratic Party caucus at the Field House on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

Russian election hacking is to Democrats what voter fraud is to Republicans — there’s some evidence of it, but no indication it’s sizable enough to swing elections.

Iowa has been swept up in the international scandal surrounding Russia and the 2016 U.S. presidential election. A federal indictment released last month makes a brief mention of our state, alleging outside operatives made social media posts claiming candidate Hillary Clinton “committed voter fraud during the Democrat Iowa caucuses.”

Since those facts surfaced, several leading Iowa Democrats have delivered alarmist statements about the supposed threat of election theft.

Facebook Testimony to Senate Subcommittee by Gazetteonline on Scribd

“It is highly likely during the 2020 race that foreign adversaries will target the caucus during the lead-up and night of, focusing in specifically on Iowa voters,” wrote journalist and Democrat activist Pat Rynard on the Iowa Starting Line blog.

Yet there is no evidence in that indictment or elsewhere that anyone interfered before or during the 2016 caucuses. To the contrary, the Facebook post mentioned in the indictment was made in August, months after the Iowa caucuses.

The Russian hubbub serves as a convenient distraction from much more uncomfortable problems, like the cronyism built into the Democrats’ nominating process.

Clinton supporters did not commit voter fraud. They didn’t need to, because Democrats’ nominating process was already set up to benefit candidates like Clinton.


Clinton’s allies occupied key positions throughout the party infrastructure, like former National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was forced out the job after leaked emails showed her strong preference for Clinton over campaign rival Bernie Sanders, and was subsequently offered an honorary post on the Clinton campaign.

And then there are superdelegates. The Democrats’ process is heavily influenced by a group of party insiders whose convention ballots are unbound by the will of the voters. Those activists mostly sided with Clinton throughout the nominating process, arbitrarily inflating her campaign’s perceived lead over Sanders’.

Russia didn’t do that. That’s all part of our democratic process, as American as corporate welfare and pre-emptive strikes.

Russia’s obvious attempts to influence American elections were inappropriate, just like the United States’ long record of influencing other nations’ elections is inappropriate.

Throughout this federal investigation, conspiracy theorists have described the Russian interference campaign in high-tech and politically savvy terms, intending to give the impression that the Russians were running a hyper-sophisticated propaganda campaign. In reality, they used common internet marketing tools which also are available to almost any business, nonprofit or political campaign in the world.

Russian social media posts comprised a minuscule portion of all the messages swirling around during the 2016 election season, totaling less than 1 percent by all credible accounts. If such a small campaign was enough to steal an election, maybe the problem lies with our elections.

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