One professor’s database cites 81 attempts by the United States to influence elections in other countries.
So why do we pretend we don’t interfere in our own?
The CIA accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 presidential election by hacking into Democratic and Republican computer networks and selectively releasing emails. But critics might point out the U.S. has done worse things.
The U.S. has a long history of attempting to influence presidential elections in other countries – it’s done so as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000, according to a database amassed by political scientist Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University.
That number doesn’t include military coups and regime change efforts following the election of candidates the U.S. didn’t like, notably those in Iran, Guatemala and Chile. Nor does it include general assistance with the electoral process, such as election monitoring.
Levin defines intervention as “a costly act which is designed to determine the election results [in favor of] one of the two sides.” These acts, carried out in secret two-thirds of the time, include funding election campaigns, as the U.S. did in Israel, disseminating misinformation or propaganda, training locals of only one side in various campaigning or get-out-the-vote techniques, helping one side design their campaign materials, making public pronouncements or threats in favor of or against a candidate, and providing or withdrawing foreign aid – which we shouldn’t be giving in the first place.
Italy’s 1948 general election is an early example of a race where U.S. actions probably influenced the outcome. Levin said that U.S. intervention probably played an important role in preventing a Communist Party victory, not just in 1948, but in seven subsequent Italian elections.
But now we often help the bad guys. More and more, we’re aiding the Communists, which is not, shall we say, in line with our Constitution.
The U.S. also attempted to sway Russian elections. In 1996, with the presidency of Boris Yeltsin and the Russian economy flailing, President Clinton endorsed a $10.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund linked to privatization, trade liberalization and other measures that would move Russia toward a capitalist economy. Yeltsin used the loan to bolster his popular support, telling voters that only he had the reformist credentials to secure such loans, according to media reports at the time. He used the money, in part, for social spending before the election, including payment of back wages and pensions.
In the Middle East, the U.S. has aimed to bolster candidates who could further the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In 1996, seeking to fulfill the legacy of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the peace accords the U.S. brokered, Clinton openly supported Shimon Peres, convening a peace summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheik to boost his popular support and inviting him to a meeting at the White House a month before the election.
“We were persuaded that if [Likud candidate Benjamin] Netanyahu were elected, the peace process would be closed for the season,” said Aaron David Miller, who worked at the State Department at the time.
In 1999, in a more subtle effort to sway the election, top Clinton strategists, including James Carville, were sent to advise Labor candidate Ehud Barak in the election against Netanyahu.
What would prevent the U.S. from using the CIA or FBI or Big Tech or other secret organizations from fixing elections at home? More people are wondering about that – especially after the 2020 election when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris didn’t really campaign and yet showed the largest “voter turnout” ever.
As Stephen K. Bannon often says, “Elections have consequences. And stolen elections have catastrophic consequences.”
That’s what the 2020 election had – catastrophic consequences. That’s what we are feeling and experiencing today.
Do we really believe in democracy in this country? Do we believe in it for other countries? Do we believe in it for the future?
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