On October 18, 2016 Barack Obama ridiculed anyone who could think the election could be rigged.
OBAMA: I have never seen in my lifetime or in modern political history any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place. It’s unprecedented. It happens to be based on no facts. … [T]here is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even rig America’s elections, in part, because they are so decentralized and the numbers of votes involved. There is no evidence that that has happened in the past or that there are instances in which that will happen this time. And so I’d invite Mr. Trump to stop whinin’ and go try to make his case to get votes.
Then Hillary lost.
In December 2016, Democrats were still trying to figure out what happened.
This process, which is a form of what’s called confirmation bias, can help explain why Trump supporters remain supportive no matter what evidence one puts to them—and why Trump’s opponents are unlikely to be convinced of his worth even if he ends up doing something actually positive. The two groups simply process information differently. “The confirmation bias is not specific to Donald Trump. It’s something we are all susceptible to,” the Columbia University psychologist Daniel Ames, one of several scholars to nominate this paper, said. “But Trump appears to be an especially public and risky illustration of it in many domains.” (Ames and his colleague Alice Lee recently showed a similar effect with beliefs about torture.)
One of those was a good observation. But what about the “Russia Collusion” story?
One theory is that it was invented 24 hours after the election.
On a phone call with a longtime friend a couple of days after the election, Hillary was much less accepting of her defeat. She put a fine point on the factors she believed cost her the presidency: the FBI (Comey), the KGB (the old name for Russia’s intelligence service), and the KKK (the support Trump got from white nationalists).
“I’m angry,” Hillary told her friend. And exhausted. After two brutal campaigns against Sanders and Trump, Hillary now had to explain the failure to friends in a seemingly endless round of phone calls. That was taking a toll on her already weary and grief-stricken soul. But mostly, she was mad— mad that she’d lost and that the country would have to endure a Trump presidency.
She was already looking for excuses except herself.
That strategy had been set within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.
The Clinton camp settled on a two-pronged plan — pushing the press to cover how “Russian hacking was the major unreported story of the campaign, overshadowed by the contents of stolen e-mails and Hillary’s own private-server imbroglio,” while “hammering the media for focusing so intently on the investigation into her e-mail, which had created a cloud over her candidacy,” the authors wrote.
“The press botched the e-mail story for eighteen months,” one person who was part of the strategy is quoted as saying. “Comey obviously screwed us, but the press created the story.”
It helped that the Russia story already existed as an opposition research project before the election.
She wondered why the president hadn’t leaned harder into making the case that Vladimir Putin was specifically targeting her and trying to throw the election to Trump. “The Russia stuff has really bothered her a lot,” one of the aides said. “She’s sort of learning what the administration knew and when they knew it, and she’s just sort of quizzical about the whole thing. She can’t quite sort out how this all played out the way that it did.” On the long list of people, agencies, and international forces Hillary blamed for her loss, Obama had a spot.
Now, the Democrat Party has convinced their base, but not many others, that the election was stolen by the Russians for Trump.
Now what ?
This is the former Director of National Intelligence telling all of us that as of 12:01 a.m. on January 20th, when he left government, the intelligence agencies had no evidence of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and the government of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Virtually all of the explosive breaking news stories on the Trump-Russia front dating back months contain some version of this same disclaimer.
Oh Oh. Now what ?
From MSNBC politics shows to town hall meetings across the country, the overarching issue for the Democratic Party’s base since Trump’s victory has been Russia, often suffocating attention for other issues. This fixation has persisted even though it has no chance to sink the Trump presidency unless it is proven that high levels of the Trump campaign actively colluded with the Kremlin to manipulate the outcome of the U.S. election — a claim for which absolutely no evidence has thus far been presented.
The principal problem for Democrats is that so many media figures and online charlatans are personally benefiting from feeding the base increasingly unhinged, fact-free conspiracies — just as right-wing media polemicists did after both Bill Clinton and Obama were elected — that there are now millions of partisan soldiers absolutely convinced of a Trump/Russia conspiracy for which, at least as of now, there is no evidence. And they are all waiting for the day, which they regard as inevitable and imminent, when this theory will be proven and Trump will be removed.
Even Buzzfeed, which published the infamous Steele “Dossier,” is worried.
But the demand on the US left right now isn’t so much for the damning big picture, or the details of what investigators are looking into. It’s for the proverbial smoking gun.
That demand is so clear and intense in the global information market that it was visible to an alleged Italian con man, who went about filling it with a detailed forgery. Progressive activists fell for a hoax that told them exactly what they wanted to hear, paid thousands of dollars for a forgery, and passed it on to journalists.
The demand is so strong that Twitter and cable news are full of the theories of what my colleague Charlie Warzel calls the Blue Detectives — the left’s new version of Glenn Beck, digital blackboards full of lines and arrows.
Meanwhile the actual frontline detectives — congressional investigators — aren’t so sure. “I don’t think the conclusions are going to meet people’s expectations,” one warned BuzzFeed News’ Ali Watkins.
Then what happens?