Whose Side Are You On, Mitch?

However you feel about the Mueller hearings this week, one thing is clearer than ever: the Russians interfered in the 2016 elections in an effort to ensure Trump’s win and they are, even now, working to hack the 2020 elections. You can love the current president or hate him, but you ought to be alarmed at foreign interference in our elections. And you ought to support any effort to shut it down. This should not be a partisan issue, but it is.

This week, Democrats have put forth several bills to increase security around our elections. The bills do not propose anything radical or onerous. They ask for campaign staffs to report to the federal government any attempts at foreign interference. Now that might sound unnecessary, because of course any candidate running for office in America would immediately report any meddling from foreign sources. It’s the right thing to do. Except, this president and his campaign did not report meddling in the lead up to the 2016 election and Trump has said that if it happened again, he would listen to what the foreign contacts had to say before reporting anything. So, yeah, we need a law.

Other bills address the responsibilities of local and state election officials to run safe, secure, honest elections. One calls for paper ballots as a backup to electronic voting systems. Hackers basically shut down the city of Baltimore this year with a ransomware attack. So it is not a far stretch to imagine hackers might meddle with voting software. Paper ballots would provide a measure of security when, not if, that happens. But Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans aren’t interested in fair elections. And so they refuse to consider these bills.

Photo of billboard that reads, Putin's Mitch.
A Kentucky roadside billboard.

McConnell has been stonewalling on election security for years. When our intelligence agencies uncovered evidence of Russian interference in the months leading up to the 2016 election, McConnell refused to allow public discussion about the matter in the Senate, refused to rebuke the Russians for their actions, and threatened to paint the whole thing as a partisan smear if the Obama administration made a stink about it. And, look, Obama should have made a stink about it. He failed in that regard. Obama made the mistake of trusting that the American systems already in place would be enough to protect us from an attack. He was wrong.

And now lawmakers are trying to shore up those American systems in an effort to protect us from future attacks and McConnell is once again siding with the hackers. Why? Well, because it benefits him and his party. Right now, the Russian meddlers are working on the side of a Republican administration. But is anyone dumb enough to believe it will always be so? Now that it’s clear America is up for grabs, I suspect it won’t be long before we see some foreign interference on behalf of Democratic campaigns. What will McConnell and others like him do when that happens?

They are creating a world in which they will not be able to do much. If the Republican lawmakers don’t like the election security bills being proposed by the Democratic lawmakers, then they should write some of their own. Better yet, the two sides should work together on this critical issue and come up with laws that will discourage foreign meddling and will impose strict penalties on both the candidates and the foreign agents who attempt to subvert our democracy. And it’s not just foreign governments we should be worried about. There is ample evidence that homegrown hackers could infiltrate our elections in an effort to change the outcome or simply to sow chaos.

If Senate Republicans aren’t interested in protecting the integrity of our elections, then I have to wonder whose side they are on. It’s not our side. Perhaps the Justice Department should investigate Mitch McConnell’s ties to Russia, because he seems pretty comfortable letting the Russians run roughshod over the American elections. A man who refuses to work with his fellow Americans against hostile foreign interference has no business serving as a U.S. Senator. Maybe at some point McConnell ran for office with good intentions and a desire to represent the people of Kentucky, but those good intentions have paved a road to hell and McConnell is the king of that road. He’s been in the Senate since I was in junior high. That’s too long. I hope the people of Kentucky have the good sense to vote him out in the next election. But if they don’t, I hope America begins to hold McConnell accountable for his decisions and his lack of loyalty to this country.

McConnell is corrupt. He’ll do anything to hold on to power for himself and for his party. And a man who’ll do anything for himself will do nothing for the rest of us.

Tiffany Quay Tyson
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