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Coronavirus is coming, hide the ballots! Calls to cancel campaigns & voting erode already-thin trust in US primaries

Helen Buyniski
Helen Buyniski

is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

Coronavirus is coming, hide the ballots! Calls to cancel campaigns & voting erode already-thin trust in US primaries
American establishment mouthpieces are demanding voters radically rethink the 2020 election, citing coronavirus as a reason to switch to mail-in ballots and cancel conventions even as popular distrust in the system soars.

As controversies erupt over the primary votes in several states, influential media voices are calling for further cloaking the electoral process in obscurity — in the name of protecting candidates and voters alike from the ravages of the coronavirus, of course. The epidemic — and America’s fragile democracy — demands nothing less.

It’s time to cancel the US presidential campaign,” a not-at-all-alarmist headline from Council on Foreign Relations alumna Laurie Garrett screamed in Foreign Policy on Wednesday. The New York Times concurred, offering a less hysterical primer on “How to protect the election from coronavirus” on Thursday (spoiler alert: “let everyone vote by mail”) from the American Civil Liberties Union’s Dale Ho. And a cascade of blue-checks have weighed in with their support for the idea on social media.

Garrett calls for “moving the campaign heavily into online formats,” with “new forms of digital advertising and minivideo productions” as a way to take the 2020 election out of the infectious realm of “handshakes and baby-kissing” and into the easily-controllable realm of the digital — perhaps forgetting about all the “Russian hackers” waiting to pounce. Wouldn’t the possibility of deepfakes “infecting” those mini-video productions have kept her ilk awake at night a mere six months ago?

The digital “threat” the news media has spent the last four years flogging incessantly at least makes a cameo in the NY Times piece, which acknowledges that “the consensus of cybersecurity experts is that we are simply not prepared to ensure the security of online voting.” But while Ho highlights the need for legal protections for absentee voters, whose ballots are often discarded on technicalities without warning, the panicked urgency inherent in coronavirus-related legislating has all but guaranteed such protections, and others like them aimed at safeguarding the franchise, will be left by the wayside in the rush to pass the “emergency” measures.

Bringing the campaigns online provides an obvious advantage to the favored establishment Democrat, Joe Biden, whose energy and coherence on the in-the-flesh campaign trail have been noticeably flagging. The former vice president profanely lashed out at a Michigan voter as that state headed to the polls on Tuesday, and attendance at his rallies has suffered from the same “enthusiasm gap” that plagued the 2016 establishment pick, Hillary Clinton. Democratic Socialist challenger Bernie Sanders — and President Donald Trump, for that matter — regularly fill large venues with enthusiastic crowds, making it difficult for even the most determined centrist pundits to claim Biden enjoys the overwhelming support of the American people. Canceling the nominating convention, as Garrett and other establishment stalwarts are calling for, plays into the hands of the DNC, whose lawyers infamously argued in response to a 2016 voter lawsuit that they could pick the party’s candidate in smoke-filled back rooms if they so desired.

Also on rt.com Are DNC insiders weaponizing ‘election security’ to seize control of 2020 primaries behind the smokescreen of Russiagate paranoia?

And shifting the electoral contest into the shadows requires voters to place their trust in an establishment that, quite frankly, has not earned it. The 2016 Democratic primary was decided before the votes were cast, as leaked emails from the party revealed. While 2020 has not featured an email leak scandal, the party’s progressive wing is on edge, sniffing the air for signs of a repeat. They can be expected to cry bloody murder if polling places are swapped for mail-in ballots, or if the nominating convention is cancelled “because coronavirus.

Many would argue there’s already sufficient proof 2020 will be no more democratic than 2016. They come armed with plentiful evidence: a parade of questionable episodes starting with Iowa’s Shadow Inc. caucus, in which a dodgy app developed by Democratic Party insiders “accidentally” altered vote totals, and concluding with the tens of thousands of Washington state ballots thrown out on a technicality before that mail-in-only state’s long, drawn-out vote count handed a surprise victory to Biden. 

A week after Super Tuesday was heralded as a decisive victory for Biden, numerous delegates had yet to be assigned in states Sanders had won.

Those were far from the only anomalies.

Mail-in ballots were still being counted — indeed, voters were still waiting in hours-long lines — when mainstream media united to call Michigan for Biden.

Voting by mail deprives election monitors of that vital measure of election integrity, exit polls. And Sanders supporters insist that an unmistakable pattern in the exit polls suggests something more than a “revolution from the middle” might be going on.

While activists demanding the UN or OAS send election monitors to oversee the Democratic primaries may seem like a theatrical stunt to draw attention to US hypocrisy, they have a point. Exit polls restricted to one company, published late (or never), and showing a disparity that, if seen in any other country, would be called out in the American press as evidence of a banana republic in the making, do not inspire faith in US democracy. Bringing the process further into the shadows — especially by weaponizing pandemic panic (“do it NOW or we’re all gonna die!”) — will only fan the flames of that distrust.

While Americans have been well-trained by their media to expect this epidemic to be used as cover for opportunist power-grabs from the Trump administration, seeing these words from liberal technocrats should send shivers up the spines of voters already concerned about being technologically disenfranchised.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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