Stephen Cohen Explains Who Is Really Undermining American Democracy
Who’s Really ‘Undermining’ American Democracy?
Allegations that Russia is still “attacking” US elections, now again in November, could delegitimize our democratic institutions.
By Stephen F. Cohen
OCTOBER 31, 2018
Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at NYU and Princeton, and John Batchelor continue their (usually) weekly discussions of the new US-Russian Cold War. (Previous installments, now in their fifth year, are at TheNation.com.)
Summarizing one of the themes in his new book, War with Russia? From Putin and Ukraine To Trump and Russiagate, Cohen argues that Russiagate allegations of Kremlin attempts to “undermine American democracy” may themselves erode confidence in those institutions.
Ever since Russiagate allegations began to appear more than two years ago, their core narrative has revolved around purported Kremlin attempts to “interfere” in the 2016 US presidential election on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump. In recent months, a number of leading American media outlets have taken that argument even further, suggesting that Putin’s Kremlin actually put Trump in the White House and now is similarly trying to affect the November 6 midterm elections, particularly House contests, on behalf of Trump and the Republican Party. According to a page-one New York Times “report,” for example, Putin’s agents “are engaging in an elaborate campaign of ‘information warfare’ to interfere with the American midterm elections.”
Despite well-documented articles by Gareth Porter and Aaron Maté effectively dismantling these allegations about 2016 and 2018, the mainstream media continues to promote them. The occasionally acknowledged lack of “public evidence” is sometimes cited as itself evidence of a deep Russian conspiracy, of the Kremlin’s “arsenal of disruption capabilities . . . to sow havoc on election day.” (See the examples cited by Alan MacLeod at FAIR.org.)
Lost in these reckless allegations is the long-term damage they may themselves do to American democracy. Consider the following possibilities:
Even though still unproven, charges that the Kremlin put Trump in the White House have cast a large shadow of illegitimacy over his presidency and thus over the institution of the presidency itself. This is unlikely to end entirely with Trump. If the Kremlin had the power to affect the outcome of one presidential election,