My latest newspaper column:
Wanna rig elections? No problem. Here’s a primer:
First, create a core of voters dismissive of facts and expertise. Do this by establishing a media conglomeration that includes radio, newspapers, and TV committed to misinformation. Hire people undisturbed by pushing conspiracy theories and blatant propaganda.
Next, having created that cadre of ready, willing, and angered citizens, feed them a continual list of scapegoats: racial, religious, and ethnic minorities; immigrants, intellectuals, reporters for all but your own networks. Fan the flames of resentment. Make your views on important issues that affect those voters, like health care, social programs, environmental protection, education, disappear under a suffocating blanket of manufactured paranoia.
Spend decades convincing your audience that government is evil, that it’s “the problem,” corrupt and in need of destroying; if not by electing people dedicated to making government (and presidents) fail, then by armed revolt. (Deny you really mean that, but don’t disavow those saying it.)
Then – this is critical – appoint to the Supreme Court a life-long opponent of the Civil Rights Act who spent a career trying to get courts to repeal it but couldn’t unless he became the court. Brush off the fact that the day after his ruling, your party in states across the land enacted legislation aimed at suppressing votes of people likely to vote against you. Pretend members of those legislatures haven’t admitted their aims and gloated about them.
Make sure no one on your side accepts the mountain of evidence that voter fraud is statistically a thing of the past. Insist the flood of stories of life-long voters and legal citizens being unable to get the required ID and being denied the right to vote are the price we must pay to protect that right, even though it’s only your cozenage and cynical legislation which have put it in peril.
Appoint Justices that’ll allow unlimited and untraceable money from a handful of billionaires and corporations to influence elections. It helps when your Court can do so with the declaration that “independent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption.” Best if they can manage to say it with a straight face.
To solidify the indoctrination, convince people science is a hoax. (Well, maybe not when it comes to cell phones and satellites, airplanes, antibiotics, and nuclear power; just about climate change, the age of Earth, and evolution.) Appealing to biblical literalists makes it easier, as does a continuing effort to convince Christians that restricting prayers in public schools and crèches on courthouse lawns puts their religious freedom in immediate danger. In lying about it, make sure to obfuscate and disclaim the ways in which maintaining separation of church and state is, in fact, the single most important principle by which their religious freedom and that of all others (yeah, maybe don’t mention that part) is respected and preserved. That secures more votes than a Kansas voting machine.
Now you need to discredit the most important components of our democracy: free press, quality public education, compromise, and trust in the process. Claim the other party just wants “free stuff,” that mitigating income inequality and helping the poor to escape poverty doesn’t make capitalism work better. At which point they’re ready to vote for your tax cuts for the wealthy, paid for by taking away that “free stuff,” convinced that trickle-down fixes everything, even though it’s been proven false over and over. Your efforts are paying off: by now they’ll neither notice nor care. It’s the time-tested effectiveness of constant disinformation.
Finally – and this is what it’s all been leading up to -- you reduce polling places, voting machines, and personnel in precincts that tend to vote for the other party, and you make sure polling places are closed at the times they’re most able to vote, forcing intolerable wait times.
So that’s it: misinform enough voters on one side and prevent votes of enough on the other. If you’re still worried, you could tell your people to show up at opposition-dense polling places, preferably armed, to intimidate or scare away voters. But no one would do that, right? Unless you’ve convinced them it was the other side doing the rigging.[Image source]