By Charlie Johnston
Over the last few weeks there has been much speculation over the possibility that I might be objectively wrong about the peaceful transfer of power. That is well and proper, since the key to everything is to take the next right step in each moment, whatever happens. People are preparing themselves for that. But I want to warn you, take care that you not go into panic if a mighty convulsion proves me objectively right. I consider that the most likely eventuality.
Late last summer I was surprised when U.S. national intelligence warned it was wary of Russian attempts to hack electoral machinery. It surprised me because the Obama administration has been notably indifferent to cyber-security throughout his term. The hacking of personal information of some 21 million Americans earlier last summer was met with little more than a yawn, the same treatment every other cyber breach of sensitive national data has received from this administration. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed that it take control of election machinery to prevent any problems. The founders specifically gave control of election machinery to the states as a check on overweening federal ambition, which could easily destroy electoral integrity. This was both unnecessary and un-Constitutional (though I well know that the Obama administration’s approach to Constitutional impediments to what it wants has routinely been, “Constitution?! We don’t need no stinking Constitution!). At the time, I tartly suggested there was a much simpler solution that required no centralization of power: use paper ballots for this election. Paper ballots are hack-proof. Given previous indifference and the unlikelihood of Congress ever approving a takeover of election machinery, it made little sense on its own. It did occur to me, though, that it did make sense as a step laying groundwork for a fallback position to invalidate the election in case it did not go as the administration thought.
The day before the election I had dinner at the home of a media figure. At one point he asked me, not by revelation, but by pure analysis, what I thought was really going to happen the next day. I told him I thought Donald Trump would win quite handily; that the political and media establishment had badly underestimated the sheer disgust in the country for that same establishment. I offered only one caveat: that when I worked in Illinois politics I routinely factored in a three to five point fraud factor statewide Republican candidates would have to overcome – and that I had seen more credible evidence of massive national vote fraud this time than I ever had in my life. I suggested this might be why the establishment left was so confident, but they were likely going to be shocked it wasn’t enough this time. Then, I said, the left would do what it does when it suffers a reverse and there would be rioting in the streets for a while.
The near comical effort to mount a recall in key Midwestern states by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who had no standing, and the ominous targeting of members of the Electoral College by the party of ‘peace, tolerance and sweet reason’ bemused me. I thought them smokescreens to mask any real efforts to overturn election results and to project an image of feckless bumbling. Why feckless bumbling? To lower the guard of the populace against real mischief.
Then came the “Russian hacking” story with all the substance and solidity of a matchstick tower. Once you got past the scare quotes and headlines, all that was alleged was that the Russians tried to influence the election by releasing hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and high Clinton campaign officials. No one – except the idiot press – suggested Russia actually hacked the election by interfering with the vote count in any way, though the press relentlessly printed headlines implying that. Even worse, once you got into the specifics of the “intelligence” assessment, the main “evidence” was that this is the sort of thing DHS thinks Russians do. Well, d’uh. Nations have been trying to influence each others elections and internal affairs since time immemorial, and using whatever technology is current to do it. We do it constantly to other nations. Back in the day when the U.S. was battling the Soviet Union, the Soviets sought to discredit their targets by spreading disinformation. This is the only time I can remember that Russians are accused of discrediting a target by disseminating entirely accurate information. I personally think that the Russians probably played a role – even though no actual evidence of that has been disclosed, except the assertion by intelligence agencies that they think so. Former US Attorney Andrew McCarthy carefully and concisely explains why there is no “there, there” in this story. Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra said bluntly last Friday that the intelligence report was pure politics.
Then last Friday DHS Chief Jeh Johnson unilaterally designated America’s election machinery “critical infrastructure.” Again, this is un-Constitutional, as the founders specifically gave control of election machinery to the states. To change that requires a Constitutional amendment, not a press release from Jeh Johnson. DHS has as much authority over the states’ election machinery as Nigeria has over the U.S. Navy. It seems senseless on the surface, for the incoming Trump administration could – and would – simply reverse it in a couple of weeks. National Review’s John Fund writes that the action is simply a ham-handed effort to take federal control of the states’ election machinery. Obviously true, but that does not explain why the administration would mount the effort knowing it would be overturned in about two weeks.
Since about two weeks after the election, I have been telling friends and my Priests that the period beginning with the second full week of January through Inauguration Day would be one of the most precarious periods in American history, for if there is a serious, non-bumbling plan to overturn the election results, that would be when it was mounted. That’s not revelation, simply strategic analysis. I asked myself a couple of weeks after the election how most effectively to overthrow the lawful order in a soft coup. My answer was to first throw out a few red herrings (the recounts and the electoral college intimidation) to portray any such efforts as futile and to buy time to get the pieces together in the actual plan. Carefully plan that, then wait until mid-January when people are getting back in the swing of things after the Christian holidays and think all is settled. Then strike.
Johnson’s press release last Friday gives the fig leaf of a legal sounding justification for declaring the election invalid, postponing any transfer of power until a new election can be held, and thus securing the blizzard of regulations, takings and international provocations the seemingly outgoing president has issued in the interregnum between administrations. It is entirely un-Constitutional, but that has almost never stopped this administration – and the Republican Congress has rarely been more than a speed-bump in the assault on Constitutional norms. This may not be what happens, but it is one of the few ways in which a flurry of senseless actions of this administration over the last few months do make sense.
So don’t be shocked if this time, instead of an “October surprise” we get a “January surprise.” If we do, stay steady and at your post. Be not afraid. God calls all men to salvation – and He has a plan.