Only days before the 2016 presidential election, an October 14th-20th Reuters/Ipsos survey has shown that nearly 70 percent of Republicans believe “a Clinton victory would be because of illegal voting or vote rigging”.
During his third and final debate with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, GOP nominee Donald Trump refused to promise to accept the results of the upcoming election. Trump later clarified his position — “I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election, if I win.” More recently, Trump’s son Eric has said his father will accept the election results “if it’s fair”.
Meanwhile, a longtime Trump adviser and dirty tricks political operative — who back in 2000 helped stage a riot that shut down the Florida vote recount in the 2000 presidential election — has just launched a venture, allegedly to find evidence of 2016 election vote fraud, that appears based on the certainty that there will be significant Democratic Party-linked electoral fraud in the upcoming election.
It’s called “Stop The Steal” — a Roger Stone project which has popped into existence more or less simultaneously with the emergence of a new far-right conspiracy theory alleging a George Soros plot to steal the 2016 election from Trump by manipulating electronic voting machines.
In short, Donald Trump might really be planning the high risk strategy, with a murky end-game, of undercutting the legitimacy of a Hillary Clinton 2016 election win — a strategy telegraphed months ago by his political operative Roger Stone just as Trump’s poll numbers began to sag.
Back on July 30th, in an appearance on the alt-right Milo Yiannopoulos show, Stone laid out the script, advising that Donald Trump should “constantly” repeat messages such as,
“I am leading in Florida. The polls all show it. If I lose Florida, we will know that there’s voter fraud. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate”.
And since his poll numbers began to collapse in early August, Trump has dutifully followed Stone’s script, by ceaselessly predicting electoral fraud in the upcoming 2016 election. Trump’s rhetoric deeply worries scholars. Harvard professor Steven Levitsky told the New York Times,
“To a political scientist who studies authoritarianism, it’s a shock. This is the stuff that we see in Russia and Venezuela and Azerbaijan and Malawi and Bangladesh, and that we don’t see in stable democracies anywhere.”
During his July 30th Yiannopoulos show appearance, Roger Stone also predicted that theft of the 2016 election would lead to “a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience” and even a “blood bath”.
Now, with Trump’s poll numbers even lower and a Clinton win likely, Stone appears to be preparing the post-November 8th surprise.
If Hillary Clinton takes the 2016 presidential election, within days after the November 8th vote Donald Trump, who has for months now been predicting electoral fraud, may well announce that he has empirical evidence to “prove”, or at least strongly indicate, that such fraud has really taken place.
If so, some of that evidence — which probably won’t be taken very seriously by professional pollsters but will help cement, in the minds of Trump supporters, the conviction that the election was stolen from Donald Trump — will probably come from Stone, whose role in the current election includes claiming “backchannel” communication with Wikileaks, an ongoing source of anti-Clinton leaks in the 2016 election.
Roger Stone’s most famous dirty tricks feat might be the 2000 election manufacturing of the notorious “Brooks Brothers riot” in which paid GOP operatives violently stormed Florida’s Miami-Dade County election board, an act of sabotage which helped shut down the board’s recount of votes that might have reversed George W. Bush’s razor thin lead in Florida and put Democrat Al Gore in the White House.
Sixteen years later, Stone appears to be at it again.
In a Thursday, October 20th radio show interview, Roger Stone told Sam Bushman, host of the Liberty Roundtable radio show — a nationally syndicated alt-right talk radio show which back on March 1st featured a widely noticed interview with Donald Trump, Jr. — about Stone’s apparent plan to run his own exit polling operation in various states on November 8th.
Stone claimed he already had one hundred committed volunteers, with more on the way. As he explained it to Bushman, at a little past eighteen minutes into the second one-hour segment of Sam Bushman’s Monday through Friday two-hour show,
“We have a little program I’m working with, called stopthesteal.org, where we are collecting volunteers to work certain targeted precincts, in certain targeted counties, in certain targeted states, where we think they may steal, where we think they may manipulate the machines.
If you compare the exit poll results with the results of the machines on a one-by-one basis, and there’s a wide swing, you would know that you have voter fraud…
You can’t just get out there and say ‘This is rigged’ because you lost. But we are going to attempt to amass the evidence — and hopefully we’re wrong. Hopefully it’s unnecessary. And there’s the real answer. But these machines can be rigged easily and this is the only way to check and see if they are. Exit polls are more valid, more accurate than other polls because people don’t know, when they’re leaving the polling place, who has won yet. There’s a tremendous tendency to gravitate to the person, you know, who wins.”
Stone proceeded to explain Hillary Clinton’s consistent lead over Donald Trump in national polls as the result of a vast conspiracy of pollsters to “set a public expectation level” that would neatly coincide with the November 8th voting results which would be the produced by electronic voting machine fraud.
So, “if the final poll shows that Hillary wins by nine, let’s say, hypothetically, and Hillary wins the machines by nine, you’ll see they’ve been coordinated,” reasoned Stone.
And who controlled the electronic machines that would steal the 2016 election away from Trump ?
Bushman’s co-host Curt Crosby then asked Roger Stone about a (discredited) conspiracy theory, first advanced on October 18th by the Daily Caller media website, which suggested a connection between billionaire investor George Soros and an international voting technology company, Smartmatic, alleged to control voting machines in 16 US states. Seeming to endorse the claim, Stone replied,
“Yeah, I saw the story about Soros having a stake in machine company. I would point out that the people who owned the Diebold machines, I think their company’s now called Premier Election Services — I don’t know how much more generic you can get — they were very close to the Bushes. I’ve always believed the machines were rigged by George Bush, George W. Bush, against Kerry in Ohio, in the second Bush election.
So, I believe both sides engaged in this.”
Following the Daily Caller, host of the popular conspiracy theory website Alex Jones suggested that if Hillary Clinton wins the 2016 election, George Soros could become the de-facto “shadow president” of the United States.
The fact-checking website Snopes.com has assessed the Daily Caller story claims to be “false”, and the Smartmatic company states it “will not be deploying its technology in any U.S. county for the upcoming 2016 U.S. Presidential elections.”
Underscoring that statement is the fact that in 2007 Smartmatic sold its major U.S. Sequoia Voting Systems division, to a group of private investors, as part of the company’s strategic move away from the U.S. market. As reasons for its divestment from the U.S. market, Smartmatic cited,
“the difficult climate in the United States marketplace, tainted by a non-stop debate against foreign investment, especially in the election technology area”
The Daily Caller conspiracy theory story evokes a longstanding obsession of the American far-right concerning an allegedly impending foreign takeover of U.S. government that will enslave the American people.
In many of the seemingly endless versions of this conspiracy theory genre, which has been floating around since the late 1980s, when an evil cabal — that might include Jewish financiers, globalists, the United Nations, or the anti-Christ — achieves control of U.S. government, foreign or UN troops then emerge from secret lairs, in national parks or U.S. military bases, to summarily execute countless Americans and force the rest, tens of millions or more, into concentration camps.
In one version of this conspiracy theory that was popular in the 1990s, Jewish financiers and the Illuminati (who were controlled by the anti-Christ) were conspiring against the American people, and the most visible figures in the plot were President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton who, within the satanic Illuminati hierarchy, was said to outrank her husband Bill.
Now Hillary Clinton, who in decades of encrusted conspiracy theory has long been linked to an evil conspiracy to enslave (or worse) the American people, is poised to become president.
And on hand to gather evidence to “prove” Clinton’s theft of the 2016 election, via Soros-linked manipulation of voting machines, will be Roger Stone and his motley crew of exit pollers.
And if Hillary Clinton does win, Stone’s “evidence” (including sketchy exit poll data) will provide Trump supporters a convenient entry point into the newly emergent mythos concerning the theft of the election.
The legend of Soros control (and manipulation) of American electronic voting machines will then proliferate and acquire the multiple levels of intricate, self-referential detail characteristic of the “birther” conspiracy theories that challenged President Barack Obama’s American citizenship.
But Stone’s key claim — that “exit polls are more valid” than others polls (and thus the best benchmark for determining possible election fraud according to Stone) — is a rather dubious one.
In reality, American-style exit polls tend to be inaccurate, and for a number of reasons. One is that younger voters are more likely to participate in them than older voters. As explained in a June 27, 2016 New York Times story titled Exit Polls, and Why the Primary Was Not Stolen From Bernie Sanders,
“The exit polls try to correct for this bias by giving more weight to older respondents. The way it works is pretty novel: Interviewers guess the age of voters as they leave the polling place.”
That crude patch only goes so far :
In the 1992 election, exit polls showed Bill Clinton winning Texas (the state went to George Bush, Sr.) In the 2000 election, exit polls showed Al Gore winning the states of Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina (he lost all four, by huge margins.) 2004 election national exit polls showed John Kerry three points ahead of George W. Bush (for more on the unreliability of exit polls, see 1,2).
As a seasoned political operative whose career goes back to the Nixon presidency, Roger Stone is presumably well aware of the unreliability of exit polls. So what’s he up to ?
The likely true purpose of Stone’s exit poll scheme will be to generate a pseudo-empirical body of evidence pointing to the very sort of electoral fraud Donald Trump has been warning of since the start of August. And, the beauty of it is that Roger Stone won’t even necessarily need to rig his exit polls.
The Stone/Trump “election will be rigged” PR campaign seems to have begun in earnest starting with an August 1st Fox interview in which Donald Trump told Sean Hannity,
“I’m telling you, November 8th, we’d better be careful because that election is going to be rigged. And I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it’s going to be taken away from us.”
The timing was notable — only a few days earlier, on July 27th, aggregated national polls had shown Donald Trump opening up a slim 1.1% lead, 45.7% to 44.6%, over Hillary Clinton. It was probably the high water mark of the Trump campaign.
But only a few days later, Trump’s polling numbers began to crash. By August 1st, Trump’s polling was down to 42% and Hillary Clinton had opened up almost a 4 percent lead. By August 9th, Clinton’s lead over Trump was almost 8%.
That was the context for the start of Donald Trump’s “rigged election” talk. His poll numbers were collapsing, along with presidential aspirations. Trump then seemed to follow Roger Stone’s lead.
Only two days before Trump told Sean Hannity that the “election is going to be rigged”, on July 30, Stone had joined alt-right star Milo Yiannopoulos in an interview on Yiannopolous’ eponymous podcast show that was showcased by Breitbart news. In the deeply disturbing interview, Stone told Yiannopolous,
“I think we have widespread voter fraud, but the first thing that Trump needs to do is begin talking about it constantly. He needs to say for example, today would be a perfect example: ‘I am leading in Florida. The polls all show it. If I lose Florida, we will know that there’s voter fraud. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.’ ”
Stone went on to predict, to Yiannopoulos, a “bloodbath” if the 2016 election were stolen from Trump.
Roger Stone’s 2016 accusations of electoral fraud actually predate the general election. Back in April 2016, Stone suggested to Politico that Donald Trump’s Wisconsin GOP primary loss to Ted Cruz was probably due to voting fraud via electronic voting machines.
Stone cited, as a source for claim, the work of mathematician Richard Charnin — who has asserted, on the basis of (unreliable) exit poll results, a pattern of election fraud in Wisconsin in the 2012 and 2014 elections.
Then, in an August 16, 2016 op-ed published by The Hill, Can the 2016 election be rigged? You bet, Roger Stone focused on the very real fact that electronic voting machines which produce no backup paper records and are demonstrably very easy to hack are in still in wide use in states across the country. Stone again cited the work of Richard Charmin.
“We are now living in a fake reality of constructed data and phony polls. The computerized voting machines can be hacked and rigged”, warned Stone in his August 16th The Hill op-ed.
That statement featured two of the three pillars in Roger Stone’s narrative that’s likely to be deployed post-November 8th, in a PR campaign to sear into the minds of Trump supporters the unshakeable belief that the election was stolen from Donald Trump :
1) Electronic voting machines can be easily hacked (this is proven and uncontested), and through their hacking many national and state elections have been stolen (alleged by Democrats, Republicans, and Independents but contested).
2) Most of the national and state surveys of voter preference leading up to the 2016 election have been rigged against Donald Trump, in favor of Hillary Clinton (neither Trump nor his surrogates have produced a shred of evidence to back up this claim.)
Of course, Roger Stone’s exit polls probably won’t be the sort of extensive, rigorous, and methodologically sophisticated (not to mention expensive) exit poll surveys done elsewhere around the world (but not in the U.S.) to confirm the veracity of vote counts.
Stone’s polls will, if anything, likely be even less rigorous than the comparatively lax U.S. election exit polls traditionally carried out by Edison Research, which typically have a significant margin of error.
So even if he doesn’t tamper with his raw data, Stone’s exit poll data will almost inevitably demonstrate substantial deviations from the recorded voting results. All Stone will need to do is select some data sets which show the greatest deviations and gift-wrap them for rightwing media.
Of course, there’s no reason whatsoever to trust data produced under a project, concerning the veracity of the 2016 election results, that’s headed by a hardened, partisan political operative who has admitted to covertly manipulating at least one prior presidential election.
Not to mention that Stone has asserted the American moon landings were faked and heavily praised conspiracy theorist James Fetzer who, “has claimed that the Holocaust, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and 9/11 attacks were faked”.
Nonetheless, Stone’s suspect data, trumpeted by Donald, will confirm the worst suspicions of Trump voters desperate for explanations of how Donald Trump’s meteoric political ascent could have so quickly crashed to earth : The pre-election polls were rigged for Hillary. The voting was rigged for Hillary. The exit polls prove it.
Roger Stone has candidly voiced regret for his 2000 election “Brooks Brothers riot” stunt, not because of its anti-democratic nature but for its awful fruit — the disastrous U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq which has led in turn to the rise of ISIS ; In 2008 Stone told the Daily Beast,
“When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, ‘Maybe there wouldn’t have been a war if I hadn’t gone to Miami-Dade.’ “
Regardless, in 2016 Stone is at it again. This time, judging by Stone’s July 30th prediction that voter fraud in the upcoming election could cause a “bloodbath”, the result might well be a post-election riot, or worse.
But does Stone want all-out armed conflict ? Probably not.
Even though almost one quarter (24%) of Trump supporters believe that the losing candidate should challenge the election results, and almost one in five Trump supporters (19%) believe, according to a new survey, that violence would be justified if Hillary Clinton wins the election, Trump supporters skew towards the elderly end of the age demographic and may lack the energy and ambition to launch a second civil war.
More likely goals include the general destabilization of American democracy and, in particular, the de-legitimizing, at least in the minds of tens of millions of dedicated Trump supporters, of Hillary Clinton’s presidency.
An October 14-20 Ipsos/Reuters survey showed that only one half of Republicans would accept Hillary Clinton as their president and an astonishing number, almost 70 percent, “said a Clinton victory would be because of illegal voting or vote rigging”.
In other words, the Stone/Trump election fraud narrative has already been widely accepted among Trump supporters, and so Roger Stone’s “Stop The Steal” project will merely provide some additional details and back-story to flesh it out.
That establishes a political climate even more toxic than when Barack Obama assumed the presidency in early 2009. So, we will inevitably see a replay, probably with greater intensity, of the post-1992 and post-2008 campaigns to cripple, respectively, the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Trump’s angry millions will also be primed to become avid viewers of Trump TV or whatever media venture Donald Trump (perhaps along with Breitbart news mogul Steve Bannon, official CEO of the Trump for President effort) might launch in 2017.
In other words, the rage that Donald Trump, Roger Stone, and others have provoked among Trump’s voter base can help monetize Trump’s new business model.
That business model will further vitiate sagging mainstream media outlets by bleeding off viewers, and it will further mainstream the toxic mix of populist rage, xenophobic nationalism, and rightwing conspiracy theory that helped propel Donald Trump to the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination in the first place.
And, it will help pave the way for Trump 2.0, whoever that may be.
It’s widely recognized that even if Donald Trump loses the 2016 election his candidacy has served as a terrifying proof-of-concept, of the fact that America appears primed for the rise of populist, rightwing authoritarianism.
But, how has this come to pass ? And is there a deeper story to be told ?
Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy has underscored an emergent national crisis — Americans are splitting into two mutually hostile camps, each with its own, very different epistemic reality. Each camp has its own narrative, its own facts, its own reality.
One camp draws its set of facts almost exclusively the self-referential media ecosystem represented by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and rightwing talk radio, and a swarm of insurgent Internet media entities — Breitbart News, the Drudge Report, the Daily Caller, The Blaze, World Net Daily, Infowars, and so on.
In that epistemic reality, it is taken as fact that President Barack Obama was not born an American citizen, is probably a secret Muslim, did not head the Harvard Law Review, and golfs more than any American president in history (he doesn’t.)
There are many academics digging into the issue of how this happened.
One is sociologist and retired U.S. Army intelligence analyst James Scaminaci, who reports coming home to the U.S. in 2003 from assignments in Bosnia and Herzegovina — where he had analyzed the criminal and social networks behind the ongoing ethnic cleansing there — and discovering, to his dismay the impact that the politicized religious right was exerting in American politics
By 2009, Scaminaci was writing extensively on the rise of the Tea Party movement and on the increasingly rancorous political climate in America – that Scaminaci considered pre-revolutionary (see this Salon.com interview with Scaminaci.)
“What escapes these scholars,” writes Scaminaci, “is the idea that what they measure in their studies is the result of a deliberate strategy of destruction.”
The Tea Party-driven takeover of Congress and the Senate in 2010 closely resembled the Newt Gingrich-led 1994 Republican takeover of Congress which, like the 2010 takeover, led to government paralysis. It also enabled the Republican congressional impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
According to scholars Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, “Gingrich delegitimized the Congress” which in turn “began the populist conservative hatred of government.”
As it happens, Gingrich had been trained by one of the most important architects of the American religious right, Paul Weyrich, a man designated “The Robespierre of the Right” in a 2007 New Republic story and who co-founded (and arranged initial funding for) much of the movement’s early infrastructure. In 1996, Weyrich told PBS Frontline that he and Gingrich were “right now traveling down the same freeway”.
And, Weyrich was the very Christian right leader, according to James Scaminaci, who was “responsible for the development of the strategy of Fourth Generation Warfare–the central aim of which is to delegitimize the federal government.”
At his influential Free Congress Foundation think tank, Weyrich was the longtime employer and close colleague of William S. Lind, a brilliant paleoconservative military strategist most responsible for the development of “Fourth Generation Warfare” (4GW), a style of warfare useful to insurgencies and terrorist groups that blurs civilian/combatant distinctions and uses a wide spectrum of tactics, from public relations and propaganda to outright violence.
The paramount goal of 4GW is the delegitimization of the targeted government or power structure.
William Lind has publicly noted that multiple copies of his seminal 1989 US Marine Corps Gazette on 4GW were found in the Tora Bora, Afghanistan caves of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
Scholars both of al-Qaeda and Fourth Generation Warfare have also noted (see link, above) that the apparent inspiration for al-Qaeda’s grand strategy behind it’s devastating September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon seems to have come from William Lind’s 4GW ideas.
Since retiring from the U.S. Army in 2009, James Scaminaci has written an impressive body of academic monographs analyzing the rise of the Tea Party, and the contemporary insurgent American right, as an expression of Fourth Generation Warfare with the ultimate aim of overthrowing the existing American social and political order.
Scaminaci notes, of Donald Trump’s Republican Presidential nomination acceptance speech, that,
“Trump’s speech has been described as angry and dark, dystopian and desperate, apocalyptic, appealing to fear, a campaign of fear, a psychotic disorder, demagoguery, and America in crisis. But his remarks are entirely consistent with the tone and substance of Williams S. Lind’s Fourth Generation Warfare writings. Key passages speak to the question of legitimacy, specifically that President Obama or Secretary Clinton, or the unnamed federal government have failed to protect citizens from undocumented murdering immigrants and Muslim terrorists.”
During the Spring of 2016, William S. Lind personally met with Donald Trump and gave Trump the 2009 book that Lind co-authored with the late Paul Weyrich, The Next Conservatism. The Lind/Weyrich book outlines a policy platform remarkably similar to the platform Donald Trump ran on in the 2016 GOP primaries.
The book also contains a several page explanation of Fourth Generation Warfare.
In his 105 page monograph titled The Free Congress Foundation’s Political-Military Strategy Documents, James Scaminaci traces some of the dense connections between William Lind’s ideas and the white nationalist right that played a major role in propelling Donald Trump to the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
Lind is author of the 2014 book Victoria — A Novel of Fourth Generation Warfare that favorably depicts white Christian militia insurgents toppling the federal government and carrying out mass ethnic cleansing.