As evident by the sudden deluge of campaign fliers in my mailbox, the 2018 midterms are just around the corner. As with his predecessors, President Trump has hit the campaign trail to advocate for his preferred congressional, senatorial, and gubernatorial candidates– albeit with his unique kind of self-aggrandizing flair. When he’s not mounting scathing, unprecedented rhetorical assaults on the media, the President is often highlighting his accomplishments. He rarely misses an opportunity to insist that everything he’s doing is to put America first.

Apparently, despite being partially defined by the opportunity to vote for one’s own representatives, that agenda doesn’t include securing American elections.

It’s no secret that the Russian government deployed a sophisticated operation to meddle with the 2016 election with the intent of bolstering Trump’s candidacy. It’s not only the conclusion of several of our intelligence agencies but that of a GOP-led Senate investigation. Despite this, President Trump continues to publicly question whether Russia interfered.

The only mistake equal in magnitude to thinking it didn’t happen is thinking that it couldn’t happen again. Because it already is.

I do not want to suggest that law enforcement and security agencies have been standing idly by while the threat grows. The FBI, NSA, and U.S. Cyber Command have all taken steps to combat Russian hacking. Nor has the Trump administration done “nothing” entirely– it has increased information sharing between it and state elections offices to prevent the hacking of voter rolls that happened leading up to 2016. Although that was only one element of Russia’s multifaceted approach.

But Trump administration officials (current and former) admit that there is no centralized, well-coordinated effort to combating the threat posed by the Kremlin.

Despite all of this, the President does something worse than shy away from the topic. He actively strives to delegitimize it. He decries not only the collusion investigation but the entire premise of Russian meddling as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.” And polling shows that he has successfully swayed the majority of Republicans into agreeing with him.

 

 And, not uncoincidentally, roughly half of Republicans do not believe that Russia is attempting to interfere with 2018. Again despite all evidence to the contrary and the insistence of our law enforcement and security agencies.

It’s difficult to claim that you’re putting America first when you’re at best apathetic to an assault on one of its core tenets. Or, at worst, actively undermining the work and legitimacy of those trying to stop it.

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Peter Licari
Peter is a PhD student in American Politics and Political Methodology at the University of Florida studying political behavior, elections, and polling. He identifies as an ideological moderate and a center-left Republican. While he departs from the party line on a handful of salient issues (Gay Marriage, Climate Change, and Abortion), he tends to identify strongly with many of the party's core values including equality of opportunity, empowering individual liberty, the importance of state and local governance, and the power of a fair market. He firmly believes in the necessity of limited government intervention on those issues enumerated by the constitution and by legal precedent but is leery at expansion beyond that sphere. He also blogs at www.awildpoliticalnerd.com and doodles web-comics at www.p05comics.tumblr.com. What little spare time remains is dedicated to long-distance running, reading, playing video games with his ever-patient fiancee, Stephanie, and to oddly productive one-sided conversations with his cat, Asia.