Patiently awaiting the Golden Years

Influencing elections

By Randall Poulton | Aug 18, 2018

First, let me say I do not like it, at all, that politicians use fake news and lies to influence our elections and I like it even less that outside entities try to influence our elections. If I had a magic wand, I would stop foreign countries from engaging in our political process. And, while I was at it, I would disappear all “social media.”

Calling these unregulated mass communication platforms social media is like calling a strip joint a gentlemen’s club. There are few gentlemen in a strip joint and there is nothing “social” about anonymously typing your opinion, or lies supporting your agenda, on a keyboard. In fact, it is producing people who are distinctly anti-social. But I digress.

Today we have a huge uproar about Russia “interfering” in our elections (I think the Trump-hating media like the word “interfere” because it sounds more ominous than influence). What Russia did was buy a small amount of advertising on Facebook ($100,000 worth vs the $81 million spent by the Trump and Clinton campaigns), plant fake news stories and leak otherwise private information (dirt), on candidates.

Most of this “Russian interference” took place on social media, a platform whose veracity is somewhat below Saturday Night Live (apparently SNL is where many millennials get their "news").

While I do not like the idea of outside entities trying to influence voters, a part of me thinks that if people are so dumb as to believe what they read online, let them suffer the consequences.

By the way, the most popular ad campaign the Russians ran on Facebook was “Back the Badge,” which encouraged Americans to support the police. Pretty scary stuff.

The fact is outside entities trying to influence elections is nothing new. In the 1950s, the CIA set up powerful radio stations (known as “Radio Free Europe”) to broadcast propaganda into the USSR.

Today, people like George Soros, Michael Bloomberg and the Koch brothers spend billions of dollars to forward their agendas all over the world, including here in Maine. They do this in part by funding nonprofit groups with warm and fuzzy names like The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and The Maine People’s Alliance (MPA).

Endowed with huge sums of money, these organizations hire lobbyists and pay people to collect signatures to place culture-changing “citizens' initiatives” on Maine’s ballot.

The irony is the very wealthy people behind these “citizen’s initiatives” are not citizens of Maine. They do not live here, they do not pay taxes here, and the laws they pass will not apply to them. Yet Bloomberg and Soros want to tell us what to do.

Recent examples include Question 1 in 2014, a law that would have ended bear hunting in Maine (funded by HSUS) and Question 2 in 2016, which would have added a 3-percent tax on all incomes over $200,000.

Despite the fact that not a single newspaper supported Q2, the referendum narrowly passed. Thankfully, the Legislature repealed the new tax before any real damage was done.

This fall, voters will once more decide whether to raise taxes — this time a 3.8-percent tax to fund a home care program for elderly Mainers. The Soros money behind this effort is laundered through the Open Society Policy Center, which, in turn, is bankrolling the effort to levy a new tax on “rich” Mainers.

Regardless of how you may feel about bear hunting or raising taxes, I would hope you are outraged that out-of-state money is hijacking Maine’s so-called citizens' initiative process. It’s big trouble.

Dave Trahan, former legislator and now head of Sports Alliance of Maine, put it this way: “Out-of-state interests (are using) the referendum system to pass complicated law and promote long-term agendas (that) could destroy the culture and outdoor traditions of rural Maine.”

Not to mention trying to impose taxes that, if successful, will lead to a mass exodus of high-income earners. It is not a coincidence that Texas and Florida, which have no state income taxes, are seeing huge increases in population and wealth. Money is portable.

Maybe some good will come out of this sudden interest in protecting the sanctity of our elections, but I doubt it. Why? Because influencing elections is as American as apple pie.

The the editorial board of this newspaper does it. I often do it when I write this column. Television and radio are flooded with political ads trying to influence the outcome of elections and referendums.

It seems very unlikely, not to mention unconstitutional, that Congress will pass a law regulating the veracity of political speech. PACs and politicians have always played fast and loose with the truth and exaggeration is the coin of their realm. I do not see that changing (unless I get that magic wand).

So, if they cannot control the content, maybe Congress should try to regulate who can buy a TV spot, a Facebook ad, or an editorial board in an attempt to influence an election. That would be a very slippery slope.

Such legislation would impinge on our constitutional rights of freedom of the press (media) and freedom of speech. As Benjamin Franklin said: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

This month’s 'Did you know'

Just in case you missed the very scant coverage of the fantastic numbers our economy is racking up, here they are:

  • Since Donald Trump was elected, we have added 3.2 million new jobs and now have the lowest unemployment since 1969.
  • In the second quarter of 2018, our GDP grew at 4.1 percent (a rate high enough to pay for all of Trump's tax cuts).
  • After an early “correction,” the stock market is now up for 2018 (S&P is plus-6.6 percent as of 8/7/18), cementing last year's massive 40-percent gains.
  • Inflation is up only slightly, running at an annualized rate of less than 3 percent (and the next Fed rate hike should cool that a bit).
  • North Korea has returned the long-held remains of MIAs and has not tested a nuke or fired a missile since the Singapore Summit.

All and all, Trump-a-nomics seems to be working rather well. Oh, and Stormy Daniels’ "make America horny again" tour is making her very rich. What a great country we live in!

Randall Poulton lives in Winterport. He writes a monthly column for The Republican Journal.


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