Vote Chaos Monkeys 2018

By now it is obvious what the Russian strategy was in 2016. Hurting Clinton (and thereby helping Trump) was only part of a larger plan to infect our discourse and society with chaos by exploiting fractures that already existed in our society. Whether it involved attempts to create armed protests against “sharia law” combined with simultaneous counter protests, inciting NFL fans, or covertly encouraging both the Brexit leave and Catalan secession vote, the Russians really just seem to be agents of chaos.

Let’s not give Russia too much credit, however. They are exploiting cracks which already exist, and US democracy might happily self destruct without Russian assistance. Newt Gingrich, Roger Ailes, and Rush Limbaugh turned political polarization into power and profit long before Putin came along. Yet even so, if I was in Putin’s shoes, how would my chaos monkeys vote in the 2018 midterm elections?

To begin with, the lack of consequences for being caught and, indeed, that simply acknowledging the facts of Russian interference is now a partisan issue means I can even increase my tempo of operations. I’m now stuck with the Magnitsky act no matter what I do, while further sanctions seem to be languishing unimplemented. And although my economy is hurting this is due almost completely to low oil prices, not sanctions for my invasions of Crimea and the Donbass. So without fear of further consequences it is OK to be even more brazen.

My first target would be the Republican primaries. The simple presence of a Bannonite threatening an establishment Republican is a gift, one that I will exploit with relish. Every dirty trick in the book, from some anonymous campaign ads, armies of Twitter and Facebook trolls, and targeted hack-and-dump operations are on the table. Every Roy Moore insurgent who runs helps me and the better the insurgents do the better the result as it drives any “mainstream” candidates further to the right, assuming the mainstream candidates survive the primary process at all.

Unfortunately for me, this exploitable strain of anti-establishment is nowhere near as prevalent on the left. For all that the Elizabeth Warrens and Bernie Sanders help my cause by driving the Democratic party further left, there is little appetite for primary challengers so my extreme left opportunities are mostly limited to cases where there is no Democratic incumbent. But when an opportunity exists I’ll still take it, throwing resources towards the more extreme Democrats.

And after that comes the main event of the midterms themselves. With luck in each race I now have a choice between two candidates which, on an individual level, further spread chaos. Ideally the general election will include a generous crop of gun toting pedophiles running against geriatric communists. In any individual race I’d bias my support towards whoever appears the most unhinged but if two opposing candidates are both relatively sane and competitive, I’ll throw my support towards the Democrat.

If the first year of the Trump administration was a legislative and policy disaster with the Republicans in charge of the House and Senate, imagine what year 3 will be like with a slim Democratic majority in the legislature? Especially one that has internalized the lessons of the Republicans in Obama’s final years? Not just impeachment proceedings, but the inevitable parade of separate investigative committees. With luck, the “Trumpgazi” committee will have a productive 2019.

Yet I wouldn’t be satisfied there. Not only would I want the Democrats to win, but I’d want as many wins to be illegitimate. So records of my meddling, investigative hearings, and flurries of news stories are perfectly fine. After all, a key component of the Russian plan if Clinton won was to deligitmize her election. And since nothing delegitimises an election like significant irregularities, it’s time to “Hack the Vote”.

There are many mechanisms, such as tampering with electronic voter rolls or voting machines, that can swing the outcome. So I’d use them selectively, trying to amplify the “win” of the victors I want. Take precinct maps and data from any reputable election analytics firm (after all, I need to buy this data anyway to know where to send my Fancy Bears to play) to determine which precincts to target and make the tampering both somewhat obvious and significant. Imagine if 10% of the voters in only the Republican leaning precincts of a state found themselves mysteriously purged from voter rolls? Or if some electronic voting machines would randomly show they are selecting a different candidate?

I hope I am wrong, but I really do fear that we may have to face the campaign from Chaos Monkeys 2018.