Just after the election in 2016, Donald Trump made the claim that he’d have won the popular vote if not for the millions of “illegal” votes cast for Hillary Clinton. I wrote about this. It included my questioning of the person responsible for making the original claim, Gregg Phillips. Five months after making such absurd claims and saying it was “verified” (those tweets no longer exist), nothing’s changed. There’s no evidence to support the claims in question.
Now it’s Hillary supporters putting forth conspiracies about the election, and I’m merely asking for the same proof I demanded of Trump supporters.
Yesterday I made the mistake of replying to Louise Mensch on Twitter after she said something about Hillary Clinton “deserving” better in the election. It was a mistake because I said it at 11:00 am EST, and my mentions were a hot mess for the next twelve hours. I said Hillary should have “been better.”
After Louise had called me a sexist, Hillary Clinton supporters and self-described “resistance” members unleashed a torrent of insults, accusations, and smears against me and this publication, all of which are laughable. According to the geniuses, RedState is a Trump supporting site akin to Infowars, and I’m a member of the alt-right as well as a Putin stooge and a white nationalist. Those are some of the nicer things they said and all because I pointed out Hillary Clinton didn’t close where she needed to in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
One of the theories pushed by Hillary Clinton supporters is the infamous James Comey letter from October 28. Her supporters cite this piece by Nate Silver as “proof” it helped sway the election in Trump’s favor. Of course, they berated Silver for not giving Hillary a 99.999% chance of winning in the 538 election forecast, but in this instance, his word was all they needed. The problem is if you read Silver’s piece, it’s a classic example of correlation, not proving causation. The race tightened in the final days before the election, but that almost always happens and doesn’t demonstrate a link to Comey’s letter.
The more interesting theory and the one promulgated by Mensch involve Russians hacking voter rolls in various states and the data used to micro-target voters to get them to support Trump.
— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) April 14, 2017
— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) April 14, 2017
Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what she was talking about at first, but as time went by it became more apparent. Louise and others believe Russian hackers got a hold of voter registration data (this is true as several states were hacked) that was used to target voters via Facebook and Twitter to get them to either vote for Trump or not vote for Hillary Clinton. After a lot of people were yelling, “You’ll see!” when I questioned what it meant, somebody finally just said it:
Voter rolls accessed, used in disinformation campaign by Russian fake news actors to sway turn out.
— Bill I (@Bill_I_Cloud) April 14, 2017
In doing some searching, the theory is making the rounds at various left-wing websites. Of course, the only way the theory holds up is if Trump campaign officials colluded with Russians to get their hands on the data to use it for the microtargeting campaigns.
It sounds very sinister. One can imagine two Russian hackers, Slava and Vasily, pecking away at their keyboards saying (picture it with a Russian accent), “Now that we have voter information, we meet with Conway, Bannon, and Kushner to make Trump the President.”
The campaign then took the information and created Facebook and Twitter ads in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania that turned the tide for Trump in those three states, robbing Hillary Clinton of the election win she “deserved.” While this sounds good for a movie plot or video game campaign, it isn’t rooted in reality.
First of all, there’s no evidence it happened. None. There’s speculation, and people are saying it happened because Trump won. That’s not evidence.
Second, and more importantly, the Trump team didn’t need to use hacked data to target voters. It is public information and is available to purchase. Campaigns can buy the raw data from state registration sites, or they can go to organizations such as L2 Political or NationBuilder to get the data they need.
That is in fact, what the Trump campaign did. Forbes profiled Jared Kushner and how he put together a top flight data operation without hiring organizations such as Targeted Victory:
This wasn’t a completely raw startup. Kushner’s crew was able to tap into the Republican National Committee’s data machine, and it hired targeting partners like Cambridge Analytica to map voter universes and identify which parts of the Trump platform mattered most: trade, immigration or change. Tools like Deep Root drove the scaled-back TV ad spending by identifying shows popular with specific voter blocks in specific regions–say, NCIS for anti-ObamaCare voters or The Walking Dead for people worried about immigration. Kushner built a custom geo-location tool that plotted the location density of about 20 voter types over a live Google Maps interface.
Soon the data operation dictated every campaign decision: travel, fundraising, advertising, rally locations–even the topics of the speeches. “He put all the different pieces together,” Parscale says. “And what’s funny is the outside world was so obsessed about this little piece or that, they didn’t pick up that it was all being orchestrated so well.”
For fundraising they turned to machine learning, installing digital marketing companies on a trading floor to make them compete for business. Ineffective ads were killed in minutes, while successful ones scaled. The campaign was sending more than 100,000 uniquely tweaked ads to targeted voters each day. In the end, the richest person ever elected president, whose fundraising effort was rightly ridiculed at the beginning of the year, raised more than $250 million in four months–mostly from small donors.
Does any of this mean there was no collusion between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government? No. But I will await the findings of the FBI before I reach any conclusions.
The integrity of our electoral system is critical to the stability of our republic. When people make unfounded accusations about it, whether it’s Trump saying millions of illegal votes were cast for Hillary or Louise Mensch saying Team Trump and the Russians colluded on a micro-targeting electoral scheme, it is serious and demands the highest standard of proof. Right now, such evidence doesn’t exist for either accusation. It’s being used to whip die-hard supporters into a frenzy and where is the value in that?