I wish that all Americans would realize that American politics is world politics.Theodore Roosevelt
Labor Day traditionally marks the beginning of the general election season. After the revelations about Russian interference in the 2016 election, we now know that our political discourse is dangerously open to manipulation by malignant foreign governments. The good news is that the US is becoming better at identifying and countering these trolls through the new US Cyber Command, which successfully took down the Russian Internet Security Agency’s effort to influence the 2018 midterm elections (see this article from the Council on Foreign Relations). Nevertheless, Theodore Roosevelt’s advice should always be on our minds. More than ever, American politics is world politics, and all Americans need to see themselves as the first line of defense against attacks against our democracy and be informed on how to identify them.
The Alliance for Securing Democracy recently produced a helpful guide on the methods and messages authoritarian regimes like Russia, China and Iran may use in such attacks. It points out that while their foreign policies may differ, all three see the US as their enemy and peddle misinformation that converges in various ways. The difference between their messages and the legitimate criticism that is a hallmark of a free election is that our adversaries seek to sow despair and division, not hope and positive solutions. Social media platforms definitely need to do more to identify and take down these trolls. However, each of us will have an important daily role in rejecting these attacks against America and our democratic values here at home in the upcoming 2020 campaign.