Russian warplane buzzing the deck of the USS Donald Cook | attribution: EUCOM
The United States is a powerful nation. Decisions reached in Washington impact millions of people worldwide. It is no surprise that foreign nations follow our electoral process closely, as the results can determine their future as well as our own.
From the very beginning, the men who founded this country were concerned about the possibility of foreign manipulation of our elected representatives, and included this disqualification in the Constitution:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind what- ever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
That came about after the king of France offered a small gift to Arthur Lee (a snuff box) and Benjamin Franklin (a miniature portrait). The framers wanted to paint a bright line that divided American politics from those of other nations.
In a masterful examination of “Extraterritorial Electioneering and the Globalization of American Politics” for the Berkeley Journal of International Law, Zephyr Teachout quotes the concerns of Elbridge Gerry from James Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention:
[W]ished that in the future the eligibility might be confined to Natives. Foreign powers will intermeddle in our affairs, and spare no expense to influence them. Persons having foreign attachments will be sent among us & insinutated into our councils, in order to be made instruments for their purposes. Every one knows the vast sums laid out in Europe for secret services. He was not singular in these ideas. A great many of the most influencial men in Massts. reasoned in the same manner.
The writers of the Constitution did not stop there, however. They added another clause that would hopefully keep foreign actors out of our deliberations.
From Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution:
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;
This requirement was included, in part, to protect against the direct manipulation of the president, and a simple majority of senators, by a foreign national.
Until now, the fear of interference in our self-governance expressed itself in multiple laws and regulations. During the 20th century, the focus reflected our changing technology as ownership of radio stations was restricted to American citizens under the Radio Act of 1927. Foreign agents were required to register with the United States government and propaganda was to be clearly identified under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which was passed in 1938.
[P]ersons in the United States representing foreign governments or foreign political groups, who are supplied by such foreign agencies with funds and other materials to foster un-American activities, and to influence the external and internal politics of this country, thereby violating both the letter and the spirit of international law, as well as the democratic basis of our own American institutions of government.
In this 2009 article, Zephyr Teachout predicted that the changing technology of the internet would require a new examination of how we protect the integrity of our governing processes while still allowing American citizens the value that international perspectives provide. Although she is unable to offer a solution to the problems she presents, she does suggest that an educated public would provide the best protection.
…the most important protection against the dangers of extraterritorial electioneering might be stronger democratic institutions at home, instead of barriers to foreign intervention. By stronger institutions I do not just mean a working voting booth, but a deeper, societal commitment to education and good, reliable, information.
Rather prophetic, since she wrote this all before the introduction of extraterritorial fake news into our political campaigns.
Until we reach the point where we have stronger democratic institutions, we must rely on the ones we have to protect us from our enemies, domestic or foreign. Leaders are required to take an oath to do that.
In order to be a sovereign nation, we must be in charge of our own electoral processes. To have a foreign nation commit crimes in the furtherance of its efforts to elect its chosen puppet denies our ability to self-govern and must be challenged. And while our Congress willingly spent millions of dollars and wasted hundreds of hours examining a tragedy overseas, it seems oddly reluctant to take even a cursory glance at the theft that has just occurred here at home.
Do our Republican representatives care at all about the principles outlined in our Constitution, the one that they insisted upon reading aloud on the floor of the House? Or was the Constitution only of use when there was a black man in the White House? Do its restrictions only apply on a partisan basis? The GOP has successfully made even the routine business of the House a partisan issue—should they now be allowed to make the Constitution, written to protect the rights of all Americans, a partisan document?
The subversion of our sovereignty by Vladimir Putin and his cronies has resulted in the first Cabinet ever selected specifically to grant the president-elect’s every wish and make all of his dreams come true. So why is the party of Ronald (Evil Empire) Reagan allowing our government to be run by a foreign power? Is their hunger for winning being allowed to trump their duty to preserve and protect the Constitution?
It is time to call them on this. And it is up to us to do it, since it appears no one else will.