America’s enemies have not rejoiced with such relish since 9/11. That holds most true for Vladimir Putin, the Russian tyrant who publicly lamented the demise of Stalin’s evil empire as the greatest tragedy of the 20th century. From the beginning, Putin plotted with malice aforethought to disrupt the election as part of his insidious campaign to weaken the United States as a barrier to his imperial ambitions. Putin has not only moved Russia in a repressive direction at home, but has assaulted the freedom and rule of law abroad, likely ordering the poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko in London - a former Secret service official who fled Russia after becoming an outspoken critic of what he called “The Russian Mafia State.” Putin aimed likewise to poison the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election by all means at his disposal. The Russians hacked into the computer system of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. Using Julian Assange of Wikileaks as their willing stooge, the Russians made public private communications damaging to the Clinton campaign. Putin sought by these devious means not only to undermine Clinton’s campaign but to taint Trump by linking his campaign operation to Russian intelligence services. This has created a false appearance of impropriety delegitimizing Trump’s victory even though Trump legitimately won the electoral college despite Russian skullduggery, not because of it.
Our freedom depends on knowing our enemy’s tactics for manipulating the American electoral process to turn us against each other. Immediately after Trump’s victory, a Russian official spread what was almost certainly disinformation, alleging that the Russians maintained regular contacts with the Trump campaign before the election. The Russians have counted on the understandably bruised feelings of Hillary Clinton’s supporters after a lacerating campaign to give these allegations more credence then they deserve, casting further doubt on the legitimacy of Trump’s victory. Trump himself has played right into Putin’s hands with his uninformed and knee jerk responses that scapegoat American intelligence agencies rather than placing the blame for these tactics where it belongs - squarely on Putin.
We the American people must summon the better angels of our nature at this decisive moment when Putin’s tactics seem to be working. Witness, for example, the ominous increase in calls for presidential electors to switch their votes based on the myth fostered by Russian disinformation that the Trump campaign clandestinely and illegally accepted Russian support. Add to this toxic mix the fact that Trump lost the popular vote by 2.8 million and the opportunity to exploit our division is obvious. This synergy of surging discontent could generate a perfect storm for sowing the seeds of discord that could tear the country apart. Every American of intelligence - and good will - should strive mightily to avert that. As we look into this abyss, we must remember what unites us rather than divides us. We are one nation, under law, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. We agree to respect the law, even when we do not like it. We agree to accept the outcome of elections, even when we do not like or respect the winner.
We must not rise to Putin’s bait to cast these verities aside. Luckily we have a potential savior in our midst with the ability to stop Putin’s subversive campaign in its tracks: Hillary Clinton. In a historic act of patriotism, grace, and nobility in defeat, Mrs. Clinton could signal loud and clear she accepts the results of the election. She can call on electors to vote as they have pledged to do and oppose any further efforts to recount the vote. Imagine the seismic impact for the good of such statesmanship that places the nation’s interest rather than hers’ first. She would drive a stake in the heart of Putin’s strategy to weaken us from within. What’s more, she would confound the narrative of her critics who have portrayed her as a veritable Lady MacBeth who will stop at nothing to attain and wield unbridled power. She will earn the everlasting admiration of her legion of admirers and perhaps garner the begrudging respect of many of her fair-minded detractors, including one of these writers with the first name of Robert. By losing magnanimously, she would set a sterling example of statesmanship rivaling Alexander Hamilton’s heroic willingness in 1800 to put aside his animosity towards his perennial political adversary Thomas Jefferson to foil the meretricious Aron Burr’s connivance to become President. Hillary Clinton would not only redeem her legacy, but further the cause of her progressive agenda in the future by practicing the standard of virtue she preached with malice toward none and goodwill to all Americans.
If Mrs. Clinton can summon the courage and conviction to display such magnanimity in defeat, she will become a hero to the country she loves and the causes she serves. Hope and pray she will presently accept the bitter cup of defeat only to later to win for the sake of our nation and her own personal legacy.
Robert G. Kaufman is the Dockson Professor at the Pepperdine University School of Foreign Policy. His most recent book is Dangerous Doctrine: How Obama’s Grand Strategy Weakened America, published by University Press of Kentucky in May 2016.
Philip Remington Dunn is a practicing criminal defense attorney, social justice advocate, and author of the critically acclaimed book: When Darkness Reigns.