Countering Russian Insurgency

Column: A Call For Rs to Find Inner Patriot, Strengthen US Democracy

Simon has signed up with US News and World Report to write a column every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year. His first column, "How America Prospers in a Global Age," ran last week. His new column, "Calling all Patriots," argues it is time for Republicans to once again find their inner patriot and work with the Democrats to keep the Russians from intervening in our election, and to make it easier for Americans to vote.   

The piece was well received yesterday when it was released. DNC Chair Donna Brazile for example tweeted it to her many followers. You can read the whole piece here, and we include an excerpt below.  Check here and at US News each week for new insights from Simon. 

Simon released a related statement on Monday, October 17th. 

Excerpt from the article:

In the past week, we've seen Republicans from across the country denounce Donald Trump for his vulgar remarks caught on tape by Access Hollywood. Some, like John McCain, have said the remarks were so disturbing that he was no longer capable of voting for the GOP presidential nominee this fall.

While in a reflective mood about the future, their nominee and party, I would like to suggest two other activities Republicans should swiftly denounce and distance themselves from – the national effort to make it harder for Americans to participate in their democracy, and the attempt by a foreign adversary to intervene in and disrupt our upcoming election.

First, the pernicious effort to make it harder for Americans to vote. In the aftermath of Barack Obama's historic win in 2008, Republicans in dozens of states took steps to make it harder for people to vote. Their efforts ran the gamut – making registration far more difficult, eliminating the use of student IDs for voting even at public universities, cutting early voting windows, radically reducing the number of polling locations in heavily Democratic areas and, of course, successfully gutting the Voting Rights Act. It has been an all-out, national, party-wide effort to make it harder for every day Americans to participate in their democracy, and it has affected tens of millions of people including in big states like North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.

In several states, courts have invalidated some of the more extreme measures. But what is perhaps most remarkable is how hard current GOP leaders are fighting court mandated changes in their laws. Election officials in Texas and Wisconsin have continued to follow practices declared illegal by courts in this current election. In North Carolina, a federal court recently invalidated their law, writing that it "targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision." Not deterred by being labeled racist, the Republicans of North Carolina, supported by Trump, appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. Gratefully the Supreme Court denied to hear the appeal and this awful law was struck down.

This renewed embrace of time worn voter suppression tactics is particularly worrisome given America's already low rate of voting. As I wrote in U.S. News earlier this year, low rates of voter participation weaken our democracy by limiting the actual amount of consent Americans are giving to their leaders. For a party so powerfully inspired by the Revolutionary call of "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death," it is hard to understand how they've ended up embracing systemic efforts by politicians making it harder for the American people to exercise their liberties and keep our historic political system vibrant and strong.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can also find more of Simon's US News articles here.

Column: Clinton Expands The Map, Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Putin

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – With fewer than 60 days to Election Day, according to our polling aggregate Clinton continues to hold a substantial 5 point lead in the race, 46-41. A few things to also note: 1) While Clinton retains this 5 point lead, a majority of public polls now have the race within 2 points. 2) Trump is still struggling to get out of the low 40s, and is only above 42% in a handful of either national or battleground state polls. 3) Clinton has successfully expanded the battleground to three new states – AZ, GA and NC. New polls from NBC this weekend should both AZ and GA to be a dead heat, and she leads in most North Carolina polls.

This last point is significant. A larger battleground allows the Clinton financial and organizational advantage to become magnified, as her resources – including powerful surrogates – are being deployed in more than just 10 states (the core battleground - CO, FL, IA, NV, PA, MI, NH, OH, WI, VA). This not only puts much more pressure on the under-resourced Trump operation, but it will mean more wins for Democrats down ballot in these additional states. For the Republican Party who has struggled so much at the national level in recent elections this expansion of the map is a very ominous development.

The move of Arizona into a pure toss up (two good polls out this week have the race dead even, Romney won by 9 pts in 2012) is one that should be particularly worrisome for the national GOP. For it means that soon Texas will start to be in play for Democrats, and not just statewide – Hispanics make up more than 15% of eligible voters in fully 15 Congressional seats held by Republicans in Texas, and 5 of those have more than 25% share. Dedicated, funded campaigns designed to get Hispanic turnout up in those districts could have a significant impact on the balance of power in the House in coming years. The last two public polls of Texas have Clinton up 1, and Trump up 6. Even assuming a 6 point spread, this is way way too close for the GOP to feel good about.

For those wondering about the state of play in the House, this Politico piece is well worth reading.

Trump and Putin – While Trump’s apparent admiration for Vladimir Putin has gotten a lot of attention of late, it is his embrace of Putin’s worldview that should be most alarming to Americans and to his fellow Republicans. Trump and his top supporters, including Governor Pence, have repeatedly praised Putin’s “strength,” admiring of his ability to prosecute his agenda on the world stage particularly in the Middlle East. But let’s look at that agenda a bit, and question whether it deserves praise and admiration.

In the Middle East, Putin is funding and protecting Syria's Assad, and is thus directly complicit in mass slaughter of civilians, the lengthening of the Civil War, and the massive refugee crisis in Europe that is doing so much to weaken establishment parties in Europe right now.  Putin has also for years been Iran’s primary backer on the global stage, including at the UN. The ISIS insurgency is primarily a fight against the Iran/Shi’a aligned regimes in both Syrian and Iraq, and thus one could argue that it has been Russia more than any other global power who has been responsible for creating the conditions that have led to both the rise of Iran as a regional power and ISIS itself - something Trump blames Hillary Clinton for daily.  

The distance between Putin's approach to the Middle East and the very public demonization of Iran we've heard from the GOP over the past few years could not be greater. 

His “strength” has also led Putin to invade and occupy portions of a foreign neighbor, and like Trump, support Brexit, weakening of both Europe and NATO (see this piece for a longer discussion of this).  His “strength” has also put him right in the middle of both the greatest sport cheating scandal in history, the FIFA scandal, and now the greatest Olympic cheating scandal in history. The level of cheating and corruption practiced by Russia on the global sports stage has no historic parallel, and is another sign of Putin’s utter contempt for a rules-based, international system.

Third, Putin is a leader of what has become the most pernicious political economy of the 21st century – the petro state. There is perhaps no system more antithetical to the American creed than petro states – unaccountable dictatorships, systems whose wealth and power is derived from mass pollution of the planet and the threat of global instability (which keeps oil prices high) rather than a commitment to the current global system.

Which brings me to my final point – that Trump, like Putin, has denigrated institutions and conventions which keep our democracy strong. He has broken from time honored bi-partisan tradition and refused to release his tax returns and his medical records, and has even failed to produce Melania’s basic immigration documents that he promised weeks ago.. He has refused to allow press to travel on his plane, and ended the traditiona of the “protective pool” that would travel with him at all times of day. He already said the election will be rigged and thus illegitimate, has encouraged the hacking of a major political party in the US by a foreign power to help disrupt our election and constantly calls the media and political elites dishonest and corrupt. He has questioned the efficacy of NATO and the European project, praised Brexit, and has said he will rip up trade agreements we have with other nations, violating international law and weakening the global trading system that has done so much to advance democratic capitalism around the world.

It would be one thing to praise Putin’s charm, but to praise his leadership and “strength” is praising a man who gets up every day fighting against time worn American values and the modern world we helped build. This is the very opposite of patriotism, and to me is the single most troubling manifestation of the new politics of Trump.

Voting Machines As Critical Democracy Infrastructure

Our friends at the Open Source Election Technology Foundation (OSET) penned this thoughtful piece in The Hill as a response to the news reports of foreign interference in our elections process. 

Some key passages:

"Part of the problem is that by design, our nation’s voting infrastructure is a balkanized system comprised of a small number of vendors’ machinery, combined with a variety of ways of casting and counting ballots. While a large-scale national attack is highly unlikely, such would be unnecessary to derail a general election. In fact, it only requires a targeted attack of a few machines in a key county of a swing State."

"While candidates on the left and the right use the new four-letter word “rigged” and call for election observers, we need to understand that elections officials work hard to make sure the charges of people voting multiple times and other illegal activity doesn’t occur. There are straightforward, low-tech things we can do today to improve the integrity of our elections."

"Longer term, we need careful consideration of what it would mean to designate America’s voting systems as “critical (democracy) infrastructure.” The U.S. Department of Homeland Security cannot do this in a vacuum. They must proactively collaborate with States’ election professionals, and engage with all relevant parties to ensure a long-term sustainable and scalable approach."

"And digital innovation must be a part of that discussion, because the casting and counting of 120 million+ ballots in time for orderly transfer of Presidential powers can no longer be done in time by hand. And we need to think through the continuing challenges of our fellow Americans needing to cast ballots remotely, especially our military from overseas. Meager and finite budgets are forcing vulnerabilities into the systems — emailing or uploading a cast ballot is not secure." 

You can learn more about OSET and the organization's great work here.

Fighting to Keep the Internet Open and Free

This piece, co-written with Mobile Future's Jonathan Spalter, originally appeared in the Hill on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014.

This week, as the world’s Internet diplomats descend on Busan, South Korea for the important global gathering of the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU), they would do well to do a quick status update on the health and well-being of the Internet and the future of global communications.  

For the truth is that this remarkable thing we call the Internet may be much more fragile than it appears. 
 
Cyber-criminals, rogue states and adversaries are making the Internet far less safe for consumers through the persistent and escalating theft of personal data.  
 
Autocratic governments are making a major effort to bring the day-to-day governance of the Internet under their control. 
 
Industrial espionage has dramatically escalated across the world, with some estimates now suggesting that global corporations are losing hundreds of billions of dollars in intellectual property every year.
 
Spectrum, the electromagnetic waves which form the invisible infrastructure for the mobile Internet, increasingly is in short global supply as demand continues to accelerate through the developed and developing world.
 
Meanwhile, protectionist trade policies are threatening to create not a single global Internet, but a series of regional intranets that replicate the kind of customs regimes we see on physical borders today.  
 
To counter these threats to the Internet, it will be critical at this meeting for America’s delegation to be crystal clear about what concrete steps need to be taken to ensure that the Internet can remain resilient, accessible, free and secure, now and for future generations.  
 
In that regard, we offer the following agenda for the U.S. government both in Busan and going forward: 
 
Defend the current multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance – The American delegation should re-affirm our nation’s principled commitment to the current multi-stakeholder approach which limits the ability of authoritarian governments to exert undue influence. It also must reiterate that the proposed transition of certain Internet domain name functions, known as IANA, from the U.S. government to the global multistakeholder community through a process convened by ICANN (the organization responsible for technical coordination of  the domain name system ) must satisfy all applicable conditions before it comes into effect, and be clearly understood to be undertaken as a means to reinforce the integrity and viability of the current system.
 
Finish the ambitious Pacific and Atlantic trade agreements – It is important for the Administration to complete the two current regional trade agreements which will begin to put a more solid global legal framework underneath the digital economy. Most of the current trade treaties were completed prior to the arrival of the Internet, and a whole new generation of trade agreements will need to be negotiated to extend the current liberal system to a new era of digital commerce. These binding treaties will be essential to stem the exploding level of industrial espionage and corporate cyber theft which itself has become one of the biggest threats to global commerce.   
 
Maintain a “light touch” when it comes to regulation– For 20 years, the U.S. government has argued that the Internet must not be regulated at home or abroad as a public utility-style telecom service. This legal distinction has been essential to the Internet’s explosive growth, and the innovation we’ve seen.   If the FCC were to declare, as some have requested, that wireline and wireless broadband and other services be reclassified as a Title II telecommunications service, it would create an opening for the Internet to become globally regulated by the ITU, a body that will likely be chaired by a Chinese government official in the coming years. It may also provide “cover” for certain authoritarian regimes to point to the more heavy-handed new Internet regulation in the United States as justification for their own greater control of the Internet in their societies. 
 
Encourage governments to keep taxes on Internet devices and services low – In far too many countries, including here in the United States, mobile devices, mobile service, computers and other devices and services – which make up the Internet as we know it today – are taxed at levels which prevent widespread consumer access, and at rates which are far greater than other common goods and services. The U.S. government should continue to work with foreign governments to build internal regulatory and fiscal frameworks which encourage wide spread adoption and the democratization of information services. And we must lead by example by lowering mobile tax rates here at home.   
 
Ramp-up White House policy leadership – Both Secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry put Internet freedom high on the list of key American national security priorities. That was a wise first step. But now, given the enormous and increasing global economic, cultural, and security stakes involved in maintaining a flourishing and secure Internet, it is time for the White House itself to exert more hands-on leadership in, and coordination of, overall Internet policy management across government.
 
For Americans and many people around the world the Internet represents freedom, opportunity, and knowledge – a world of possibility and openness. But to many autocratic governments and rogue actors on the global stage, the very openness of the Internet is a threat to their far more oppressive understanding of what civil society means. In recent years, these and other forces are working to weaken the Internet, and challenge its primacy in the lives of billions of people around the world. To ensure that the Internet continues to evolve and strengthen, the United States government will need to become far more assertive on the international stage in shaping the global consensus for how we can ensure our grand kids won’t be talking about this thing called the Internet the way we talk about the League of Nations today. A strong and aggressive performance in South Korea over the next few weeks by the United States delegation will be an important first step in this vital effort.  
 
Rosenberg is president of the think tank NDN.  Spalter, chair of Mobile Future, was a senior national security official in the Clinton administration.

Other Pieces on the Need for Liberal Values to Prevail in a New Century:

The Liberal Order Needs An Upgrade, September 23rd, 2014, U.S. News. Like an old building needing an upgrade, the liberal international order, now almost 70 years old, needs to go through a period of renewal and reform.  

An Enduring Legacy: The Democratic Party and Free and Open Trade, January 21st, 2014, Huffington Post.  The global system created by Presidents FDR and Truman has done more to create opportunity, reduce poverty and advance democracy than perhaps any other policies in history. 

Forward, or Backward? October 25th, 2012, Letras Libres.  The English language version of my major essay about the 2012 elections which originally appeared in the October issue of the Mexico City based Spanish language journal, Letras Libres.

Video: The Age of Possibility,  April 29th, 2011, Tisch College, Tufts University. Simon Rosenberg explores the notion that we are entering an era of unprecedented opportunity and possibility, and that more is possible today for the people of the world than ever before.

Crafting an American Response to the Rise of the Rest, January 21, 2010, Salon.com. In this essay written for Salon, Simon lays out three strategies for the Obama Administration to craft a comprehensive response to the new politics of the 21st Century.

Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century, July 24, 2009, Demos.  An essay which ran as part of a leading British think tank's series of essays on the future of center-left politics.

Obama: No Realist He, June 16, 2009, Huffington Post. Simon offers some thoughts about Obama's global brand in the early days of the Iranian uprising. The essay drew many comments in its more than 24 hours on the front page of Huffington Post.

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