This article from Foreign Policy argues that the lingering impact of Russian interference in the 2016 election and the prospect of multi-nation meddling in the 2020 election has undermined U.S. democracy by raising questions about the legitimacy of the vote, regardless of any impact on actual votes or electoral outcomes.
"'[I]t’s not about that election or the other, that candidate or the other,' Marko Mihkelson, a member of parliament for Estonia’s liberal Reform Party, said in August. Mihkelson is no stranger to foreign meddling in elections. Ever since Estonia gained independence from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has needled it with disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks. Most of the time, Mihkelson argued, interference isn’t really meant to sway the vote toward one side or the other. In an interview with PBS, Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, concurred. In a discussion about Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), which posted misleading content to social media ahead of that year’s vote, he noted that '90 percent of their content had nothing to do with any candidate. It was really about driving division in American society.' ... The IRA is at it again ahead of this year’s poll. It has created fake Facebook and Twitter accounts and has set up a website intended for a left-leaning U.S. audience that subtly sows doubts about Biden’s record. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Russia is also trying to discredit voting by mail. And U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien alleged in August that 'China, like Russia, like Iran—they’ve engaged in cyberattacks and phishing and that sort of thing with respect to our election infrastructure.' ... But whether the United States’ rivals actually do hack the country’s election infrastructure this year is almost beside the point. What matters is people’s belief that interference campaigns are working. A February poll by the Economist and YouGov showed that a majority of Americans don’t think their country can defend itself against foreign election interference. Whatever the outcome in November, then, there’s reason to believe that supporters of the losing side may believe that foreign powers sabotaged the vote and will insist on the result’s invalidity. In that sense, it doesn’t matter whether China, Russia, or any other country in fact manages to sway the ballot. What matters is whether voters believe they did. ... [S]ince liberal democracy’s very foundation is the majority’s conviction that their voices count, eroding that trust constitutes the biggest bang for a rival’s buck."
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