Intelligence agencies have confirmed what we knew all summer: Russia’s Vladimir Putin was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s email account and the subsequent leaks of embarrassing messages.
Whether President-elect Donald Trump wants to accept it or not, the Russians apparently did intervene in the election, and should pay a price.
But to the broader point of whether the Russians stole the election for Trump, the answer is no.
The information in the emails was more confirmatory than revelatory. Voters already knew what the messages suggested about Hillary Clinton and her style of politicking. It’s why they couldn’t get enthused about her, even before the leaks began coming out.
Polls did not move up and down based on the leaks. Clinton did take a hit when FBI Director James Comey revealed in the campaign’s final weeks that the agency had reopened an investigation into her use of a private email server while secretary of state. But that was a mess of Clinton’s own making and had nothing to do with the Russians.
And it’s not like Trump was avoiding negative press. Nearly every day brought another story or two about his shady business practices and boorish treatment of women. Not to mention the damage done by his own mouth.
A fresher, more inspiring Democratic candidate would have beaten him handily. But Clinton failed to excite even her party’s most loyal voters. Had she turned out African American voters in their typical numbers in Michigan, for example, she would have won this state and perhaps the presidency. The Russians didn’t keep black voters at home; Clinton’s aloofness toward them did. Same for Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Trump didn’t win the presidency because of Russian meddling. Nor because he was such a terrific candidate. He won because Clinton was such a lousy one.