Despite all of the notoriety and uproar about it, not just the unfairness but the full extent of the actual DANGER posed by foreign intrusion into our elections and political institutions has not been fully appreciated and is one reason why Donald Trump's calls for foreign involvement in these matters are so perilous.

Imagine the value measured in dollars to a campaign of being able to use complex computer models to target and analyze specific districts and elections - and even individual voters. Imagine the intelligence agencies of a hostile foreign power amplifying the potency of that data with the unlimited financial and surveillance resources of its own government at its disposal, and giving the information only to its preferred campaign. Imagine that foreign government disguising its agents as ordinary Americans at campaign events and using its resources to buy media and planting "fake ads" on Facebook and other platforms on the behalf of its preferred candidate.

This is what the Mueller Report said Russia did in the 2016 election.

Imagine if that foreign power were to actually be successful in distorting the results of a presidential election by tampering with voting machines - and having gotten away with it because a candidate or party had a vested interest in not taking the necessary steps to prevent it. (Imagine if this had been the cause of the "software glitches" that have disrupted the results of primaries and caucuses - or if there is another such occurrence in the November election.)

Foreign involvement in our elections is not a matter of simply swinging a few votes one way or the other. It has the potential to be a PARAMOUNT unfair campaign advantage for one candidate over others.

Switch your thoughts away from the financial and electoral value of such foreign intervention, and especially contemplate the more dire specter of these benefits being given at no cost to the campaign except for what might become "due later," to be paid back solely through political and foreign policy "favors"; and that the benefits would go unreported to campaign or law enforcement authorities because the benefactors could violate American election laws with impunity since they were outside the reach of United States law enforcement.

Now imagine a foreign entity wanting to cripple or even destroy the United States of America by corrupting our democratic institutions and pitting American against American - dividing different religious and political groups against one another, setting persons of color against whites, rich against poor, rural versus urban, old against young, and man against woman.

Foreign intervention into our electoral processes has the dangerous potential to allow the Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, Iranians or other entities to use our political processes as a vehicle to further divide us as a nation by broadening our widening societal fault lines; as well as to influence United States foreign policy against our own genuine interests.

Mueller's most chilling warning is that the Russians are still attempting to undercut our American democratic foundations and trying to divide us as a nation.

Others are trying to do so as well.

Perhaps the most vital problem we will face as a society will be how to maintain the health of our democratic institutions, especially those which facilitate freedom of speech and the free flow of information.

Ultimately, no malicious foreign power is strong enough to bring down the United State of America. We can only do that to ourselves through decadence and lack of serious attention to our political matters.

"Deep fake" videos and political campaigns of disinformation and personal destruction don't primarily stem from abroad - they are being created by our own citizens and media apparatuses.

Our ability to maintain our form of self-government will depend on how well we succeed or fail in countering such "deep fakes" and similar disinformation tactics while still preserving our 1st Amendment right to free speech.

It will be up to those with a public voice to elevate our political discourse to one of actual ideas - and necessary for those of us in the public to actually listen to and to engage each other not just to counter foreign interference in our democratic institutions, but more importantly to govern ourselves with the seriousness needed to meet the extraordinary challenges we face.

© 2020 Alex Crisafulli. All rights reserved.