Like many other Medium political contributors, this article misses an important part of democracy: the hard and soft support for a political party.
Hard support are the voters who are very motivated to make a trip to the voting booth. Their minds are made up, and there is nothing that will change that.
Soft support are those voters who do have a preference. But they can be encouraged to stay away from the polls. Bad weather or teenage son’s basketball game can cause this voter to assume “my vote doesn’t count that much anyways” and not make the trip to the polls.
The undecided (fickle) voter has a strong sense of civic duty to vote, but probably won’t make the decision until just before the election. On two occasions in my life, I walked into a voting booth not knowing who I was going to vote for. The truly undecided voter probably numbers less than 3% of all voters.
However, the soft support for a political party is probably 10% to 20% of the total electorate. So it makes good sense to use political advertising to discourage soft support from the opposing political party from going to the polls. All the negative compaigning and advertising is designed for this express purpose. It does not convince anyone to change sides; convinces that other side that their preferred choice is really not worth the trip to the polls.
A good example comes from a documentary on the Trump Facebook campaign. Cambridge Analytical were able to segregate single mothers on Facebook — and deliver this ad to them: A sunny day, a playground surrounded by green trees, children playing, nice music — followed by a meme that was nothing more than “TRUMP pence.” The whole purpose of that ad was to convince single mothers that Trump and Pence were not that bad of guys the D’s were making them out to be. If the ad convinces many single mothers to stay home with their kids on election, that is almost as good as an R vote.
All this stuff works: otherwise the parties would not be doing it.
Here is my take on the Russians. Much of their work was left in the R echo chamber. But enough got out to effect 100,000 soft D supporters to stay home on election day. That is enough to flip the result of a close election.
Be rest assured the Russians will never be able to flip enough Americans to vault an unpopular candidate into POTUS. Mr. Trump earned most of his 62m votes on his own merit. He was a viable contender in this race. Until that fact is understood, all the blaming of the Russians and Electoral College will not move USA forward.