In this interview, we welcome back political writer and friend of the CFR, Alex Mohajer. Mohajer is a political writer and commentator for The Huffington Post and co-founder and editor-in-chief of Bros4America (formerly Bros4Hillary), a progressive advocacy organization that gained national recognition during the 2016 presidential election for its efforts to elect Hillary Clinton. Best known for his criticisms of Donald Trump’s legitimacy, Mohajer’s controversial work became some of the most-shared post-election commentary for HuffPo. Mohajer holds a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley, where he studied politics with liberal hero Robert Reich, and a J.D. from Chapman University School of Law, where he studied constitutional law with conservative hero Hugh Hewitt. He proudly owns that at law school he was voted ‘Most Likely To Be Held In Contempt” by his graduating class, and he has also been a past guest on our CFR podcast, The Scene.
As we enter the new year, CFR Executive Editor Leonard Jacobs and I caught up with Mohajer for his take on what lessons we can learn from the year that was. His response: 2017 proved that democracies can remove corrupt heads of state and redo elections if enough of the populace demands it. Drawing on the impeachment of South Korea’s former president, Park Geun-hye, and the annulment of Kenya’s presidential election, Mohajer connects these events to the signature argument at the center of much of his work — that Donald Trump is not only an incapable president, but illegitimately elected one.
A condensed transcript of our interview, which also covered Iran and the constitutionality of annulling an election, is below.
SEAN DOUGLASS: Hi Alex. Looking back on 2017, are there any lessons we can take from it as we head into the new year? I’m specifically curious about lesser-covered stories that may have caught your eye and what they say about where our attention should be in 2018.
ALEX MOHAJER: Yeah, right off the top of my head, there are a few instances where other democracies had interferences with their elections, and in both instances, in Kenya and South Korea, those people in those countries basically rioted and demanded a new election. Those two stories are heartening, and also something to look at, because you know here in the United States we still have disputing factions about whether or not there was interference, even though there is unanimous consensus in the intelligence community that there were interferences in our election by the Russian government. We know now that there were 126 million Americans who were subjected to Russian advertising on Facebook. And when you consider that 136 million people voted, that’s the majority of the electorate we’re talking about. That was used through stolen data, stolen voter data, and we know that based off findings in recent weeks and that last couple months.
So I would recommend looking at the stories in South Korea and Kenya around how it is that people in other elected democracies respond to these kinds of threats.
SD: We’re hearing a lot about how there’s no template for what to do in this situation. But we’re seeing other countries serving as role models, possibly.
Nothing in the US Constitution prohibits a new election.
LEONARD JACOBS: I think the problem is the 30 percent or 32 percent of the country that even when–if and when-presented with overwhelming and irrefutable evidence will then completely choose not to see the writing on the wall. There’s nothing in the Constitution that prohibits another election, but we have a Constitution that provides for impeachment. Brazil impeached its president not long ago. It can be done, and there others who have been impeached. Other heads of government.
SD: Another place where were currently seeing tremendous opposition to the head of state is, of course, Iran. What can Americans learn from the current Iranian protests?
AM: In my opinion, this is a day of reckoning for the ruling class in Iran. But what many people don’t realize (and I’ve been dragged on Twitter by Trump’s followers for making this comparison) is that 40 years ago when the Islamic regime first came to power, the sociopolitical environment was very much the same as Donald Trump’s rise in 2016.
Picture this: We have a conservative who rises to power on a nationalist populist message and promises to drain the swamp of the nation’s elitist forces and imperialist excesses. He is aided by the support of uneducated working class males and a fractured political left wing comprised of socialists, social democrats and liberals who fail to put up the coordinated response necessary to stop the fascist takeover. Many people believed it impossible until it became inevitable. After the dust settles, allegations of fake news and vote rigging pop up, and despite 70 years of hard-fought advancements for women, there are rumors of anti-women laws. So there’s a women’s march.
Will the 2018 midterm elections be the last stand for democracy?
LJ: Trump says he supports the protesters — do you agree with his decision to weigh in on this issue? It’s killing the commentators on MSNBC to say that they agree with him, but they’ve been doing so.
AM: I would hope that any American president would chime in on this, though in this instance his support rings hollow. This is, of course, the same man who seeks to quiet and delegitimize dissidents and critics. And of course the same man who has moved to ban Iranians from entering this country because they pose a supposed risk to American national security and of course that has moved to kill the Iran nuclear deal, which is the closest we have gotten to restoring a diplomatic relationship with Iran in over 30 years. But given this president’s apparent relationship with Russia, it is likely not going to be a full-throated endorsement of the protesters. Russia has a vested interest in destabilizing western democracies and shares common interests with Iranian government, so any effort to destabilize their governing class is a no-no for Putin.
Let’s just also take this moment to remind everybody that Vladimir Putin’s primary objective is quite literally world domination. He’s a cartoon villain at this point. And Donald Trump has been spouting the Putin line on everything from Syria to American exceptionalism for a long-ass time. You know, but he doesn’t know Putin at all.