Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Election Security, Potential Violence, Why Polarization May Not Be Bad
Lauren Buitta founded Girl Security to nurture girls for careers in national security. Courtesy photo.
Tuesday, November 3, 2020


As the eve of today’s election dawned, shopkeepers in Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles boarded up windows in anticipation of violence that some believe could come from either side.

And the White House erected a non-scalable fence.

To prevent such violence, we need to get out correct information, national security strategist Lauren Bean Buitta recently told those attending a virtual Conversations with Exceptional Women.

Much of the violence that sprang up in Chicago following the George Floyd killing had its roots in disinformation, she said. And, like it or not, disinformation via social media isn’t going away.

“We’re still trying to figure out how to cope with disinformation,” Buitta said in a conversation moderated by David Adler, founder of the Alturas Institute, which organized the virtual conference.

We need to recognize it and keep abreast of news provided by legitimate news sources, such as newspapers, Buitta said. And, during this year’s election, we trust our personal resilience, knowing this is not the first time we’ve had to deal with discord.

“Disinformation has always been around—it’s not new,” said Gina Bennett, a senior counterterrorism analyst for the CIA who was the first to sound the alarm on Osama bin Laden. “But, with the internet, everything is amplified many times over.

“Don’t rely on one person or source to shape everything you believe. I teach origins of the Constitution and ethics at George Washington University. If you so strongly agree with a set of beliefs, whether religion or otherwise, you shouldn’t be afraid to have it challenged. That’s where I feel people need to open up to a different way of defining courage.”

Bennett offered a different perspective on the polarization that has characterized the nation of late.

“To me, gridlock one of the best parts of a functioning democracy. Polarization we tend to think of as negative but it’s not necessarily a negative thing. It seems to be a reflection that each of these two parties have become more attached to their beliefs and so people who are part of one or the other parties identify more strongly with them. We’re divorced but that that doesn’t mean we can’t be united. The fact that we’re politically divorced doesn’t mean we can’t be united in how we govern the country.”

She pointed to her own situation as the divorced mother of five whose ex-husband lives in the same house and co-parents their children.

“We’re divorced but united when it comes to dealing with our children,” she said.

Bennett added that she has spent much of her life analyzing government challenges across the world.

“We have a tendency to think we’re different but we’re not so much. We have so many checks and balances that we should never have a government impacted so much by any one individual,” she said. “I see people whipping themselves into frenzy over the election. It doesn’t matter who is elected. We still have so much power to make whoever’s elected accountable.”

Lara Brown, author of “Amateur Hour: Presidential Character and the Question of Leadership” and other books on presidential leadership, noted that one of the unique things about the Trump presidency is the president’s governing inexperience.

That is one of the things that attracted many of his supporters. But his lack of experience has also shown in handling world and national issues and understanding the Constitutional principles on which the country is founded.

“Since 1976 we have been electing individuals who have less experience in politics before they come to the presidency,” said Brown, who is also director of the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University. “Unsurprisingly, Trump is the most amateurish of all the presidents we’ve had—he had zero experience before taking the office.

“I’m not sure why we as public expect that those who have no political experience….to uphold the norms. They know nothing about this world. It’s like asking passengers to fly the plane. And it’s my hope we’re at the end of this era, that we will be more careful in the future.

Brown suggested Americans need to ask themselves what should be the qualifications for those who step into the Presidency in the future.

“We need to elect grown-ups with experience, not celebrities,” she said.


The security of the system we use to cast our ballots is not what’s under threat. What is under attack is interference with the election, said Gina Bennett, counterterrorism analyst with the CIA.

“Our election system has been increasingly secured since the days of the old paper ballots,” she added. “The security of people being able to go to polling places is tied to efforts to preserve the integrity of the United States to make casting a ballot accessible and safe.”


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