How I learned to stop worrying and love the election, Oct. 23–30


The United States is girding its loins for an election that has cast a pall over a far longer timeframe than we ever should have let it. But then again, what did you expect when so many people spent so much of the past year cut off from their normal lives and circles, growing increasingly dependent on social media as a way of connecting with the outside world? That’s not a recipe for sanity, even if it was a race between sane people.

The phenomenon of modern information flow has gotten an enormous amount of attention since the last, similarly godawful election cycle, in many ways forcing regular people to think in the uncomfortably paranoiac manner that cybersecurity pros and blockchain programmers, in particular, are well accustomed to. What is the fear of voter fraud but a double-spend problem? And how can you be sure that every voting machine in America works? And how do I know know that this news report is fact, not fiction or even malicious fabrication?

With America’s collective paranoia and suspicion clicking stomach-churningly upward like the first leg of a creaky roller coaster, it is important to keep a few stabilizing truths in mind. The internet is relatively new, but misinformation has always been with us (what is Gilgamesh but propaganda for an Uruk king?). U.S. presidential elections have always been tense, likely peaking about 160 years ago. And, like, despite flaws, the country actually has an incredibly resilient system.

Today’s Law Decoded is less crypto-focused than I traditionally try to keep it, but it’s important to keep what the devout call “the space” unsiloed. While only the first of the stories under consideration is explicitly tied to the election, the linking thread that I’ll be clumsily trying to unspool before y’all is the question of who has the power, and who can unseat that power justly. Because at its core, that’s what a functional electoral system promises: That the answer to “who will watch the watchers” is us.