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Republicans have a lot of people to thank this year. For example, there is FBI director James Comey. Last summer, he was the Republicans’ goat, refusing to indict Hillary Clinton. Now he is the Man of the Hour. Then there is Hillary herself: whose corruption is a gift to any opponent, even Donald Trump. But don’t forget Vladimir Putin. Month after month, he has worked tirelessly for the GOP ticket, undermining the Democrats, mainly through his cut-out Julian Assange.
Putin has never stopped being a KGB man, just as Russian intelligence, whatever its current initials, has never stopped being the KGB. (We could go back further, of course, with this alphabet soup.)
The WikiLeaks revelations have been damning – damning of the Democrats. But can you imagine if Putin and the Kremlin were on the other side? If they were uncovering TrumpWorld’s e-mails instead of HillaryWorld’s? The e-mails of Corey, Manafort, Newt, Ivanka, Roger Stone, Ann, Laura, Sean, Kellyanne, Rudy, Ailes, and all the rest? Of Trump himself? I have a feeling those e-mails would be just as damning as the Hillary-related ones – and more entertaining.
Republicans are lucky to have the Kremlin on their side. I wonder whether they are sufficiently grateful to Putin. He is one of the MVPs for them this year.
In politics, I suppose, you take whatever help you can get. Principle, honor, ideals, and all that are “cuck” and “GOPe” (and “globalist” and every other epithet of the Trumpite Right). But Republicans and conservatives should consider: Putin may be their friend of the moment; but he is no friend of America or of democracy.
Democracy! Talk about a cuck notion. Does democracy matter? Ponder the words of Patrick J. Buchanan, a forerunner to Trump. In a recent column, he wrote that “the nationalist-populist right” is “moving beyond the niceties of liberal democracy to save the America they love.”
The niceties of liberal democracy are not mere niceties – they are necessities, enabling a free and decent life. Indeed, the American way of life.
But Republicans and conservatives are impatient with democracy, as people often are, looking with admiration at the strongmen, or would-be strongmen: the Le Pens, Orbán, Putin, and so on. (All of them are Trump endorsers. So is Kim Jong Un, for that matter.) From what I can tell, this is where the mind of the Right now is.
When I joined the GOP and the conservative movement, things were very different. The Right, broadly speaking, stood for democracy, freedom, and human rights. The Left had turned its back on those things. They snorted when Reagan talked about freedom, and, worse, from their perspective, promoted it.
Incidentally, did you notice that it fell to Hillary Clinton – Hillary Rodham Clinton, of all people – to defend Ronald Reagan? To defend him against the Republican presidential nominee? This was in the third debate, on the subject of trade.
Putin is the kind of leader who shoots his opponents in the back (Nemtsov) or tortures them to death, real slow (Magnitsky). Asked about this, Trump said, “I think our country does plenty of killing also.” Republicans and conservatives used to condemn this sort of thing as “moral equivalence.”
Trump keeps saying that Putin is very popular within Russia. He even cites poll numbers. Of course, Russia lacks a free press, multiple parties, and genuine elections. I learned to watch out for such things, way back, from Republicans and conservatives.
Earlier this year, I interviewed George W. Bush at his presidential center in Dallas. We were talking about strongmen and dictators. Unprompted, Bush brought up Putin. “People say, ‘He’s the most popular guy in Russia.’ I say, ‘Yeah, I’d be popular too if I owned NBC’” (and the other networks).
In the summer, following a coup attempt, Turkey’s strongman, Erdogan, cracked down viciously. He took the opportunity to purge, imprison, torture, or kill anyone who might have criticized or opposed him in the past. Trump was asked about all this. And he said that, really, America had to focus on its own problems. “When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger.”
This is the new GOP, the Trump GOP, and it has taken much of the conservative movement with it.
The world over, but especially in Europe, Putin and the Kremlin are doing their best to undermine democracy. In September, I was in Latvia, and I asked an intellectual a simple question: “Does Putin have designs on the Baltics?” “Sure!” he laughed. “He has designs on the United States!”
I have seen many weird things in politics. The current partnership between the GOP and the Kremlin may be the weirdest.
What this country needs, I think, is a freedom party, if the Republicans no longer wish to be that. A freedom party would be a very small party, obviously. People like their statism, whether of a pink or brown hue. But at least such a party would keep the light on – the light of American ideals – until a better day.
And I warn Republicans and conservatives: You may think Vlad is cool now, because he is helping your guy. But watch your back.
P.S. It occurs to me to quote John Dos Passos, as I have before. Here he is, writing in 1941: “Under the stresses of the last years we have seen nation after nation sink to its lowest common denominator. Naturally it’s easy for us to see the mote in our brother’s eye [our brother in Europe]. The question we have to face is: What is the content of our own lowest common denominator?”
More: “When we wake up in the night cold and sweating with nightmare fear for the future of our country we can settle back with the reassuring thought that the Englishspeaking peoples have these habits engrained in them.”
By “these habits,” Dos Passos means the habits of self-government. The habits of the Anglo-American political tradition. Can we still reassure ourselves in the night?
Dos Passos warns of a “personal despotism that has so often been the style of government” outside “the Anglo-Saxon family of nations.”
Finally: “If, in the bedrock habits of Americans, the selfgoverning tradition is dead …, no amount of speechifying of politicians or of breastbeating by men of letters will bring it back to life.”
For sure.Published in