The Trump-Putin Bromance

Not just today, not just yesterday, not just this past week, but since he announced his candidacy for president, Donald Trump has been the biggest threat to our democracy, progressive traditions and practices, and national security.

Putin, his new partner on the world stage, isn’t a choir boy for sure. He is, in fact, an autocratic ruler, not an aspiring one like Trump. As Russia’s president, he has few restraints on his power.

But Putin isn’t anywhere near the threat to the country or the world that Trump is. He is clever, for sure, and is anything but a paper tiger. But make no mistake about it, he is the junior partner in this bromance. And that is so, even if the Russian autocrat has “something” on Trump.

In short, the main danger to the future — ours and the world’s — is Trump.

And that danger only grows with each passing day. Trump, after all, has no attachment to democratic rule and governance. Indeed, since becoming president, he has done nothing but assail our democratic traditions, practices, and institutions. Racism, nativism, misogyny, bullying, indecency, cruelty, incompetence, hyper nationalism, and authoritarianism have been the book and bookends of his presidency.

On a global level he has attacked the liberal order and capitalist democracies that took shape in the wake of WW II. This order obviously begs for democratic restructuring and reform, but to believe that Trump will be an agent of that restructuring, or a nuclear free world for that matter, is the worst kind of self delusion.

What heightens this danger is that Trump has at his command the most powerful repressive apparatus and war machine ever assembled, a supine Republican Party, a majority on the Supreme Court that is favorably disposed to his policies and authoritarian disposition, and, not least, a mass constituency that is becoming a cult.

What he doesn’t have is the majority of people on his side. And his performance yesterday and last week, notwithstanding his lame effort to clean it up today, will only solidify that majority.

While interference by the Russian government in our domestic politics should be aggressively addressed, it shouldn’t become the reason to turn Russia into an implacable foe. We did that in the last half of the 20th century and both countries (and other countries as well) spent large amounts of treasure and blood to no good effect.

Nor should Putin become a distraction from the main strongman who sits in the White House or his Republican enablers in Congress, either now, or this fall when tens of millions cast their votes.

Shilling for Trump

Steven Cohen, who has had a distinguished career as a scholar of the former Soviet Union and Russia, is on FOX shilling for Trump. His considerable analytical skills aren’t evident.

More than meets the eye

Putin may have something very sketchy on Trump that gives him leverage over Trump. But there is more to this relationship than meets the eye. One thing — and there is more — is that both are right wing authoritarian rulers who consider liberal-democratic capitalist democracies and the post world war II economic-social order obstacles to their ambitions.

A difficult position

My guess is that Trump, by his actions and words this week in Europe, and especially today In Helsinki, has put the Republican Party candidates in a difficult position as they turn their attention to the fall campaign. On the one hand, it will likely solidify an electoral majority against Trump and the GOP candidates. On the other hand, his mind boggling performance today as well as last week could cause fissures within Trump’s political coalition, which up to now has been remarkably stable, even in the face of actions by Trump that many of us thought would surely shake loose some of his Republican support.

May chose capitualtion, the British people resistance

I just watched the opening statements of British PM Teresa May and Trump at a join press conference in the UK. Trump’ statement didn’t surprise me, full of self-congratulations and lies, while never mentioning the political bombs that he had dropped, including a broadside against May, since his arrival a day ago.

But what did was May’s groveling remarks that made no mention of Trump’s intervention into the national politics of the UK as well as his dismissive putdown of her. Instead, she acted like a supplicant, paying homage to Trump, papering over the differences that arose in the past week between Trump and European leaders, and failing to defend herself and her country from Trump’s outrageous threats and interference in its national affairs.

I know it wasn’t a performance that is comparable to Neviile Chamberlain’s in Munich, Germany in 1938. Chamberlain back then proudly declared on the heels of signing (with France as well Germany) a “peace” agreement that sanctioned the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia and the transfer of its Sudeten region to an increasingly aggressive, Nazi war machine, “I believe it is peace for our time”. Four months later war broke out across Europe as Hitler invaded Poland and then France.

But May’s performance was cowardly nonetheless. It was an attempt to appease and mollify Trump, to find common ground. Trump, however, isn’t about to be appeased or mollified. He doesn’t care about common ground, old understandings, and past arrangements. His overarching disposition is to bully, to dominate, to rule unchallenged, to run roughshod over democratic norms, values, and institutions. His contempt for democracy — even the post WW II social and economic order — is writ large in his actions and behavior.

Moreover, he is assisted by the Republican Party dominated as it is by right wing extremists. At the same time, Trump is increasingly aligned with a loose network of right wing strongmen worldwide, Putin being one of them. While Trump’s policies heavily favor capitalists in many ways, large and small, he also operates more autonomously than presidents in recent memory from them.

But to get back to May. She wasn’t up to the task today — and I guess no one should be surprised by her abject behavior — but the British people will have their say too as they crowd the streets of London at this very moment. And, unlike May, they will surely call out the imperial and imperious bully from across the pond in no uncertain terms. For they know (as we know) that the only fitting response to an authoritarian leader is resistance, not appeasement, struggle, not capitulation.


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