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White Supremacy and Vladimir Putin: They’re the same problem

by D.J. McGuire

The two issues regarding the Trump Administration that have frightened more Americans than anything else seem to be polar opposites: his fealty to Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia and an a blind spot (or even sympathy) to white supremacy in America. However, if one looks beyond the United States (especially to Europe), it becomes clear that the two matters are linked there – and, in all likelihood, here as well. That leads to some disturbing questions that we need to ask.

While most Americans pay little attention to the rest of the world (save the occasional social media meme where a European country appears to support a policy we like), the situation in Europe bears some problematic parallels to recent years in the United States. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been openly evangelizing for “illiberal democracy” (AEI) while taking aim at nearly every Republican’s favorite bedtime scary story – George Soros – with “posters that brought back memories of the anti-Semitism of the 1930s” (same link). Poland is suffering a similar slide toward authoritarianism, complete with an attempt to rewrite Holocaust history (Reuters). Both governments are also getting increasingly cozy with Putin (AEI, The New Republic).

That hasn’t stopped Putin from building ties to outright racist groups like Jobbik in Hungary (Reuters). He has recruited or accepted (depending upon how one sees it) similar far-right allies in France, even as the main center-right opposition also tacks his way (Foreign Policy).

What has enabled Putin – an old KGB bureaucrat – to stretch his regime’s tentacles into democratic Europe? John Henley provides the anodyne answer in a Guardian column from last year.

…variations on a theme of nation-first politics, support for economic protectionism and immigration controls, mistrust of international alliances and institutions such as Nato or the EU, and a rejection of globalism and the liberal consensus

To be fair, the “liberal consensus” has deserved more than a few of the dings its received recently, as any astute observer of the EU will tell you. However, the first three items on the list are part and parcel of a much deeper and sinister common facet among Jobbik, Le Pen, and Putin: white supremacy.

While most of the focus on Russia in the 20th Century centered on its Sovietization, leaders from Stalin on down also emphasize Russian “nationalism.” Terrell Jermaine Starr reveals how Putin inherited – and is using – those supremacist weapons (Washington Post). Others have noticed, including alt-right poster child Richard Spencer and his ideological grandfather David Duke (Newsweek). In fact, the Russian adviser behind Putin’s supremacist policies – Alexander Dugin – is already well-known in alt-right circles (same link), and while nearly everyone remembers the Charlottesville torch-bearers shouting, “You will not replace us,” far fewer also noted their insistence that “Russia is our friend” (same link again).

All of this comes amid mounting evidence that the Putin regime put a thumb on the scales during the campaign, and that the Trump campaign itself – whether or not it actually succeeded in linking up with Moscow’ efforts – certainly tried (Newsweek). Meanwhile, according to the Anti-Defamation League, white supremacists murders “killed more than twice as many people in 2017 as they did the year before” (Huffington Post). Most would consider those two matters a coincidence at best, a sign of Trump’s worst two instincts at worse.

But what if the connection goes deeper than that? Have white supremacist groups become the American equivalent of Jobbik? Has the upswing in white supremacist terrorism been due to more than just the emboldening of these groups from Trump’s election?

In other words, have American white supremacist groups themselves become tools of the Putin regime?

To be clear, this is not a rhetorical question. I ask because I truly do not know. Sadly, I don’t expect this Administration to find out. I would like to see the opposition ask these questions, and if my worst fears are confirmed, present policies accordingly.

Even if my worst fears are disproven, we are facing an increasingly globalized supremacist movement (Franklin Foer has further details in The Atlantic). Russophilia and supremacism are in fact the same problem. Whether Putin is the diabolical leader or fortunate figurehead is an open question that needs answering to determine the best tactical response.

Alt-Wrong (Ep. 113)

On this week’s More Perfect Union podcast, the gang looks at the constitutional right of peaceable assembly in the wake of the deadly white nationalism riot in Charlottesville, the fear factor caused by the Trump Administration’s nuclear showdown with North Korea, and the potential repercussions from the FBI raid of Paul Manafort’s home.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.

The Hillary Treatment (Ep. 108)

In the first part of this week’s “The More Perfect Union” podcast, the gang discusses former President Jimmy Carter, the Don Jr. meeting with the Russians, and how the Trump Administration is getting “the Hillary treatment.”

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.

Alliance for Securing Democracy: We Need More of This

by D.J. McGuire

Listeners to our podcast know that when the subject of Russia comes up, I’m the one trying desperately to ensure at least some bandwith goes to discussion about the Putinist threat to American interests, human rights, and democracy beyond just attempts to impeach Donald Trump. I’ve tried to make that case here, too.

So, naturally, I am thrilled to hear that the German Marshall Fund has launched the Alliance for Securing Democracy, which will “develop comprehensive strategies to defend against, deter, and raise the costs on Russian and other actors’ efforts to undermine democracy and democratic institutions.”

Read More

WrestleMania (Ep. 107)

Episode 107 of “The More Perfect Union” podcast series features discussions about the Trump-CNN Logo wrestling video controversy, the Trump family at the G20 Summit, revelations of yet another previously unreported meeting between Russian lawyers and members of the Trump campaign, and we end with some funny political chants.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.

Democrats Need to Make the Political Case Against Trump’s Russia Policy

by D.J. McGuire

“It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder.” – Joseph Fouché, Chief of Police for Napoleon (though often misattributed to Talleyrand)

For Democrats, the case against Donald Trump is so personal that we risk losing or not gaining support that would otherwise naturally be ours. There is, sadly, no other plausible explanation for the party’s overemphasis on finding legal grounds to remove him from office to the detriment of building a policy case against his affinity for Vladimir Putin.

This is not to say the legal issue stirred up by accusations of collusion between Trump for President and the Kremlin should be ignored, but I think my new-ish party can – and indeed, must – walk and chew gum at the same time. We need to ensure voters – especially Republican voters – understand the inherent danger Putin’s regime poses to American interests, to the democratic world as a whole, and to human rights. Otherwise, there is a great risk that Trump will survive, be re-elected, and do incalculable damage to the matters above. Read More

To What Standard Do We Hold Presidents?

by Rebekah Chodoff Kuschmider

It was 1998. I was a 25 year old liberal. President Clinton, the first president I had ever voted for, was embroiled in an investigation and an impeachment proceeding that was about perjury and obstruction of justice and adultery and real estate and some thread of thick contempt for an arrogant man with a southern accent and not enough Washington gravitas.

I was of the “It’s just a blow job! Chill” school of thought. What was the big deal? He had affairs, he lied about them, a million other people have done the same.

Then someone pointed something out to me: adultery is against the military code of conduct and can result in disciplinary action. Bill Clinton, as president, was Commander in Chief of the military. Why should he not be held to the same standards of behavior as the rank and file?

It was a good question. One I have never forgotten. To what standard do we hold the president? Should it be higher or lower than the standard to which we hold others? Read More