By Arlen Grossman/ Published in Daily Kos/ June 5, 2022
One reason Russian President Vladimir Putin felt confident he could swiftly conquer Ukraine could be because of his success accomplishing his goals in the United States. By assisting Donald Trump to win the presidency in 2016, Putin forever changed the course of modern American politics and history. Obviously, he alone did not put the reality TV star in office, but considering how close the 2016 election turned out to be, it is very conceivable Trump would not have won without an assist from Russia.
Trump managed to narrowly win the presidency even though Democrat Hillary Clinton received nearly 3 million more popular votes. The Republican nominee was able to win crucial electoral votes in several closely contested states. Trump won in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, each by less than 1 percent of the popular vote.
Russia’s influence was significant, as reported in a study put together in 2017 by The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, covering the work of the FBI, CIA, and the National Security Agency. It concluded:
“President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.”
Putin has always known that Russia cannot compete militarily with the United States, but the former KGB operative found other ways to damage his strongest rival. Most Americans and the rest of the world were stunned to see Donald Trump sworn in as this country’s 45th president. The considerable help from Russian and other like-minded instigators tipped the balance in the Republican candidates’ favor.
Although there has been no firm evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the interference from Moscow was well documented. The Internet Research Agency, basically a troll farm based in Russia, produced millions of anti-Clinton, pro-Trump social media posts, planned pro-Trump political events, hacked into the internet accounts of important Democratic campaign committees and leaders, and leaked stolen campaign information to the public.
Our country has paid a huge price. Trump’s surprise win was a major jolt to America’s psyche. Despite his numerous flaws as a politician and as a human being, the Republican candidate continued to prove himself the champion con man of all time. He had somehow managed to convince nearly half this nation that only he, only he, Donald J. Trump, would restore America to greatness.
By helping Trump gain the presidency, Putin knew that the U.S. would be easier to manipulate, which it was. And then, upon taking office (and even before) Trump moved to dredge up the worst prejudices and fears in this country. His efforts succeeded, and the poison began to spread. In short time racism, xenophobia, anti-feminism, gun worship, fear of alternate gender lifestyles, religious fundamentalism, distrust of government, and a hatred of all things liberal or progressive rose to the surface and were exploited by the Trump Administration. Political decency and tolerance were no longer on the agenda, allowing a disturbing dark side to take over the Republican Party.
With the help of Fox News and expanding ultra-right news and social media outlets, which lied and egged on the haters and others fearful of losing power and privileges, Trump and his followers gained strength and neutralized the moderate wing of the G.O.P. Before long the Republicans changed to an ideological and angry party that no longer resembled its old self.
It should be obvious to all that if the Republican Party were to gain power again, our democracy would be in grave danger. Republicans have shown all they care about is regaining power and “owning the libs.” They have made a concerted attempt to suppress votes from people of color, older people, poor people, students, and other groups that tend to vote for Democrats.
The voter suppression and gerrymandering in Republican-controlled states is unprecedented in modern election history. Some of these states are passing laws to replace neutral and objective election officials with partisan Republican-leaning officials. If Republicans don’t like the election results in their state, elected officials can step in and appoint new electors more favorable to their views. In other words, the end of American democracy.
Even worse, the majority of Republicans, led by Trump–and without even the slightest piece of evidence–repudiated the 2020 election results. They insist that the election was stolen from President Trump. The violent insurrection/coup at the Capital on January 6, 2021, which most of us saw on television, was not a campaign rally that got out of hand, or “a normal tourist visit,” as one GOP lawmaker described it.
Rather, it was a clumsy attempt by bitter, unhappy Republicans to manipulate the rules to place Donald Trump back into the oval office. Although most Republicans would like us to believe nothing important happened that day, the deaths and suicides of participants and law enforcement that day and after, not to mention the over 150 injuries among the traumatized police officers, tell a different story.
For the last five or more years, President Putin of Russia has had reason to smile and feel triumphant for his disruption of our political process and culture. Moreover, he felt confident he could roll over his Ukrainian neighbors and increase his power on the world stage. But it seems he may have bitten off more than he can chew and badly wrecked his master plan.
Both Presidents Trump and Putin should be put on trial for their deliberate sabotage of our political process and the ensuing chaos they caused. (Of course, based on past history, we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for that to happen anytime soon.)
But, more than that, we must do everything in our power, starting with the November midterm elections, and vigorously campaigning, now and in the future, in every local election in all 50 states, to recover from the considerable damage these two leaders and the Republican Party caused, and do everything we can to regain our political bearings. The world is too dangerous, time too limited, and our problems too critical to do otherwise.