By Arlen Grossman/ OpEdNews/ June 23, 2022
(This is a revised version of a previously published commentary on DailyKos, June 5 )
One reason Russian President Vladimir Putin felt confident he could swiftly conquer Ukraine was likely because of his extraordinary success accomplishing his goals in the United States.
By assisting Donald Trump to win the presidency in 2016, Putin purposely changed the course of modern American politics and history. Obviously, he alone did not put the reality TV star in the oval office, but considering how close the 2016 election turned out, it is likely Trump would not have won without an assist from Russia.
As we know, Democrat Hillary Clinton received nearly 3 million more popular votes than Trump. But 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:
“Russian 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. After considerable help from Russian and other like-minded election provocateurs most Americans and the rest of the world were stunned to see Donald Trump elected and sworn in as this country’s 45th president.
This 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 inexplicably managed to convince nearly half this nation that he alone 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. Upon taking office (and even before) Trump moved to dredge up the worst prejudices and fears in this country. His efforts succeeded, the poison spread and today is stronger than ever.
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 and their political allies. Political decency and tolerance evaporated, making way for a disturbing dark side to take control of the Republican Party.
With the help of Fox News and the growing ultra-right news and social media presence, Trump and his loyalists egged on the haters and others fearful of losing power and privileges. The new president and his cult-like followers gained strength and neutralized the moderate wing of the party. Before long Republicans morphed into an ideological and angry party that no longer resembled its old self.
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.
Right now, the voter suppression and gerrymandering in Republican-controlled states is unprecedented in election history. Some of these red 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, goodbye American democracy.
For the last five or more years, President Putin has had reason to smile and feel triumphant for his disruption of our political process and culture. He felt confident he could roll over his Ukrainian neighbors and increase his power on the world stage. Indications are he may have bitten off more than he can chew and badly wrecked his master plan. Still, he remains firmly in control of Russia and its nearly 6,000 nuclear warheads.
The Democratic Party needs to get far more serious to protect our fragile democracy. No more compromise, weak negotiation, giving in, and politeness. The Republican Party today will not give an inch and will do anything in its power to take control of the U.S. government. Democrats must recognize this and fight back just as hard. The party’s existence, as well as democracy itself depends on it.
Both Presidents Trump and Putin should be on trial for their sabotage and disruption of the American political process and the ensuing chaos they have caused. Enemies of democracy should be prosecuted and locked up, while at the same time, supporters of democracy must do everything possible to fix the damage and help our country regain its political bearings. The world is far too dangerous and our problems too critical to do otherwise.