On Friday night, the Republicans began their CPAC convention in Orlando, Florida. If you want to know what Republicans are “thinking” – something lizard brains actually can’t do – this is the place to be. Unfortunately for the GOP, world events keep interfering with their coup attempt. Let’s not forget – as our news media keeps forgetting – that the people our press insists Democrats be “bi-partisan” with are the very same people who accept The Big Lie. People determined to undermine our democracy one moment don’t suddenly become good stewards of government the next. The Big Lie isn’t just one side of some abstract political argument. It’s an affront to everything decent. Every Republican not vociferously fighting against The Big Lie is tacitly fighting FOR it.
An awful lot of those same Republicans also find themselves in an awkward position where Russia’s concerned. Well, “awkward” from the perspective of patriotism, that is.
What do ya do when the corrupt, foreign, autocratic head of state you’re in bed with suddenly goes bonkers and invades a sovereign country with a fledgling democracy – and almost the entire rest of the world sides with the fledgling democracy? If you’re the modern Republican Party? Ya double down!
Back in the “old days”, Republicans were always first to insist that whenever America finds itself at war, anyone not rallying around the flag is a traitor. During the Cold War – where Republicans were the coldest of cold warriors, one was either with us or against us. Vietnam war protestors were all considered un-American. Remember when George W. Bush was cheerleading America into the Iraq War – how he managed to turn working for the House of Saud into “patriotism”? That was W’s only “mission accomplished”. But, I digress… these days, among Republicans, hostile foreign heads of state are accepted as allies especially when they’re authoritarian monsters like Vladimir Putin. For some reason, it seems, Republicans of every stripe seem to like him. Weird, huh?
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine surprised everyone, it seems. The Ukrainians didn’t think he’d do it. Most Russians still can’t fathom why Putin drew them all into this folly. The American intel community however DID see it coming. Putin isn’t being crazy like a fox. He’s being crazy like a cornered fox. This move of his has not gone as hoped for. Kyiv still hasn’t fallen, Russian casualties are mounting as the Ukrainian Army resists steadfastly and the average Russian-on-the-street opposes Putin’s war. Already thousands have been arrested for protesting. Putin himself – now under direct sanction along with his whole cadre of oligarchs – has had to threaten those oligarchs in order to keep them in line. That’s not what confident leaders confident of the nation’s support have to do.
Up until now, Putin’s been remarkably effective at having his way. If he’d never set foot in Ukraine this time, he’d still have the Crimean Peninsula under Russian control and the world’s tacit acceptance of it. He’d still have Donald Trump and pretty much the entire Republican Party under his thumb – with the possibility of angling Republicans back into full control of the levers of American power. Not only will invading Ukraine NOT get Putin what he wants, this mis-step will get him almost everything he DOESN’T want – especially NATO’s Second Coming.
The pre-Trump Republicans (except Dana Rohrbacher and Rand Paul) would have condemned Putin immediately, happily feasting on the low hanging fruit. The post-Trump Republicans? They turn up their noses! In fact, these Republicans line up WITH Putin – because Trump lines up with Putin. We all know where Donald Trump will fall on any question of Putin v America – with Putin. It’s still the case.
Well, now that Putin has made himself the world’s pariah, where does that leave Trump and the GOP? What’s life like, I wonder, being a pariah’s bff?
On Friday night, Nick Fuentes, leader of the America First Political Action Conference and proud white nationalist left no doubt where he, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, AFPAC and a not insignificant number of Republicans stand vis a vis Putin. Among the CPAC speakers – the “adults in the room”, there was plenty of condemnation to be sure! But not too, too much condemnation.
If anything, the general Republican reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is unease. They’re terrified of where this is going. They’re terrified that their own relationships with Putin – the reason they stayed in line behind Trump – will suddenly become public knowledge. In war time, that won’t play well.
Until every single Republican not named Cheney or Kinzinger denies The Big Lie, every single Republican is in bed with Putin. In bed with his attack on our democracy, in bed with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Are most Republicans “rootin’ for Putin”? Yer damned tootin’!