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Democrats must connect Putin, Trump, GOP as part as the same movement
A moment to shine a light on authoritarianism's brutal assault on liberty -- and its violent outcome
Photo: ApostolisBril, Shutterstock
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Many, myself included, have underscored the connections between Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine and Donald Trump’s enabling Putin during his four years as president, bolstered by a GOP that never challenged Trump — and which vindicated Trump after he withheld arms from Ukraine’s President Zelensky, leading to Trump’s first impeachment.
But you don’t even have to make that direct connection to use this moment to sound an alarm loudly — and to take a sledgehammer to Trumpism in America.
There’s a much larger connection to make about populist authoritarians as we move forward into the mid-terms and beyond. Americans are now seeing the horrendously violent outcome of an authoritarian who amasses power while promoting lies and propaganda. It is true that Americans witnessed this right here on January 6th, as Trump inspired an insurrection and a violent attack on the Capitol — all while promoting the Big Lie.
But it raises the issue to a much higher level when people see millions of refugees fleeing, missiles tearing through residential buildings and children slaughtered.
Across the West, populist authoritarians who were on the rise just a few weeks ago are now in retreat. Marine Le Pen in France, the far-right politician who’s been coming closer and closer to winning the presidency each time she runs — and who took a huge loan from a Russian bank for her campaign as she met with Putin — is now running away from Putin in fear.
She’s trying to condemn Putin as loudly as she can (“an authoritarian regime,”she said) but her candidacy is now in tatters as French President Emmanuel Macron has called an election for next month.
And Le Pen is hardly the only one:
Putin has repeatedly associated himself with prominent Euroskeptic opposition figures, like France's Marine Le Pen, Italy's Matteo Salvini, the Netherland's Geert Wilders and, perhaps most damagingly for the EU, Viktor Orban, the Prime Minister of Hungary…
Salvini has now been ridiculed at appearances all over Italy, with one mayor pointing to him during an appearance and saying, “See what his friend Putin has done.” And Salvini is running for cover. Even the Putin-promoting authoritarian Hungarian leader Orban, heralded by Tucker Carlson and America’s far-right, has been jolted as he’s facing an election in a few weeks:
The Russian invasion has forced Hungary's Orban to "condemn Russia's armed offensive" and allow NATO troops and weapons to pass through Hungary, although he has tried to mitigate blowback from Russia by preventing arms directly traveling from Hungary into Ukraine.
The political theorist Francis Fukuyama, who in the past argued that liberal democracies are ultimately winning out globally as authoritarianism declines, might seem in recent years to have made the wrong call. But he doesn’t see it that way, and believes, “Russia is heading for an outright defeat in Ukraine.” He notes that the Russian invasion has dealt a blow to populist authoritarians worldwide.
And in an interview with Greg Sargent at the Washington Post, he explains:
A moral clarity has been imposed on populist politics. Many of these populists, including Donald Trump, have been able to pretend they’re really tribunes of the people, that they’re channeling a democratic urge
But they’re also flirting with an open kind of authoritarianism. That authoritarianism has now been translated into horrible slaughter, where everybody can see that kind of politics leads to military aggression, the loss of innocent lives, and so forth.
That’s the reason every one of them — except for Trump, evidently — has been trying to backtrack from the support they gave Putin.
Yep, Trump is the only one who’s still calling Putin’s moves “genius” — and thus causing an enormous headache for Republicans. The GOP official leadership is doing every it can to appear tough on Putin, and idiotically is even trying to claim Joe Biden hasn’t been forceful enough.
But the true GOP leadership — Georgia’s Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and her ilk, who rake in big money, aren’t punished by the GOP for attending white supremacist conferences and have the full support of Trump, which silences all other Republicans — are still promoting Putin and attacking Ukraine.
Greene and seven of her co-conspiracists were the only House members who voted against ending normal trade with Russia, and Greene has said that giving aide to Ukraine is giving “U.S. taxpayer cash” to “neo-Nazis in Ukraine” and even called NATO “NATONazis.” This is flat-out Russian disinformation, playing off of Putin’s “denazification” talking points about the reason for his “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Representative Madison Cawthorn, the radicalized Republican from North Carolina, called Zelensky a “thug”— and it ran on Russian state TV, as Cawthorn was used for Russian propaganda. And there’s the conspiracy of “biolabs” in Ukraine, more Russian disinformation aimed at claiming Ukraine will use chemical weapons so that Russia can do it first, spread by of all of the GOP extremists, MAGA world and Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.
So, as populist authoritarians around the world are running in fear from Putin, petrified of the political fallout, Trump and his gang — the true face of the GOP in Congress — are still embracing Putin. And Republican so-called leaders are afraid to call it out, while they suddenly put on an act, making as if they’ve always been tough on Putin.
Democrats can’t let them get away with it, and have got to call this out — and expose it continually — and of course connect it all back to January 6th. The goal isn’t just to clobber Trumpism for the mid-terms but to make Trump more toxic for the GOP moving forward and kill any chances for Trump as he flirts with a 2024 run.
Americans are seeing the brutal, violent outcome of authoritarianism in another part of the world. And it’s become even more clear that this is exactly where Trumpism will lead in America, and why Trump must never be near the White House again.