Trump As Allegory

So I’m packing to go on a trip to NYC tomorrow and a thought just crossed my mind that I had to write about. This past week has been, in general, one giant shitshow as the sponge-brained old racist uncle-in-chief prostrated and cowered next to Putin. From an almost flat-out refusal to acknowledge interference in the 2016 election to a pathetically weak response to Putin’s suggestion of turning over officials such as former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, Trump has pretty much convinced every rational-minded person in America that he is, at best, subservient to or afraid of Vladimir Putin.

But what if there’s a lesson in all this? What if Trump’s behavior, as despicable and craven as it is, is just exposing the truth about Russia and the West, in the same way Trump totally debunked the idea that America is a “post-racial” society?

If we look at interactions between Putin and other Western leaders who are considered sufficiently “tough” on Putin, we see that while they often talk a big game about standing up to him either outside of his presence or at press conferences, they rarely back their words with action. Macron living it up with Putin at the World Cup is a perfect example of this. Ditto Merkel and Nord Stream II, although to her credit she seems to have put a damper on Putin’s dream of cutting Ukraine out of the gas network. And while Obama did bring several successful rounds of sanctions against Russia since 2014, it wasn’t enough to deter Putin from getting directly involved in Syria, or more importantly- interfering with the US political system itself.

So the along walks Trump, a man who seems to have a special affinity for the dictator in Moscow. Trump hasn’t actually managed to lift sanctions; he’s delayed on implementing some of them but new individuals and companies still get added to the sanctions list nonetheless. He doesn’t recognize Crimea as Russian, but he doesn’t really do anything for Ukraine. He doesn’t really suggest new ways to deter or punish Russian aggression, but he doesn’t uproot those in place.

In a sense, Trump is just openly doing what the US and Western governments did with Russia for years, if not decades. Whether it was under Yeltsin or Putin, the Western leaders expressed “concern” over conditions in Russia or Russian moves abroad, but they never took any action until Putin forced their hand by unleashing another war in Europe. This kind of deference to Moscow seems to be rooted in two factors. The first is the capitalist system that wants Russian investment and investment opportunities in Russia, a large potential market. The second is the very old inability to recognize Moscow-dominated Russia for what it is- the last European colonial empire. We saw plenty of the former during the boom of the mid-2000s, when the West was more than happy to ignore or at most, pay some lip service to the issue of human rights in Russia while billions of petrodollars were skimmed off and pumped into Western luxury items and elite property in London, New York, Miami, or the South of France. In the case of the latter, note how the West has expressed support for former Soviet republics, yet says nothing about non-Russian territories within the inappropriately named Russian Federation (it’s not really a federation).

I’m not excusing Trump’s behavior or saying it’s no cause for real concern, but I can’t help but notice that in a way, all Trump has done is put an end to the empty lip service and openly embraced Putin as opposed to talking a big game in public while making deals with him behind closed doors.

This is something Westerners need to seriously think about after Trump is gone. So many of the people who today tell us that we’ve experienced another Pearl Harbor or, as Morgan Freeman put it, “we are at war,” either support or worked for politicians who in the past had the same knowledge we have about Russia today, yet still accepted key parts of the Kremlin’s narrative and enabled many of its nefarious actions. Maybe the silver lining of Trump’s recent actions is that people will start waking up to that fact.

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3 thoughts on “Trump As Allegory

  1. mariinskyrose

    Thanks for the common sense. So in an ideal world, what SHOULD a US president do in response to Russia’s antics? What would be ideal diplomatic steps?

    And if it’s not too personal to ask, do you miss Russia? Do you want to go back to live there?

    Reply
  2. AndyT

    As the saying goes, “strong with the weak, weak with the strong”.

    Unlike Putin and the Kremlin, these Western leaders know that adopting a more confrontational issue could cost them more votes – especially in light of their Countries’ domestic woes and of Putin’s growing popularity among anti-establishment circles: hence their half-hearted approach, I think.

    That said almost every government has been walking a fine line on this issue – even Italy’s new govt, despite its well-known pro-Kremlin attitude, has carefully avoided to challenge both the NATO and the EU’s stance against Russia (except lamenting the effects of the sanctions)…

    Reply
  3. NonDenominationalLeftist

    It all goes back to a sense of 90s nostalgia. The 90s were the last time people remember “the system” working. The economy seemed to be booming, America seemed to represent freedom and the good guys after the Gulf War and later the Yugoslav conflicts. The Cold War had ended and there was this sense that the global neoliberal order could bring world peace.

    The 2000s shattered all of that. 9/11, the Iraq War, Katrina, and as a cherry on top, the 2008 financial crisis all shook away any good feelings we had towards the government or global future. For liberals Obama started to undo that mess, but obviously for many Americans, his actions were unfelt or too little. And of course Obama presided over the further degradation of global norms through the expansion of a more colder, more covert tactic of targeted killings. The US is out of any major ground wars, but the world seems to only be getting more and more chaotic.

    So here comes Trump, who’s done away with any pretense of restoring the 90s. No, he wants to go further back, create a truly blank slate starting from the 1950s ideal. He has no pretense of America being any sort of “global good” – no, to him America’s purpose is to secure things for ourselves, whatever the means or cost.

    And so liberals panic. He outflanked Hillary on economic populism with a platform that called for heavy infrastructure investment, preserving entitlement programs, raising the minimum wage, and cutting taxes. Of course once he entered office he walked back on nearly all of these but the last, but during the campaign this forced the debate to focus on cultural issues like immigration, crime, Islam, etc.

    It’s not easy to counter this strategy. To go full leftist like Sanders means to walk back on the policies that defined the glory days of the 90s – it’s an admission to Trump that he’s right, something fundamentally is wrong with the existing order. So the Russian intervention, however legitimate, is a convenient substitute. It ties Trump to the exact kinds of shady politics he ran against, while also putting the blame on an outside actor. His shitty policies on immigration, taxes, climate change, etc can be attacked with an additional level of force – they are anti-American, forced on us by a hostile dictator.

    Reply

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