Does Trump’s base accept Putin’s invasion of Ukraine?
Russia’s escalating and unprovoked attacks on Ukraine have drawn global condemnation and rare, if fractured, agreement from Democrats and Republicans alike. But Donald Trump and his base should do some soul-searching about their own embrace of Russia’s autocratic leader and the climate that shaped him.
It is one that also threatens us here at home.
Since the 45th US President began to approach and praise President Vladimir Putin, this admiration for the Russian strongman has spilled over to other Republican politicians and citizens. Between July 2014 and December 2016, Putin’s preference with Republicans rose from 10% to 37%, according to polls by The Economist and YouGov.
This is particularly alarming given Republicans’ extreme disapproval of former US President Barack Obama. While only 14% of Republicans viewed Putin very unfavorably in December 2016, 63% of them viewed Obama very unfavorably. This is despite evidence, as determined by the CIA, that Putin intervened to help Trump win the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton.
So much for the rule of law and America first.
Most alarming, however, are the reasons for the right-wing embrace of a devious leader credited with returning Russia to its Soviet-era authoritarianism.
Blame it on the culture wars.
Vladimir Putin’s “strength” has been praised there for years
Many on the American right, emboldened by Trump, lash out at those who don’t look or act like them, or conform to their notion of “traditional” or conservative values. White nationalists admire Putin for enforcing uniformity and not tolerating factionalism. They resent American minority groups – African American, Latina, gay or transgender, among others – for expressing pride in their respective identities.
Take it from conservative Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, who said on February 22 that Americans who reject Putin should ask themselves, “Has Putin ever called me a racist?” Did he threaten to fire me because I disagreed with him? Carlson flip-flopped a few days later.
Trump ally Steve Bannon hailed Putin as “anti-awakening”. The religious right’s agenda would deny same-sex couples the right to marry, eliminate legal abortion and legislate against transgender people. Just look at the bills coming out of this session of the Iowa Legislature. Transgender girls and women are now banned from participating in women’s and women’s sports teams.
Continued:Editorial: Republicans in Iowa take victory lap as they inflict pain with law restricting trans girls
In Russia, Putin returned to the presidency in 2012, bolstering “his eroded popular support by turning to the Russian Orthodox Church and integrating its traditional value rhetoric“, the Telegraph reported, noting that the Kremlin considers the West as decadent.
He hired a “morality crusader” to limit gay rights, punish online swearing and tax divorces, among other things. Yelena Mizulina, head of Russia’s Committee for Family, Women and Children, banned gay ‘propaganda’ from 2013. Russian transgender people are classified as mentally ill and are not even allowed to drive, according to a September 2020 article in the Moscow Times. , which presents itself as offering independent information on Russia.
CBS News recently interviewed a 31-year-old transgender woman, Zi Faámelu, in the Ukrainian capital, Kviv, currently under siege by Russia. She comes from Crimea, a part of Ukraine that was invaded by Russia in 2014 and has been under its control ever since.
She is afraid of discriminatory laws against transgender people there. Living without food or water, she is afraid to leave her home because of what might happen to her because of her gender identity.
The network also interviewed an 18-year-old law student in Kharkiv, identified only as Iulia, who expressed terror at the prospect of Russia taking over Ukraine.
“In Russia, LGBTQ people are persecuted,” she told a CBS News reporter. “If we imagine that Russia occupies all of Ukraine or only a large part of the country, they will not allow us to exist peacefully and fight for our rights, as we are able to do in Ukraine right now.”
Donald Trump applauded Russia’s ‘fairly savvy’ moves ahead of invasion
And Trump, who didn’t praise Putin’s invasion of Ukraine (which he says wouldn’t have happened if he was still president) nonetheless qualified Putin’s rhetoric at this subject of “pretty savvy” on the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show on February 22.
Said Trump: “But here’s a guy who said, you know, ‘I’m going to declare a lot of Ukraine independent,’ he used the word ‘independent’, and ‘we’re going out and we’re going in and we’re going help keep the peace.”
“I got along very well with him,” said the former US president. “He loved me. I loved him. I mean, you know, he’s a badass, he’s got a lot of charm and a lot of pride. But the way he – and he loves his country, you know ?He loves his campaign.’
It is alarming and staggering that these attitudes and rhetoric are on the rise after all these years of anti-communist fervor that has kept us in proxy wars against the Soviet Union and former Soviet states, defending our democratic values and the rights of citizens .
Yes, politicians left and right now condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, although on political talk shows Republican politicians refuse to condemn Trump’s embrace of Putin.
But the attitudes underlying this embrace are part and parcel of Republican philosophy these days: an antipathy toward minority groups expressing their cultural identities. Backlash over same-sex marriage rights and a push to impose legal penalties for being transgender.
It’s real and it’s scary. Look at what just came out of the Iowa legislature.