In fact, by 2016, polls of Republican voters showed a massive flip in their support of Vladimir Putin once Donald Trump entered the race and explained why Russia should be considered America’s friend.
Russia had quite a bit of experience in changing the political mind-set of smaller nations. State-run television, radio, and online media spent years unraveling Moscow’s opponents in Ukraine, Georgia, Montenegro,Hungary, Germany, France, Austria, Latvia, Lithuania, and Spain.They even managed to help convince Great Britain’s citizens that membershipin the European Union was bad for them, even though the UK might end up losing Northern Ireland and Scotland. That same state espionage apparatus barely had to invest in their active measure strategy to help American conservatives destroy their own government. Republicans were already taking a sledgehammer to any effort that would help take care of all its citizens. Moscow’s efforts were a sideshow compared to the work done by the Republican Congress under Obama.
Convincing the Republicans in Congress to become allies with theTrump-Putin world would be a watershed moment, heralding a newRussian century. The alliance could weaken, even kill, NATO and the EU.American Republicans as allies could put an end to the transatlantic allianceonce and for all. They could even be convinced that doing thiswas a great act of patriotism—all while ending the crippling economicsanctions against the Russian oligarchs. Enter the Republican shmoosof the Kremlin.
The founding fathers could never have conceived that their legacy—based on considered enlightenment truths, girded by science andtempered by thoughtful discourse—would be squandered by Congress,that legislators would lose their way and willingly abdicate their role asa coequal branch of government. Presidents and Congresses fight all thetime. That was to be expected. This friction is deliberate to incite debateand discovery, to compromise and advance legislation, to use the powerof democracy to make the nation always great.
Of course, the framers also assumed nation-states such as the greatpowers of Europe would attempt machinations, but the very size of the body of representation and the coequal branches would put a checkon that. Congress’s ability to investigate chicanery stood that test evenduring the Civil War. But no one—not Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Adams,Hamilton, or Washington—ever considered a situation in whichmost of the US Congress and its sustaining political party would comeunder the thrall of a president as corrupt and unethical as Trump. It canbe assured that the founders would also never consider it possible thatAmericans would be comfortable publicly bowing down to a Europeanadversary. George Washington would be especially appalled since he rannumerous spy rings.
Under Article I of the Constitution, the House of Representativesand the Senate are supposed to be the people’s check on any president’sabuse of Article II powers to exercise authoritarian rule. Yet underTrump, the Republican Congress, initially both the House and theSenate, willfully abdicated that job. They have simply become Trump’sSoviet-style politburo. If this were the Republican Party of old and sucha level of intrigue occurred under a Democratic president, there wouldhave been 24/7 treason trials broadcast from the US Capitol, followedby a full-scale auto-da-fe of Democrats on the national mall around thebase of the Washington Monument.
The republic was not designed to endure this type of event. It wasdesigned to work in defense of the Constitution, not to subvert it by acombined assault from two of three branches. Undermining democracyusing all branches of the government and then engineering the usurpationof the courts has never occurred before—no one dared betray thefoundations of democracy. But it has happened, with the result that anentire party has become loyal to one man and not to the Constitution.These are not normal times.
This surrender did not go unnoticed. On MSNBC, the former presssecretary for Republican president George W. Bush, Nicolle Wallace, putit this way: “[T]he Republican Party has become the pro-Russia, anti-FBIparty.” Under Trump, the Republicans have been in mortal fear oftheir base. Trump holds the leash of Cerberus, the middle-aged whitemale voter, with its snarling, drooling triple heads of racism, ignorance,and xenophobia. Republican politicians at first feared this power. Theywould do and say just about anything to be seen as part of the Trump team. Eventually it became clear to them they, too, loved this form ofgovernment. Political philosopher and anticommunist thought leaderGeorge Kennan once described the mind-set of the leadership of the SupremeSoviet in the Cold War as “impervious to logic of reason, highlysensitive to logic of force.” This is an accurate description of the Republicanshmoos in the Trump era.
Russia-love fever exploded among the Republican political elite inWashington soon after Trump took power, but one follower who joinedin the strategic flip-flop early was Trump’s first supporter in the US Senate,Senator Jeff Sessions. Throughout the campaign, Sessions wouldfind himself within the Russian bubble of influence as Trump’s biggestcheerleader. And like all Trump’s flunkies, he would come to convenientlynot remember or lie about his contacts with Russian diplomats.Even after becoming Trump’s attorney general in 2017, reports surfacedduring his confirmation hearing that he failed to disclose two meetingswith Russian ambassador Kislyak and a third much later.1 The Muellerreport felt that the meetings were incidental, but in the whirlwind offinding out about the Trump team’s contacts with Moscow, why dissemble?Because of these contacts Sessions subsequently recused himselffrom the Department of Justice investigation into Russian interference.Team Trump at one point even went so far as to accuse the Obamaadministration of treason for not defending the nation when in fact
Team Trump had subverted all attempts to stop Russia. As it turns outit would be Republicans who would slowly become Trump’s most loyalfollowers and would block all attempts to find and document how Russiahad aided Trump.