Pro-Russian converts on the American right appear to take two forms. The opportunists simply want power and are willing to sacrifice principles in pursuit of it. The ideologues, meanwhile, see Russia as nothing worse than an occasional nuisance, if not a potential ally in the fight against Islamic extremism.
Perhaps the most prominent opportunist is former House speaker Newt Gingrich. In 1994, Gingrich included NATO expansion to Eastern Europe in his “Contract With America.” Yet last summer, while rationalizing Trump’s unprecedented vow not to defend NATO allies unless they “pay us,” Gingrich said of tiny, vulnerable Estonia (one of the few NATO members to meet the alliance’s recommended defense budget threshold) that he was “not sure I would risk a nuclear war over some place which is the suburbs of St. Petersburg.” This past week, Fox News host Tucker Carlson echoed Gingrich’s contempt for U.S. treaty obligations, asking Russian dissident Garry Kasparov why Carlson’s military-age son should have to “defend the Baltics.” (Perhaps because the sons and daughters of Baltic nations have stood with the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq?)
The need to defend Trump’s victory at any cost has induced conservatives to praise a virulently anti-American anarchist, who is probably in cahoots with Russian intelligence, and whose head they once called for. When WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange published emails stolen from the Clinton campaign by Russian hackers last fall, a few patriotic Republicans such as Marco Rubio said the party should ignore the blatant attempt to subvert our democracy. But most seized on the correspondence, and earlier hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, as a political cudgel. Typical of the reaction was Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, who, after Twitter suspended an account acting as a front for Russian dissemination of the documents, decried “leftist fascism.” Trump, who had suggested the “death penalty or something” for Assange in 2010 after he released secret U.S. Army logs, now sides with Assange over the U.S. “intelligence” community, as he derisively referred to it on Twitter.
That same year, Fox News host Sean Hannity spoke for most conservatives when he condemned Assange for “waging war against the U.S.” On Tuesday, Hannity aired a fawning interview with the Australian in which he credulously nodded along while Assange denied that he had received the stolen Democratic documents from Russia. Former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, whose emails WikiLeaks published in 2008, even apologized to Assange this past week for speaking ill of him at that time. And Republican Rep. Trent Franks (Ariz.) told an interviewer that Russian hackers “merely did what the media should have done” in stealing and exposing Democratic Party communications. Break the law?
Though the opportunists outnumber the ideologues, it’s the true believers who could pose the greatest damage to U.S. foreign policy over the long term. Their proposed strategic realignment with Moscow, predicated upon shared opposition to vaguely defined “Islamic terrorism,” is seductive but wrong: Far from being a potential partner in the fight against Islamic terrorism, Russia does much to stoke it.
Would you buy from a company that ran ads on a hate site? What if you voted for Trump - would you buy from a company that said they wouldn't? It gets more complex as an intermediary is involved, but we might see serious pressure on Internet marketing. And if the split in the country becomes more intense will companies be forced to take sides? A piece on fighting fake news sites from The New York Times.
Movements are born in the moments when abstract principles become concrete concerns. MoveOn arose in response to what was perceived as the Republican congressional overreach that resulted in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. The Occupy movement was a backlash to the financial crisis. The message of Black Lives Matter was inspired by the death of Trayvon Martin and the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Occupy’s version of anti-corporate populism helped to create the climate in which Senator Bernie Sanders’s insurgent campaign could not only exist but essentially shape the Democratic Party platform. Black Lives Matter brought national attention to local instances of police brutality, prompting the Obama Administration to launch the Task Force on 21st Century Policing and helping defeat prosecutors in Chicago and Cleveland, who had sought reëlection after initially failing to bring charges against police officers accused of using excessive force.