By William K. Black
July 19, 2018 Bloomington, MN
The Republican Party, for over 70 years, did not simply oppose the Soviet Union; it demonized Democrats as ‘soft’ on Russia. This history makes the Republican Party’s increasing embrace of Putin’s Russia particularly bizarre.
Forty percent of Republican’s now consider Russia “friendly” or an “ally” of the United States. That percentage is nearly twice as large as in 2014 despite a large number of Russian attacks on the U.S. and the West (and Russians) since 2014. Seventy-nine percent of Republicans had a positive response to Trump and Putin’s infamous (to most Americans) Helsinki press conference.
Vox reported the results of a recent (highly regarded) poll on public opinion about Russia’s attempt to interfere in our 2016 election with the goal of aiding Donald Trump’s election.
Only 10 percent of Republicans strongly agree that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump. Another 22 percent somewhat agreed with that statement.
On the flip side, 31 percent of Republicans strongly disagree that Russia got involved on behalf of Trump, with another 19 percent “somewhat” disagreeing.
That’s compared to 58 percent of Democrats who strongly agree that Russia tried to interfere, and 23 percent who somewhat agree. (A mere 2 percent strongly disagreed.)
The US intelligence community concluded in a 2017 assessment that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton; they did not evaluate whether it influenced the outcome of the election.
In addition to the intelligence community’s consensus, we now have substantial additional evidence confirming that consensus. The recent indictment of twelve GRU intelligence officers that hacked the DNC and released information to harm Hillary Clinton’s electoral prospects is so detailed and revealing that there is no reasonable basis for doubting that consensus. The consensus is also that Putin directed the attack. Other forensic work on Russia’s social media operation and the only real congressional investigation also support the consensus. Putin admitted at the Helsinki press conference that he hoped for Trump’s election.
The critical questions are:
Why so many Republicans deny the demonstrated reality of Putin’s attack on our Nation’s election,
Why so many Republicans do not believe the (often) Republican leaders of the agencies whose investigations formed the original intelligence consensus in 2017,
Why so many Republicans do not believe the Republicans Trump appointed to run the intelligence agencies (who unanimously agree with the consensus based on their own investigations), and
Why the Republican base, which loves Trump, does not believe Trump when he repeatedly (purports) to support that consensus?
Commentators have largely focused on the first two questions, but the last two questions are far more telling. It is truly bizarre and logically insane that Trump’s base will not believe Trump’s appointees.
It is beyond bizarre that Trump’s base does not believe Trump when (reluctantly and ephemerally) he admits the obvious that Putin interfered with our election with the goal of electing Trump as President. Only ten percent of Republicans “strongly believe” Trump when Trump tells them that he endorses his own experts’ unanimous agreement that Putin interfered with our elections to aid Trump’s election.
Descending into the Rabbit Hole
The ‘logical’ explanation of how Trump’s base overwhelmingly does not believe Trump’s endorsement of the unanimous intelligence findings reveals how pathological the base’s support of Trump has become. The base must believe that when Trump (briefly and under pressure from his senior staff and even the likes of Newt Gingrich) admits the truth about Putin’s effort to interfere with our election to try to elect Trump – Trump is lying. That scenario puts us deep in Wonderland. In Wonderland, the Trump base believes:
- Trump appointed disloyal, anti-Trump liars as his top intelligence and Department of Justice officials seeking to discredit the validity of his election and force him from office
- These liars’ strategy is foisting a false account of Putin’s actions and goals on the public that they know is untrue and harmful to Trump
- Trump’s disloyal top appointees are so powerful that Trump cannot fire them or expose their disloyalty and must instead appear (periodically and grudgingly) to support their lies.
Trump’s base has to believe three impossible things – only half what the Red Queen told Alice she often believed “before breakfast.”
Trump’s base really believes that when Trump endorses the finding that Putin interfered with the 2016 election to seek to elect Trump – the result is actually a ‘hostage video.’ Trump’s disloyal senior appointees really have the ability to force Trump to make these public lies. The base sees Trump’s impromptu deviations (“It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds”) from the ‘hostage’ scripts his senior staff periodically force him to read as brave signals to his base that his scripted message is a lie he is telling under duress.