The Curious Case of Trump’s Putin Bromance
Much has been said about Donald Trump’s infatuation with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, but I’m wondering if I’m the only one who marvels at the strangeness of it all, especially when taking into account Trump’s base constituency, i.e. blue-collar white men. For those who don’t know it, Trump has been effusive in his praise of Putin, emphasizing Putin’s “strength” for the most part, and contrasting that strength with derisive comments about U. S. President Barak Obama’s supposed “weakness”. Of course Mr. Trump fails to explain exactly where the dividing line between “strong leader” and “dictator” falls, but then the Republican candidate tends to make a lot of statements that defy explanation. But it’s the continuing loyalty of Trump’s followers to their leader, despite his Putin bromance, that I find most curious.
I was born in 1958, and during my entire lifetime the United States has had a contentious relationship with Russia, whether simply as “Russia” or as the Soviet Union. And for the most part, the Americans who have most fervently nursed this antipathy to Russia have been working class white men, who have long held a grudge against the “no-good Commie Ruskies”. Now it is true that oligarchs have replaced communist functionaries as the dictatorial rulers of Russia, but does that really change anything all that much, especially given Putin’s history as a KGB thug for the former Soviet Union? And when the USSR collapsed, wasn’t one of the great benefits of its downfall supposed to be freedom and independence for the former Soviet republics, including Ukraine? It is quite clear from Putin’s actions in Ukraine and elsewhere that his goal is to resurrect the type of hegemony that the Soviet Union maintained over its neighbors, and so I’m hard pressed to comprehend how red-blooded American men can countenance Trump’s Putin infatuation, but evidently they do.
Both Trump and his running mate Mike Pence have lauded Putin as being a stronger leader than our president, Barak Obama. Well yeah, it’s kind of easier to be a strong leader when you’re a dictator of a plutocracy as opposed to being the president of a democracy who has to worry about things like due process, equal protection, the separation of powers, etc. But over the past few years many conservative opponents of the president have taken to calling Obama himself a “dictator” (and they don’t mean it in a good way) because of his use of executive orders to get around Republican legislative roadblocks, especially in the areas of immigration reform and environmental regulations. So which is it, American white male blue-collar Trump supporters? Are dictators good or bad? When Obama issues an executive order you say he’s acting like a dictator, which is presumably a bad thing, but then you’re perfectly okay with your favored presidential candidate lauding a brutal political authoritarian for his supposed strength. There is clearly a contradiction here.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”, and while there might be some truth to that, I don’t think that looking for consistency with regard to the concept of dictatorship is foolish at all, but I’m just not seeing such consistency when it comes to Trump’s loyal fans. Trump has said that he could stand on Fifth Avenue shooting people and it wouldn’t lessen his support among his followers, and maybe he’s right. Perhaps his supporters are okay with his love for the Russian KGB thug Putin because, to them, so long as Trump gives voice to their anger, hatred, bigotry and misogyny, whatever else he says or does really doesn’t matter.