Friday, July 29, 2016

The Donald and Vladimir meme

Democrats and some commentators are making a big deal about the supposed mutual sympathies of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Here is a version from former Shrub Bush speechwriter David Frum, Donald Trump Has Turned the Republicans Into the Party of Russia The Atlantic 07/27/2016:

Conservatives who invoke fears about what Clinton may have done as a defense against what Trump repeatedly has done are inverting all reasonable concerns. Trump actually is acting to advance Russian interests. He actually has subordinated U.S. national security to his own political ambitions. He already has compromised the security of U.S. alliances and the integrity of the U.S. military guarantee.

No candidate for president since Henry Wallace ran as a “Progressive” in 1948 has run a campaign so openly in service to an adverse foreign power as Trump’s. His complaints about the insufficient number of American flags on the Democratic convention stage are clumsy parodies of patriotism, and the flag pins on the lapels of the TV talking heads who will condone his latest pro-Putin remarks are no better.
Frum's invocation of Wallace's 1948 campaign is an example of one thing that bothers me about this line of criticism against Trump: it sounds more than a little like cheap, old-fasioned "redbaiting."

Obviously, other countries work to influence American policy and politics. Collaboration with foreign powers occurred in 1968 when the Nixon campaign worked with the South Vietnamese government to delay peace talks. The case for the "October Surprise" operation of the Reagan campaing in 1980 is more circumstantial. But the cases made by Gary Sick and Robert Perry are persuasive.

Masha Gessen adds a thoughtful caution to Trump's critics about putting emphasis on the supposed Trump-Russia partnership in The Trump-Putin Fallacy NYR Daily 07/26/2016:

Trump is not a foreign agent. This gets me to the second common trope: that Trump is like Putin. Yes, he is. As Timothy Snyder has pointed out, Trump seems to want to be Putin: “Putin is the real world version of the person Trump pretends to be on television.” That may well flatter Putin. More to the point, Putin is on record as hating Hillary Clinton and blaming her for much of what ails Russia, so there is little reason to doubt that he would prefer to see Trump win the election. But that tells us nothing about his actual ability to influence the election or Trump himself. Trump is also like Mussolini and Hitler. All of them are fascist demagogues who emerged from their own cultures and catered to them. In fact, Trump is less like Putin, whose charisma is largely a function of the post to which he was accidentally appointed, than he is Mussolini or Hitler.

In the middle of the last century, a number of thinkers whose imaginations had been trained in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany tried to tell Americans that it can happen here. In such different books as Erich Fromm’s Escape from Freedom, Theodor Adorno and his group’s The Authoritarian Personality, and Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man, the great European exiles warned that modern capitalist society creates the preconditions for the rise of fascism. America doesn’t need Putin for that.
It's good to see her citing Frankfurt School figures like Fromm, Adorno and Marcuse. Although One-Dimensional Man is more about what Marcuse saw as totalitarian features of Western capitalist civilization than fascist tendencies as such.

Josh Marshall has been following the Trump-Putin story closely, e.g., Trump & Putin. Yes, It's Really a Thing TPM 07/25/2016.

No comments: