Tag: Conservatism

Russia, Putin, and the American Right

George S LedyardHow did a party, that still pays lip service to Ronald Reagan is the father of modern conservatism end up as the tool of Vladimir Putin’s Russia? Reagan spent his entire career fighting against Russian influence globally. In just a few years, his beloved party is now an apologist for Russian efforts in their own country domestically and around the world globally.

To understand all of this, one needs to see just how brilliant Vladimir Putin and his intelligence service have been. Historically, the old Soviet Union would launch covert ops designed to co-opt the left. Socialist groups, anti-Vietnam War groups, progressive journalists, pretty much anyone on the left that was anti-establishment could be targeted. They looked for sympathetic political allies.

In those days it was simply assumed that guys like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, who had gotten a start in their political careers crafting their foreign polices with countering Russian influence around the globe as the central goal, were not easily influenced. So it was the lefties that got targeted for manipulation by Russian intelligence.

This was true all the way back to the very beginning of the Soviet state when the Comintern infiltrated every Russian emigre group, used lefty socialist student groups at universities to recruit spies, and so on.

The brilliance of Putin’s intelligence effort to influence US policy towards Russia is that he made the decision to target American Conservatives. Russians have a very sophisticated understanding of individual and political psychology. During their entire history since the Revolution, the field of psychology has been treated as a tool for maintaining state control.

Russian intelligence has realized that the main objection to Russia as a nation on the part of the US was it’s adherence to Godless Communism. Now, that any pretense of being a Communist country has been dropped, they have realized that as an autocratic, totalitarian state, there are many areas on confluence with the American right. Now that Putin’s Russia has embraced its Orthodox heritage and dropped notions of socialism and communism in favor of oligarchy in which a small group of fabulously wealthy individuals run the country, the American right has realized just how much they have in common with their former enemies.
 

Russian intelligence understands this. They know their history. Back in the 1930’s, it was the American right that toyed with Fascism as a perceived defense against the popular revolt of the unemployed working class. The American oligarchs, the Bushes, the Morgans, Duponts, Fords etc actually initiated a coup to overthrow President Roosevelt which never coalesced. Up until Pearl Harbor these people openly admired the Fascist leaders like Hitler in Europe in just the same way we see Donald Trump openly expressing admiration for Vladimir Putin.

Putin’s intelligence service recognized that Putin’s narrative of Russia as the Christian bulwark against the Asiatic menace of the Islamic hordes, their draconian anti-LGBT policies, even Putin’s strong man ability to crush media opposition all appeal to the American right and represented points of entry for targeting Russian influence efforts.

Really, what it comes down to is that the American right has a built in bias towards authoritarianism. Donald Trump is openly admiring of various strong men around the world. The GOP has been praising Vladimir Putin’s leadership.  All of this is the result of a twenty year campaign on the part of Russian intelligence to influence the American right.

They still do work the left. It’s fairly clear that the Russians used Jill Stein as a tool to split voters off of the Democratic Party and prevent at least a portion of progressive voters from unifying with the Clinton campaign after Bernie Sanders lost the nomination. This continues… `It is quite revealing to see that the pro-Russia narrative being pushed by many members of the far right is virtually identical to that of the far left radical progressives. But the Russians understand that the far left in the US is politically marginalized and has no actual political power.


As voters, we need to look at administration and Republican policy from the stand point of how it serves Russian policy objectives. Despite Putin’s courting of Donald Trump and other right wing figures, he is not a “friend” of America but a savvy adversary whose real interest in in creating division between the US and its European allies, damaging political unity on the US, and even damaging our essential confidence in our democratic institutions. We need to be very careful to see what is happening through this filter or we risk being manipulated into policies that damage the country in the long run.

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The Death of the GOP as a Functional Conservative Party

George S LedyardTraditional conservatives, the non-insane ones that aren’t racist Neo-Fascists, continue to be dismayed, not just about Trump and company but the lack of experienced leadership in the GOP in general.
This is still democratic system. The ability to negotiate, to compromise, to horse trade is how government of such a diverse population must work.
The Tea Party has sent a number of people to Congress who are religiously and ideologically motivated extremists who have no such ability.
Add to that a So-called President whose personal style would be better suited to a dictatorship. Trump and his minions seem to labor under the misconception that all that is required is for the Great Leader to publicly pronounce his support for a measure and Congress, at least the GOP portion should simply use their majority to pass it.
There is a difference between “conservatism” as a type of governing philosophy and what conservatism as an extreme right wing movement that is anti-government, isolationist, xenophobic and radically socially reactionary.
William F BuckleyBarry GoldwaterOld style conservatives were influenced by conservative “thinkers” like William F Buckley. They were represented in government by highly experienced men like Barry Goldwater and George H W Bush. These men represented a governing philosophy yes, but they also deeply believed in the democratic process. They knew how to work with the people on the other side of the aisle move the business of government forward.
LBJ and Sam Rayburn
LBJ and Sam Rayburn legendary legislators

There was a time when all politicians seemed to recognize that they really did represent all of their constituents. They had their agendas, the policies that they wished to put forward, but they knew that the end result would inevitably be a compromise and that was actually the way the system had been designed by the founding fathers. Skill in governance involved the ability to push ones agenda through the legislative process, to use ones experience, ones connections, ones negotiating skills to succeed in getting legislation passed.
The Freedom CaucusOver the course of the last eight years, we have seen a steady loss of both actual government experience with extremist Tea Party outsiders replacing establishment GOP candidates in Congress. One could see the result over the past eight years in which the GOP simply became the Party of “No”. Their philosophy of government has been to simply oppose anything and everything the other party supports.
Trump AdministrationThese same voters sent the least qualified and experienced President in US history to the Presidency. Trump is a President who has surrounded himself with advisers who have no government or legislative experience. Some are political extremists and some are merely billionaires whose interest is only in helping the wealth be wealthier. None are terribly interested in compromising with the other side.
So, the loss of real statesmen and the overall lack of real experience in the GOP has virtually destroyed the party as a party able to govern. With both the Presidency and the control of Congress, they are still unable to unite in order to pass important legislation. The administration’s radical agenda offends the fiscal conservatives and those moderates still left in the party. The move to compromise on issues offends the extremists in groups like the Freedom Caucus who refuse to budge on attempts to make extremist legislation more moderate.
The result is a party that was unified enough to put a President in the white house but has shown itself to be quite dis-unified and unable to functionally govern. We see traditional Conservatives like George F Will publicly leaving the party. We see the Trump administration governing through executive order, something for which Trump strongly criticized President Obama. The administration is becoming increasingly frustrated with Congressional inability to deliver and is showing more sympathy for totalitarian style leadership.
This blog from Sheila Kennedy is another take on this issue from a former Republican supporter who wonders where her party went.