Donald Trump would never have been elected president without the influence of Russia. The Russians may not have changed votes at the ballot box, but they definitely changed voters’ minds. They engaged in a campaign to dupe Americans (and, boy, are we dupable!) into believing that a man with no experience, numerous business failures, and an inability to string together a coherent sentence was a better choice for the Republican nomination than all the other more mainstream candidates. Then, of course, they convinced a lot of people that this same man was a better choice to run the country than a former senator and secretary of state.
This is what happens when a large group of people get all their news from one or two sources. In this case, the primary source was Facebook. It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic. Who could have imagined that so many Americans would be taken in by ridiculous conspiracy theories, fake campaign news, laughable smear tactics, and absurdly false posts from a veritable army of bots? Russia declared war on America in 2016 and America lost. We’re still losing.
In this case, Russia targeted the GOP and the GOP swooned. Russia planted pretty women at NRA conventions and infiltrated religious gatherings. They courted Trump campaign staffers with big promises of power and money. And they planted misinformation in the places where the least-informed voters spent most of their time.
Look, I have no doubt that Democrats could be similarly duped. We all need to be more skeptical about the things we read and hear. And, yes, the Obama administration probably should have done more to stop this when they first discovered the Russians were attempting to hijack our election. But all presidents inherit ongoing problems from one administration to the next. No one gets to get to abdicate responsibility just because a problem started under a different president. And Trump officials were alerted to this issue before the election. They knew full well the Russians were working to use them as assets. They didn’t care then, and they don’t seem to care now.
No matter how Trump got elected, he is now in office. Until that changes, it is his job to serve the American people. All of them. He cannot serve us well if he engages in the same news consumption practices that landed us here. Apparently the president only watches Fox News and he seems to only watch the worst of it—the morning show, the angry opinion spouters. Actual news doesn’t interest him. This is dangerous. Every president must hear dissenting voices and criticism. Those critics are Americans and the president serves them too.
Perhaps more disturbing is that this president actively spreads misinformation by using the same tactics as the Russians. He knows that if you say something often enough, some people (enough people) will believe you. He is now putting forth the lie that Russia will be helping the Democrats win in the upcoming elections. There is zero evidence for this claim. In fact, Putin stated a clear preference for Trump when asked about the last election. And Trump continues to fawn over Putin and other dictators while deriding allies and ordinary Americans. None of us should stand for this. It is past time for the GOP to denounce the lies and denounce the liars. The Democratic Party should do the same, but the Republicans have the power now and they must act with integrity or be prepared to spend the next hundred years cleaning up this mess.
Look, I was raised in the deep red south. I know as many Republicans as Democrats. I don’t have the luxury of living in a leftist bubble. I understand why some people choose to vote Republican even when I don’t agree with the choice. I don’t understand how a thinking person can continue to support Trump. That’s not a slam; it’s a genuine expression of confusion. I don’t get the appeal of the man and his policies aren’t helping anyone, least of all his base. That’s evidenced by his proposal to pay off farmers hurt by his terrible trade policies, a move that would be anathema to any other Republican president. And, for the record, I’d rather bail out farmers than bankers, though I’d prefer we not put ourselves in a position where we have to bail out any one industry.
Today’s GOP is not the party of Lincoln. It is not even the party of Reagan. It is now fully the party of Trump and the party of Putin. It is the party of trade wars, massive deficits, anti-immigrant policies, racism, misogyny, and lies. There are a few rogue Republicans speaking out against the madness, but not enough. Too many lifelong party stalwarts seem to have made peace with this mess. They’ve sided with the Russians over the Americans, because doing so helps them stack the courts with justices who will rule in their favor. That’s a devil’s bargain and I don’t see how it ends well for anyone.