Today’s “Fellow Travelers”

Younger readers of this blog may not be familiar with the term “fellow-traveler.”

As Wikipedia defines the term and its historic usage,

In the early history of the Soviet Union, the Bolshevik revolutionary and Soviet statesman Anatoly Lunacharsky coined the term poputchik (‘one who travels the same path’) and later it was popularized by Leon Trotsky to identify the vacillating intellectual supporters of the Bolshevik government. It was the political characterization of the Russian intelligentsia (writers, academics, and artists) who were philosophically sympathetic to the political, social, and economic goals of the Russian Revolution of 1917, but who did not join the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.. the Western world adopted the English term fellow traveller to identify people who sympathized with the Soviets and with Communism.

I thought of the term when I read a column in the New Republic describing  the ways in which the Republican Party has “cozied up” to the Kremlin over the past few years.

The column began by quoting Mike Pompeo, who–in an interview in 2020–said  Americans didn’t “give a fuck” about Ukraine.

Things have changed. And as the essay notes, that poses a problem for the GOP.

Whatever Americans were thinking two years ago, when Pompeo gave his NPR interview, they now do give a fuck about Ukraine—and therein lies a problem: For more than 25 years, the party of Reagan has been transforming itself into the party of Putin, only to discover that Vladimir Putin may not be a great role model after all. As a result, one leading Republican after another has begun to perform Simone Biles–level gymnastics in their bids to condemn their party’s most powerful patron.

The author, Craig Unger, emphasizes that this cozy relationship between Putin’s Kremlin and the American Right didn’t begin with Donald Trump, although Trump is pretty clearly in Vladimir Putin’s pocket. As Unger documents,  a “large swath” of the GOP has been closely involved with Russian operatives, who have provided campaign funding via “K Street lobbyists, political consultants, super PACs, campaign fundraising operations, disinformation and propaganda campaigns, social media operations, cyber-warfare efforts, money laundering schemes, think tanks harboring Russian intelligence operatives, and much, much more.”

Jonathan Winer, former deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement, has observed the relationship for years. “If you go back to the days of Jack Abramoff, when Americans started going to Moscow in the ’90s, and then to Paul Manafort in Ukraine, and so on, you start to see the spine of a secret influence campaign between the Republicans and Russia that has been built up over decades,” he said. “It goes right up to Tucker Carlson rooting for Putin on Fox today. It has been built up over decades, and it is not new, and it deeply infects the Republican Party. You have two forces with deep political ties that are fighting American democracy in order to keep Putin in power and install a Putin-like system in America. And to that end, they have penetrated deep into our think tanks, our media, our journalism—everything.”

Take Ed Buckham, the recently appointed chief of staff for Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. Today, Buckham handles a congresswoman who proudly attends “white supremacist, antisemitic, pro-Putin” rallies, as Congresswoman Liz Cheney characterized them, and has become renowned for touting conspiracy theories about how the California wildfires were started by Jewish space lasers. On Thursday, when the House of Representatives voted to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, Greene, not surprisingly, was one of eight Republicans who voted against it.

Unger traces Buckham’s relationship with Russia back 25 years– to his work for Tom Delay and his relationship with Jack Abramoff–but notes that even Buckham’s sleazy history “pales” in comparison with that of Paul Manafort. Manafort worked for a rogue’s gallery of dictators, but had especially close ties to Putin’s Russia–the Senate Intelligence Committee found that over $75 million Russian dollars had flowed through Manafort’s offshore accounts.

The article is lengthy, and it documents a number of other relationships between the Kremlin and GOP operatives, including the party’s preferred law firms.

Unger says that, as Americans watch the horrifying images from Ukraine, we need to remember those cozy relationships. We also need to remember the Russian trolls exerting influence on social media platforms, “the money laundering through real estate that enriched Donald Trump and his associates, and the Russian conspiracy theories that just happen to be echoed by QAnon, former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and the like.”

We need to recognize–and vote to rid ourselves of–the Fellow Travelers.


  1. There’s another Cold War term that applies to the Carlsons, Greenes, Gabbards, Trumps, and their kind- the ones openly shilling for Putin: Useful Idiot. Let’s not forget that one.

  2. What’s fascinating is an author from the New Republic can hone in on all the corruption in the GOP with Russian oligarchs but completely miss the DNC’s corruption by similar oligarchs.

    Does President Biden’s son, Hunter, ring any Ukrainian bells? He got the lucrative energy board position after the USA funded right-wing Nazis in Ukraine to overthrow the democratically-elected president in 2014 called the Euromaidan. We call that payback.

    We also bribed the president in Ecuador to gain access to Julian Assange. However, there are consequences when you sell out citizen-owned assets and resources (socialism) to capitalists. Lenin Moreno is now in hiding, fearing for his life.

    Unger also forgot all the Wall Street oligarchs working at the NY FED printing trillions to fund the banking system, Wall Street, and the Pentagon.

    What’s embarrassing is independent journalists are gaining readership across the political spectrum while all the propaganda media from right to left still print bullshit. Ukraine just provides them with sensational smoke to mask the real issues and the truth.

    It’s not going to be pretty as reality differs substantially from TV, but some Americans will still believe their TV’s over reality. 😉

  3. Todd makes some good points. I often have the same conversation with a good friend, and he also begins his arguments with the same “Yes, but what about…” rhetorical diversion. Yes, both sides are culpable of manipulation. Thanks Mr. Obvious.
    I would not be surprised if someday we learn that Bannon, Manafort, Carlson, Stone, Meadows, et al are deep cover operators for the KGB. Even if they are not, they could not have been more effective at the mission of destroying America. Fellow travelers indeed.

  4. I don’t know. I’m old school. I’ve been rooting against Russia since the Berlin wall went down. Their so called leader is now a war criminal and I hope he commits suicide before we can blow him up. I call him “tiny man syndrome.” Living within 1000 miles of Kyiv, I’m a bit nervous about current events. Have a nice weekend everyone.

  5. I believe that Lenin said, “The capitalists will sell you the rope you use to hang them,” or words to that effect. I’ve done a little bit of forensic accounting work in my time, and I would love to trace the cash flow of accounts, and dummy entities, maintained by these characters.

  6. NOT ON SHEILA’S SUBJECT BUT: Ohio state legislator Sarah Fowler Arthur supporting her bill to ban teachers from treating racism (among other issues) in a negative fashion. Her published comments, “German govt right saying Aryan superior – – acted right in murdering hundreds of thousands – – for having different color skin”. After being called out she complained that Ohio Jewish community is wrong and misinterpreted her statement. SHE won election by 60% vs 40% in a previous DEM district. THE article is handled both by Cincinnati Enquirer and Columbus DIspatch better than my truncated version.

  7. Fellow Traveler versus Traveler? (Traveller)

    I couldn’t see associating oneself to an ideology (sympathizer) completely antithetical to freedoms and human rights, especially if that person or group is/are to be considered patriotic freedom fighters!

    After all, Joseph Stalin was responsible for the Murder of millions, starving the Ukraine (the Ukraine famine) dispatching upwards of 10 million to Mass graves in the Ukraine alone! Add another 10 to 15 million of those considered undesirables in the Soviet Union, and you might be getting close.

    Adolf Hitler, well, he’s the most talked about, but he might not even be the worst authoritarian mass murderer. He was responsible for upwards of 20 million. A majority of them either Jews, Romani, selective religious groups, and those considered unproductive such as disabled and intellectually challenged. If you ever get a chance to go to the Holocaust museum in Skokie illinois, don’t pass it up! The best in the country.

    Then you have Chairman Mao, who presided over upwards of 45 to 50 million deaths, either by beating, or forced labor, or execution! Basically eliminating the boxers who started the Communist revolution because they were the uneducated peasants, the poorest!

    Out of their own mouths, American right wing authoritarian wannabes claiming to be freedom fighting patriots, attach themselves to these demons of our not very distant past.

    But, to what end? What’s the mission statement of this movement?

    Well, the United States has its own demons. The extermination of native Americans took close to 100 million lives. Close to 100 North American indigenous tribes completely disappeared. Let’s add to that, forced labor (Slavery) and the European trade in captured africans, where slave traders would dump their cargo in case of disease, chained together, into the ocean. Or, while being locked in cargo holds, doomed to drown if the ship sank by storm or was attacked.

    See, when those freedom fighting Patriots look in the rearview mirror, they see the good old days. But like was mentioned before, good old days for whom?

    For whom the Bell tolls? It tolls for thee!

    The church bells would toll for the death of an individual, but, why be curious? Because the Bell is tolling for all of humanity.

    Being a Traveler, (Traveller)
    Can denote having a symbiotic ideology with a movement, but it can also mean individuals engaged in nefarious activity. Both are accurate descriptors of what’s happening today. The venom being spewed at this young Black Woman, Ketanji Brown-Jackson, is a diabolic display self-righteous indignation, and self-agrandized, self-anointed crusaders who are actually chasing windmills desperately looking for an enemy to destroy.

    And this! Now the Wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been busted by her email and text trail, trying to get the White House to void the election and reinstall Donald Trump! No wonder Justice Thomas is in the hospital! Think he’s got Agita? LOL! Not much of a Conscience I must say. The Conscience and Law be damned!

    So, who meets the criteria of Traveler? (Traveller)

    There are no Innocents here.

    Our conscience can give us a certain modicum of compassion and empathy for those who we’ve stomped on, or authorized leadership to exterminate! After all, a guilty conscience is supposed to be a guardrail. But as also mentioned before, humankind can always manufacture away to calm that conscience and allow it to give permission for conduct completely antithetical to that conscience. What a conundrum huh?

    The human conscience from ancient times, meant the ability to look at one’s self and to render judgment about oneself, to Bear witness to oneself.

    “For whenever people that do not have law, do by nature the things of the law, these people, although not having law, are a law unto themselves. We are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts while their conscience is bearing witness with them and between their own thoughts they are being accused or even excused.” (Romans 2:14, 15)

    A bad Conscience is cultivated by being untrustworthy, cruel, Maleficent and Nefarious. A good Conscience is cultivated by having compassion and love for your fellow man. In this comment, does anyone see an example of compassion or love?

  8. While we’re naming names, how about the last revelation of Gini Thomas’ urgent communiques to the egregious Mark Meadows? Can this sedition reach into the hallowed halls of the SCOTUS too?

    We can continue to poke fingers in each others’ eyes, but the bottom line is that we’ve allowed our politics to become corrupted to the point where the blame game is the game d’jour. Todd has shown us how to play it: Blame everybody for the failure of the voter to make him/herself knowledgeable enough to see the evil of corruption. When in fact it is US! The majority of our populace has been so “massaged” by messaging that it no longer sees danger.

    The sedition by the Republican party is STILL much more pervasive than even the media can ferret out. Corruption (Citizens United v. FEC) has been legalized in the U.S. What else should we expect to see BUT the likes of these useful idiots? Roger Stone? Really? Clarence Thomas was the political expedient for GHW Bush. Now you see what a fox in the henhouse looks like.

  9. Not “On subject”, but “in text”. My dear friend, Sheila, please do not add to the everyday normalization of the “F-word” in your blog. Such is one of the most egregious stenches of our current culture/lack of any standards of decency.

  10. Vern,
    Yep, Couldn’t agree more!

    You are right, that is a nasty word! I think it just was supposed to Express Contentiousness in the comment. Does it really mean Fornication Under Consent of the King? A nasty practice to say the least.

  11. John,

    Thanks and LOL.

    Yes, the “F” word has indeed become normalized. Being that it is used almost universally everywhere by common folk, prudence becomes the domain of the individual. You know, that freedom of speech thing. Besides, its common usage, as you say, is in the realm of emphasis more than morality. Take the Republican’s latest moronic spectacle at KBJ’s hearing… That was worth a room full of “F” bombs for its pathetic display of abject, backward-thinking hate mongers.

  12. Ginny Thomas Paul Manfort, Tucker-thing, Roger “odious” Stone, and ill ilk, all represent, and talk for, the dark underbelly of our own history.
    Are they Russian agents, moles, “useful idiots?” I’m guessing the latter, just chasing after God Greed! But, hey, I could be wrong.
    And, of course, the GQP is working assiduously, to keep that darkness in the dark. Real history, books that do not promote jingoism…”Burn ’em!”
    Lester, the use of that “F” word may be a sign of a measure of depravity, but it is part of the lingo, and has been used by presidents and the likes of
    Pompeo. Sheila used it in quotes, not as her own phrase.

  13. Todd, nice “whataboutism”. Nothing like that to deflect comments on the actual topic.

    Speaking of Fellow-Travelers, the Koch Brothers are one of the really big American companies that have refused to shut down or curtail any of their Russian business. It turns out they have very deep ties with Russia going all the way back to Stalin through the money that they inherited from their father.

    As know know, the deep pockets of the Koch Brothers finance a lot of the right-wing politicking in the US.

  14. Mitch,

    Not to be picky, but Sheila did use the word in quotes once, and once without. The slope is Teflon…

    Also, if Pompeo used it, so it is ok???

  15. I would like AgingGirl to comment on which POTUS in the past 60 years doesn’t meet the definition of a war criminal. LOL

    Until the party loyalists from each side quit blaming the other side (ala Vernon), we will make no progress because they think we can vote our way out of the corruption and ensuing symptoms.

    When the corruption includes both parties, please explain how this is possible?

    The Oligarchy IS the source of the corruption and you don’t get to vote for them.

  16. If the Ukraine loses 500,000 children to this endeavor,I believe it will be worth it.

  17. Whataboutism has suddenly become inconvenient.

    I’m reminded of a song by Phil Ochs. Something with Love Me,Love Me, in the chorus.

  18. Trump demonstrated to the GOP that the philosophy of do, say, act however you want to and lie about it in every way imaginable, works well when you can count on a media entertainment channel to support you, regardless. In other words, power is sustainable even in a democracy as long as people rely on your people to inform them.

    That has been Putin’s modus operandi for decades but it’s relatively new in the highest level of American politics.

    I’m sure that there are some of Putin’s choices that are not supported by many Republicans like his war on the Ukraine but I’m not sure that Putin thinks now it was a good idea either. It may well be his undoing. What many Republicans do like however is his style which they regard as strong leadership but experts in that field would disagree. Leadership doesn’t require power, it is about, in fact, getting people to follow you when you don’t have or rely on power, by the strength of relationships and common values and goals. The best example of that in the world today is Zelenskiy.

    I did some leadership research and training years ago when I worked for a living and most of the books that I read distinguished between leadership skills as compared to management skills, which are based on the power of authority and position.

    Based on those definitions I think that distinction is another step in understanding the difference between the neodemocrats and the neorepublicans among our States formerly United.

  19. So everyone since Ike is a war criminal, Todd? That may depend upon one’s definition of “war criminal,” and as to the oligarchy, perhaps it is not the greedy and power hungry oligarchs who are at fault but rather the system that allows them to exploit the common good sans regulation of such conduct by those of us who are exploited. Perhaps we either need a cleansing of our present system, one which is owned by the highest bidder, including bidders from the Kremlin, or a new ism.

    Fellow travelers or a cover for moneychangers and power purchasers (as facilitated by Citizens United?

  20. Nobody should be fooled by Republican claims to be “nationalists”. They are merely republicanists (referring to the political party. not the form of governance.)

  21. When I as much younger,I played hockey with a very good player who died at an NHL training camp.We called him Gabby Fuckerstas every second word was fuck! So nothing new.Netflix,who I have dubbed Netfuck has made the word acceptiblenRead the “word fuck”,which my grandson recommended to me!After all Chaucer used it,so how bad can it be?

  22. For our elections to keep our country sustainable, voters need to choose the candidates whose accomplishments support a sustainable culture.

    However most voters instead choose what they hope will be a suitable proxy by voting for the party favored by their favorite entertainment media source.

    When that source lies often, that proxy, even though it may be entertaining, is dysfunctional.

    In the end, today, government that’s favorite entertainment, probably won’t lead to sustaining our Constitution which is about responsibilities that lead to sustainable rights.

  23. Noel,

    WADR – that word still “means” out there, as it did in my youth, sexual penetration with or without permission, back then, used almost exclusively by males. Even today, most porn advertising features it prominently to mean just that.

    Casual use today, especially by women who are supposedly “me too” is just mindboggling.

  24. Americans are so sensitive to the F word. In the UK it’s a verb, an adjective and a noun. I love the F word. I was about 30 years old before I ever heard my Mother use it. I agree it can be overused.

    I’m ignoring you Mr Todd.

  25. I heard the “F” word meant forced, unlawful carnal knowledge, a definition of rape. In context “F” can add emphasis.
    There’s definitely a thread (money) running between Putin & his oligarchs to willing mercinaries in US, some who are in Congress.
    When DJT praised Putin, calling him a genius, it seemed similar to his call to Russia to find & expose HRC’s e-mails when he was running for POTUS. Was DJT finding relief from the nightly reports of the 1/6 committee being over run by reports of the Russian invasion?

  26. Vern,

    Again I have to agree with that spectacle! Lindsey Graham wouldn’t even look at the woman in the face when he was blathering his diatribe. That in itself is a total lack of respect. They try to make her less than human, maybe back from the slave census? 3/5’s human? , Dick Durbin sat there like he had a rod shoved up his cork hole.

    You know what would have been nice? And oddly satisfying? Dick durbin getting up, walking over to Lindsey Graham’s microphone, and ripping it right off of his lectern. Now, that makes a statement! Just like Jeb Bush should have walked over to Donald Trump and Ripped the microphone off of his lectern for insulting his wife! I don’t get the spineless display against bullies! It’s not rocket science, and, it does work!

    Oh well, there goes the argument for loving your enemy, right! Lol! I will say, nowhere in scripture does it say a man in the right or woman in the right cannot stand up for themselves. Don’t draw blood unless it’s self-defense! Scripture does say, that an unbridled tongue is more painful than a stroke from a whip or sword. That’s grounds for self defense.

  27. OK – last curmudgeon comment on “that word”. The casual use of it and other former “curse” words/phrases are a larger phenomenon. They were there to let off heavy, sudden “steam”.

    It makes me wonder what one now says when you hit your finger with a hammer or, more importantly, are REALLY angry with someone. Maybe in the latter case, now you just tailgate them or….pull your gun?

  28. Although I try not to use the F word, it is still just a word and sometimes a “What the F word!” is totally appropriate. Try to read “Ulysses” by James Joyce and tell me if it’s great literature or not.

  29. Peggy – just a word? Ask the DEMs about “Defund the Police” or “CRT”? Ask Jews about “kike”…and guess who use the “N word” as much or more than Whites?

    When words have no meaning…they have every meaning…and does life have meaning? Nada to do with “literature”, IMHO….

  30. Lester,

    I agree with you on every point you made! When a person has to resort to cursing/cussing. Well, that individual more than likely is not literarily functional. And, absolutely there always has to be a way to up the ante so to speak. If foul and ignorant language doesn’t make the point, a bullet probably will! as a matter of fact, there was a YouTube video not long ago which I cannot locate in my drive, two cars full of clowns racing at each other at a high rate of speed, shooting out the windows at each other until the cars collided. Then, the morons climbed out of the car and started shooting at each other while they were running away! What does that tell you about today’s State of Affairs or the intellectual quality/capacity of the general population? Language can be so eloquent, and anyone should be able to make their point without sinking to the lowest common denominator! Although the present Society included, we are living in the lowest common denominator. it kind of goes together with narcissism, self-aggrandizing and being willfully ignorant. I believe I read where a large portion of society can only read at a third-grade level, well that kind of explains the constant use of ignorant language. Children love to use that type of communication as they think it makes them seem older and oddly more tough or intellectual, LOL! Many adults seem to feel the same way when they’re liquored up, or they’re angry! Unfortunately, it just makes them sound weak, stupid, petty, childish, and ignorant!

  31. Thank you for this one, Sheila. Every time I hear someone speak in support of Putin, I think “fellow traveler” and, what would the “old right wing” do with them. HUAC anybody or a McCarthy hearing?

    Of course, when they (often the same people) talk about “cancel culture” as a “left wing” thing, I think back to the real “cancel culture”, the Hollywood Blacklist. No job, no home, with the desire that the black listed person dies of starvation in the gutter.

    Reminder to all – consider the source – respond or not as appropriate – I will not mention which comments deserve which – judge for yourselves.

  32. Trump and Putin in a bromance deserve each other and exiled to a far off island for the safety of us all.

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