Never Thought I’d Live To See This…

One of the dubious benefits of living a long time is that you live through really striking cultural and institutional changes. During my lifetime, I’ve seen changes I consider very positive–the expansion of women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, an internet connection to virtually all of human information, ease of global travel…I could go on and on.

But I’m also around to see the backlash to all of that. And even weirder, I’ve lived to see a Republican Party that once rabidly opposed Communism and “the evil empire” embrace authoritarianism and Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

A while back, I shared a folk song from the Sixties  that made fun of the John Birch Society and its habit of seeing “commies”  under every bush. (“If mommy is a commie then you’ve got to turn her in.”) Back then, the political Right was focused–frequently far too focused–on the dangers of totalitarianism and authoritarianism and government control of the economy.

If you had told me back then that the GOP would “evolve” into a party of pro-Russian apologists, I’d have asked you what you were smoking. But here we are.

A recent discussion at Persuasion was titled “When Hatred of the Left Becomes Love for Putin,” and contains the following observations:

According to Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will quickly end the war in Ukraine if he is elected, by refusing “a single penny” of aid and effectively forcing the country’s capitulation to Russia. The statement, which followed Orbán’s meeting with Trump last month, is a stark reminder of the extent to which the Trumpified GOP is becoming the anti-Ukraine party, a far cry from early bipartisan support for Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression. And while opposition to aid to Ukraine doesn’t necessarily entail support for Vladimir Putin—common rationales include that the United States must focus on domestic problems or on the more dangerous threat from China, or that Ukraine can’t win and prolonging the war only means more death and suffering—Putin-friendly themes have been increasingly prominent on the right. At this point, pro-Putinism is no longer an undercurrent in right-wing rhetoric: it’s on the surface.

Granted, not all Putin-lovers are similarly motivated.

For some, their hatred of the American left overrides any feelings they have about Putin. Others are more ideological: they oppose the Western liberal project itself. Untangling these different strains is key to explaining why so many on today’s right embrace views that, until recently, would have gotten them branded Kremlin stooges by other conservatives.

The article references Tucker Carlson– his recent, adoring trip to Moscow and his fawning interview of Putin.

The interview was a two-hour lovefest in which Putin and his lies went unchallenged except for some polite pushback on Evan Gershkovich, the American journalist held in Russia on phony spying charges. Then, Carlson topped this with gushy videos extolling the wonders of the Soviet-built Moscow subway and of Russian supermarkets.

And it cited an article from the Federalist published the day after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

Author Christopher Bedford, former head of the Daily Caller News Foundation and a prolific contributor to right-of-center media, not only bluntly stated that “a lot of us hate our elites far more than we hate some foreign dictator” but admitted finding a lot to admire in said dictator—for instance, Putin’s unapologetic defense of Russia’s “religion, culture and history,” while Western elites denigrate and apologize for theirs.

Today’s GOP has abandoned even the remnants of genuine conservatism; today, the party is hysterically “anti-woke”–a cult focused on culture war efforts to return straight White Christian males to social dominance.

It’s hardly news by now that many American right-wingers see Putin’s Russia as the antithesis of Western “wokeness.” This is especially true with regard to sexual and gender norms: I noted the beginnings of this trend in 2013, when several right-wing groups and conservative pundits praised a Russian law censoring “propaganda” of homosexuality. Discussing the phenomenon recently in the context of the GOP’s anti-Ukraine turn, David French pointed to such examples as far-right strategist Steve Bannon’s praise for Putin’s “anti-woke” persona and Russia’s conservative gender politics, or psychologist Jordan Peterson’s suggestion that Russia’s war in Ukraine was partly self-defense against the decadence of “the pathological West.”…

The article notes that, for some Republicans, pro-Putin rhetoric indicates a radical rejection of liberalism, even the classical  liberalism of John Locke and John Stuart Mill. It quotes the “near-panegyric” to Putin in a 2017 speech by Claremont Institute’s Christopher Caldwell at Hillsdale College, and notes that both Claremont and Hillsdale are “intellectual hubs of Trumpist national conservatism.”

Read the entire essay. This isn’t remotely the GOP of my youth…..and it’s scary.


  1. Politics used to stop at the shoreline. We felt it not only prudent but essential to our national security to present a united front not only to enemies but also to allies.

    Wannabe dictators intimidate anyone they can into echoing their own opportunistic, self-enriching activities. Trump always puts Trump first, and he’s always transactional – a nice way of saying ‘he’s always for sale’. Unfortunately, as President, he’s willing to use our national interests as HIS currency. If he could finally get Putin to okay a Trump Tower in Moscow, he’s capable of giving up any number of much more valuable military secrets to get it.
    “Scary” isn’t a scary enough description of the danger we face.

  2. “The money was all appropriated for the top in the hope that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night, anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.” Will Rogers

    One of the dubious benefits of living a long time is that you live through really striking cultural and institutional changes. During my lifetime, I’ve seen changes I consider very positive–the expansion of women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, an internet connection to virtually all of human information, ease of global travel…I could go on and on.” Sheila Kennedy

    Yes, Sheila; our generation has lived to see the above positive expansions and we are living long enough to see it pass through our hands, slip through our fingers to trickle up to the enemy within this government. We will live long enough to see the outcome of this 2024 election but; I doubt either of us will live long enough to see the full benefits or losses of the outcome, whichever way it goes. Trump’s threats of bloodshed if he looses will come to pass; will that be easier to overcome than the full dictatorship if he wins?

    This isn’t remotely the GOP of your youth or mine…nor is it remotely the beginning of the GOP of President Abraham Lincoln. “With the loss of a nail, a shoe was lost…and so on”; with the loss of one presidential election through dubious means, our nation is being lost.

  3. The Right’s love of Putin and other authoritarians is even more difficult to understand (and more sickening) than their love for Trump.

    I suspect their love of Russian money explains both to some degree. The FBI used to regularly hire forensic accountants. Do they even prosecute financial crimes anymore? Is there so much money flowing into PACs via shell corporations from Russia and other countries that they have no hope of tracing it to foreign sources?

  4. The far right Republicans have adopted a pile of crazy since Trump came on the scene. Here is just a sampling.
    There are alternative facts which are as valid as real facts.
    Embryos are children.
    Money is the same as speech.
    There are two sides to every issue, and both are valid.
    The United States is a Christian nation.
    Corporations are people.

    And some wonder what the fuss is all about.

  5. There really is no value any longer in trying to figure out why the MAGA/GOP is the way they are. They just are that way, and the only thing we must know is how to defeat them at the ballot box. Congress has proven to be cowards, with a few exceptions, and the SCOTUS will not save us. The only recourse is for the People to rise up, show up, and vote Blue.

  6. Karl Marx, in one of his saner moments, predicted that capitalism, left unregulated would destroy itself from within. When the mindless fools on SCOTUS declared that money was speech and corporations were people, the game was up. It would just be a matter of time for our experiment in democracy to crumble.

    Hoover was primarily an engineer whose strings were pulled by corporate money and the Wall Street bankers. Result: The Great Depression. Today, it’s more complicated, financially, but when you throw the gasoline on the fire in the person of Donald Trump we get the explosion and destruction we’re seeing every day.

    Our politics are a shambles BECAUSE of the Republican party, their donor classes and the damned fools they hire (on the cheap) to do their bidding. The GOP has NEVER done anything that benefits the working classes. NEVER. Now, they’re so beholden to money from the 1% that they are willing and eager to destroy the country and its Constitution for the sake of the perceived wealth – which will evaporate in a millisecond when the next revolution begins.

    In a more realistic vein, Trump’s bloodbath will feature his own followers doing the shedding. There are still a huge majority that won’t tolerate these knuckle-draggers with guns. That bloodbath will begin on election day. Hold on to your hats.

  7. Mr. Caldwell seems to have overlooked the bloody excesses of former KGB agent Putin. The picture painted in his article of Putin leaned almost towards a romanticism in a comparison to his predecessor Yeltsin, whose buffoonish behavior wasn’t exactly difficult to improve upon. Putin has no problem doing whatever it takes to remain in power, including the disappearing of his adversaries, acts which have the effect of obfuscating anything remotely on the good side of the equation. He is a thug, no matter how effective he may be in his efforts to crawl back up the ladder to previous versions of Russian glory.

  8. For Ginny, one of the biggest PACs in Washington is AIPAC, the Israeli lobby that owns about 65% of Washington politicians on both sides of the aisle. They all advocate loudly in unison that Israel and IDF do nothing wrong. After every crime committed or voted at the UN, they claim anti-Semitism. Everybody who is anti-genocide is an anti-Semite. These same bought politicians want to make laws declaring pro-Palestine groups as extremists. There’s looming authoritarianism in Washington regardless of who the POTUS is.

    As for Russia and Putin, it’s pretty clear by now that the US CIA, State Dept, and NATO provoked Russia back in 2014 as a result of the Maidan coup of Ukraine’s president. The goal was to weaken Russia with sanctions and war, causing a collapse of Putin in Moscow. Over $110 Billion has been spent on Ukraine and its failed mission because Zelenskyy is a CIA puppet and is sacrificing Ukrainian men and women in the Russian meat grinder.

    I’m not sure why MAGA loves Putin yet hates Xi. It isn’t brilliant. Most of our pro-Western media are anti-Putin and anti-Xi, so anybody who supports China and Russia is “on the payroll.” Reading our politician’s posts on X about geopolitics isn’t enjoyable. If you think they are ignorant about how our government works, they are incredibly naive about geopolitics or how other governments operate.

    It’s why they are inching us further along toward WW3 and a nuclear holocaust. Instead of identifying our interconnectedness, the US demands that every country obey the rules-based order. #AmericanExceptionalism

  9. Heather Cox Richardson’s latest book, Democracy Awakening, reminds us that Abraham Lincoln in his time emphasized that those trying to destroy democracy were not the conservatives they claimed to be but were dangerous radicals whose version of America must be rejected. He called on his neighbors to defend equality before the law and the right of everyone to consent to the government under which they live.
    Once again we are facing that same test with what is now known as the Republican Party, a set of autocrats wanting power and exploiting through their rhetoric and through inciting fears of their followers principles which would destroy democracy.
    It really is in our hands at the ballot box to unequivocally reject anyone who promotes such authoritarianism and a tyrannical form of government.

  10. As per Giovanni Arrighi, we may be living long enough to see the end of capitalism, but, predicting the future is not one of our better skillsets.
    Anything out of Hillsdale College, or the Claremont Institute is going to be sadly twisted.
    Tucker Carlson responded to being called a traitor, said that that could not be, because his ancestors fought in the Revolution against the Brits. Just more stupidity, as it’s not who one comes from, but what one does that is defining.
    The need for power, imho, is sufficient explanation for the about turn to the right of the authoritarian lovers.

  11. No leader is perfect. No country is perfect. The choice we have now is between a madman who doesn’t believe he can be beaten by mere mortals (lately seeing himself as the modern day Jesus) and a guy who knows he makes mistakes and the country may not be perfect, but is still a place where people want to be. We refer to that as our “border problem”. We have a lot to do and a long way to go. A turn toward authoritarianism puts us back anywhere from fifty to one hundred years.

  12. If you remember in all of the studies done, and everything that I’ve learned over the years of research and education, Adolf Hitler was right wing. And, he embraced the Protestant Church of Germany, which was a religious organization that capitulated to Hitler. Those that did not capitulate ended up in the concentration camps with the Jews and the gypsies. This just didn’t happen overnight here, the rice paper was laid down a long time ago. Before Reagan, even before Nixon! They both looted the social security trust fund and replaced it with IOUs which, obviously, are not being repaid with all of this money that’s being thrown around.

    Eventually though, it catches up. But history proves this is the normal flow of human intellect. The same things are repeated over and over again. If you want to see the future, look at the past. The only thing social media and the internet have done is spread the goofiness faster than it would have happened in the previous century or millennia for that matter.

    Certainly religion is a driver of a lot of what’s happening, like one particular party is more Puritan than the other, lol! There is, and will never be, because there never was, unity!

    All of the clammy hand ringing, all of the overstimulated short hairs, will never accomplish anything. And, the politics of men will never accomplish anything. Whatever seemingly good things are done, it’s taken back. It’s reversed, and in the grand scheme of time, short order!

    I do understand that people have their opinions, but those opinions are no different than the opinions people had 200 years ago or 2000 years ago. The world is full of the downtrodden. This country can spend More money on weapons than all of the rest of the world combined, and still they can’t provide health care for the people! They can’t provide food, the general welfare of the population takes a back seat. Viaducts are the choice for the homeless, or, air grades on the streets, or warmer climates so folks don’t freeze to death. Are they all a victim of circumstance? We can blame some I suppose, but in essence, they are victims of circumstance! Because as James 1:27 says, you have to take care of the widows and the fatherless children so all can go well with you. Not kick them out of their homes, not help provide them with medical attention or food, or an education to break the cycle. It’s pathetic! And, it will not change, because this society is going to crash and burn. Just like every other society that was at the pinnacle of dominance.

    Just like they claim Nero fiddled when Rome was burning, And of course all of the debauchery and bread and circuses, we see the exact same thing today. Really it’s moron a global scale. How long have they been talking about climate change? All the old agreements, all of the new agreements, are not adhered to.

    Governments are a bastion of liars and thieves. They can’t get their hands in your pockets deep enough, but they will take your house away if you are delinquent in your taxes, they’ll suspend your privileges if you have too many driving violations, They tell you you can’t drink and drive, but people are puffing on blunts so much that their cars look like a steam engine going down the street. Young men are dying, especially young black men, three that I know of in the past couple of months after they went to the hospital with headaches. Young men that I’ve known since they were born. I don’t have much faith in humanity.

    I’m going to get right with God, not religion, religion doesn’t have anything to do with God! folks laugh at it, but if you truly read the scriptures, it talks about all of this stuff. I’ve been in enough classrooms in my life and listened to the drival about Civic duty, about equality, about fair and balanced! Society is not about any of that! It’s about selfishness, self-a-grandizement, power, control, and wealth. And it doesn’t matter if the lesser among us die like the chickens with bird flu! Just One last fly in the sugar bowl!

  13. I think that we all learn from an early age our position on living at the expense of certain others or living in concert with all others.

    The strategy of the threat to our Constitution is to feed both sides of that issue steroids to split the country emotionally.

    That’s lesson one from the authoritarian playbook on grabbing absolute power.

  14. Market economy to market society is apparently the path that under regulated capitalism takes.

    Michael Sandel: Why we shouldn’t trust markets with our civic life

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