Editorial Politics

Putin, Trump, and Kavanaugh: A Triad of White Supremacy and Oligarchy

Jodi Jacobson

Trump may be colluding with Putin, and may even have committed treason. But the GOP and the Democrats are letting him get away with this murder.

Yesterday, in his press conference with Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump openly colluded with a foreign power by effectively aiding and abetting an enemy who, leading up to and during the 2016 election, launched a serious attack on our country and our democracy. After the press conference, reporters and pundits across the country spent the day asking “Why? Why? But whyyyyy is Trump doing this?” If I could, I’d insert an eye-roll emoji right here.

If you’ve been watching Trump and the GOP for any length of time the answer is pretty clear: Trump wants to emulate Putin. Putin helped get Trump elected and may also have highly damaging material on him. Trump may owe Putin money. Trump is therefore afraid of Putin and desperately wants to be in his favor. The GOP, drunk on power and in hopes of grabbing much (much, much) more—and then holding onto it forever—doesn’t want to upset Trump’s “base” or the American oligarchs—the Mercers, the Kochs, Peter Thiel, to name a few—to whom the party owes great fealty. They also don’t want to upset Putin, because if they do, and if in retaliation, Putin takes down Trump, the jig is up for all of them. The GOP is therefore also clearly aiding and abetting the enemy.

Also clear: A discredited, compromised, and illegitimate president who gained power with the help of a foreign adversary is attempting to pack the U.S. Supreme Court (indeed, the entire federal court system) with radical and often wholly unequipped judges bent on helping Trump, the GOP, and their wealthy donors consolidate power for decades to come. Why? To maintain white supremacy and turn this country into an oligarchy.

And for the moment, at least, the Democrats—astonishingly—are aiding and abetting the GOP. Unless and until they act, the Democrats are accomplices to these crimes.

The GOP is profoundly complicit in what is happening to our country right now and in how we got here. Trump may have gained power with Russia’s help, but he was also was aided greatly by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the Republican caucus. Russia’s interference in the election was reported to then-president Barack Obama in mid-2016. Obama reportedly shared the intelligence with Republicans before the election. According to former Vice President Joe Biden, McConnell refused to sign a bipartisan letter condemning the attack and threatened to claim the Obama administration itself was trying to interfere in the election should the information be released to the public. So while Trump was publicly dissing intelligence agencies, McConnell also was undermining them—only in a more covert way. Their actual complicity, perhaps yet to be fully revealed, is, I believe, but one of the reasons members of the GOP refuse to strongly support the special counsel or criticize Trump’s constant attacks on Robert Mueller and our institutions.

Moreover, McConnell stole a SCOTUS seat, thereby giving Trump an immediate opening to nominate Neil Gorsuch (which also makes me wonder what McConnell knew about Russian interference and when he knew it, but I digress). Why was the seat stolen? From their policies to their politics to their campaign pronouncements, it is clear Republicans are invested in maintaining white supremacy and the concentration of wealth in the hands of very few (white) men. Stealing a SCOTUS seat from Obama was part of a strategy. Back then, they also threatened to refuse to confirm any nominee Hillary Clinton might choose if she became president. Translation? Neither the first Black president nor the first female president would be able to fully exercise their power on behalf of the vast majority of the country if the GOP could help it. All that baloney about “the will of the people” was just that… baloney. Now, after the murky timing and circumstances of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, they want to confirm Brett Kavanaugh very, very, very quickly (before Mueller brings more charges?), even after their president by some accounts committed treason. Constitutional originalism my ***.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s #SurrenderCaucus has failed either to mount any coherent fight against Kavanaugh or explain to the public what is at stake. They just want everything to be nice and bipartisan, irrespective of the fact that this is really Putin’s SCOTUS nominee and that our president is Putin’s puppet. It seems the Democrats have chosen radical compartmentalization: In one universe, Trump, with aid from the GOP, is openly providing succor to the enemy. In a different universe or time dimension there is a normal SCOTUS nomination process. But for those of us who care about democracy and are worried about our lives and rights and those of our children and grandchildren, it’s all in real time in the same dimension, but none of it is normal.

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At this point, the Trump-Putin-Kavanaugh nexus is unambiguous, as are the stakes.

Putin is a dictator. His interests are in amassing wealth and power at any cost, both in Russia and globally. To do this, he suppresses dissent, controls the media, attacks and kills journalists and political opponents, jails protesters, and fixes votes. He is corrupt and runs a profoundly corrupt government. He also personally controls all aspects of the government and much of the Russian economy. He is an ethnic nationalist, a white supremacist, and an Islamophobe. He aligns himself with radical right-wing religious and political groups to marginalize and attack the rights of women, LGBTQ communities, and religious and ethnic groups outside his power base. He uses fear and scapegoating to divert attention from the real problems Russians face: a weak economy, a devastatingly polluted environment, extremely poor measures of public health, and low life expectancy, among other things. Sound like someone you know?

Trump aspires to be Putin. He praises foreign dictators like Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte. He has called them “strong” leaders and suggested he would, for example, also like to freely murder drug dealers. He wants to be unaccountable and all powerful. He thinks he should be able to personally control what are ostensibly separate and co-equal branches and departments of government, like the courts and the Department of Justice. He calls journalists and the free press—a foundation of democracy—the “enemy of the people.” He claims that elections are rigged and supports voter suppression while doing nothing to enhance election security. He and his family are profoundly corrupt, as is most of his cabinet. He is a white supremacist and racist who assaults, denigrates, and uses police-state tactics against immigrants, Muslims, and Blacks. He attacks businesses he does not like or he feels are not loyal to him. He is beholden to a political party—the GOP—that is using this sham presidency to dismantle all environmental, worker, and consumer protections, hide and erase data, and concentrate wealth in the hands of the few while working vigorously to suppress votes everywhere they can. He is further beholden to a radical religious right in the United States that wants to abolish rights for women, LGBTQ communities, Muslims, immigrants, and other economically or socially marginalized groups. Trump and the GOP are working vociferously to solidify white supremacy in the United States and, whether or not they see it that way, to make us look like Putin’s Russia in terms of health, rights, and justice.

Now, Trump—or perhaps more accurately his right-wing puppeteers—wants to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. It’s clear why. Analysts believe Kavanaugh, like Gorsuch, will help further erode voting rights, workers rights, civil protections, and environmental regulation while supporting the imposition of rightwing religious beliefs on the rest of us. He will almost certainly vote against fundamental reproductive rights such as access to abortion and contraception, and will almost certainly support the continued subsuming of public health and medical evidence to “religious belief.” The Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press notes Kavanaugh has “taken a number of positions that may put him at odds with journalists” and has ruled in ways that suggest he would not support net neutrality. He is expected to support further gutting of voting rights laws and allow voter suppression. None of this should come as a surprise: After all, that is why Mike Pence and the Federalist Society chose him for Donald Trump to nominate … to uphold white supremacy and the concentration of wealth.

As the New York Times Editorial Board wrote:

The Federalist Society claims to value the so-called strict construction of the Constitution, but this supposedly neutral mode of constitutional interpretation lines up suspiciously well with Republican policy preferences — say, gutting laws that protect voting rights, or opening the floodgates to unlimited political spending, or undermining women’s reproductive freedom, or destroying public-sector labor unions’ ability to stand up for the interests of workers.

There is nothing here about applying constitutional principles. It’s clearly all about outcomes meant to further entrench the power of the few. That’s what it has been about all along.

To say we are on a precipice right now is to grossly understate the danger this country is facing. Many people remain in a denial so deep, I want to shake them. Hard. But those of us who are in fact looking closely can see the dismantling of our democracy before our very eyes. The erosion of rights for people of color, for Muslims, for immigrants, for LGBTQ persons, for women, workers, voters, the disabled. This is a product of a long and corrupted tradition of “politics as usual,” but it’s not politics as usual. It’s the end game and far outside anything we might consider normal. It is potentially the end of our democracy.

We must take the first step back from the ledge now or plunge ourselves further into an abyss from which we may not climb out. That first step, the very minimal first step, is refusing to seat another Supreme Court justice of an illegitimate president of an illegitimate and corrupted political party. There is no other choice.

And to do that, we need Democrats in the Senate and, if there are any, truly patriotic Republicans to take a stand against this nominee, at least until after the new Congress is sworn in.

We need Schumer to realize that this is not a game. It is not business as usual. There is only one universe in which we live, not two or three or five. These are not disconnected but deeply interconnected realities. We need Schumer, if he is capable, and all the Democrats to lead like our lives depend on it. Because they do.

Mr. Schumer, I don’t want to live in Putin’s Russia. Do you?

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