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Friday, July 20, 2018


Has Putin compromised the GOP too?

by Tom Sullivan

California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher was among a group of Republicans that appeared to endorse a fictional program to arm toddlers on Showtime's 'Who Is America?' — Hollywood Reporter.

Former CIA Moscow station chief Daniel Hoffman summarizes Vladimir Putin's KGB tradecraft with a Russian expression, “What makes a person breathe?” Seeing how Donald Trump breathes, Putin knows Trump lacks the self-restraint to be a "controlled agent" of the Kremlin. Putin instead uses the U.S. president a “confidential contact,” a more technical term, writes David Ignatius, than "useful idiot." Thus, has he turned Trump into "a human wrecking ball against America’s traditional allies and trading partners."

European allies are "gobsmacked" by Trump's failure to stand up to Putin in Helsinki. That compounded his undermining of the NATO alliance last week in Brussels.

But as appalled as Trump's GOP colleagues are at his fawning over the Russian dictator, they have made no serious efforts at reeling him back in. But damage control? Congressional Republicans are getting a crash course in damage control. Perhaps because they have become useful idiots as well.

Sacha Baron Cohen found it too easy to co-opt prominent conservatives into supporting (and advocating on film) a phony Israeli program for arming schoolchildren, Matt Lewis writes at Daily Beast:

In one interview, Cohen, posing as an Israeli colonel and terrorism expert, gets former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh to advocate arming little kids.

“The intensive three-week Kinderguardian course introduces specially selected children from 12 to 4 years old to pistols, rifles, semiautomatics, and a rudimentary knowledge of mortars. In less than a month—less than a month—a first-grader can become a first grenader,” Walsh says on camera. On purpose. Amazing.
Russophile California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's duping in Cohen's Kinderguardian prank has already become a campaign issue. Do you think Vladimir Putin hasn't noticed credulity trips over itself on the right?

This week federal agents arrested Maria Butina, a 29-year-old Russian national and graduate student who had become a minor celebrity for the National Rifle Association. Butina is allegedly a Russian agent the FBI has been monitoring since she arrived as a student in the U.S. in 2016. She worked at gaining access to NRA and Conservative Political Action Conference circles by "touting her interest in U.S. affairs and efforts to promote gun rights in Vladi­mir Putin’s restrictive Russia." Only unlike Cohen, she wasn't fishing for laughs. A grand jury indicted her for conspiracy and failing to register as a foreign agent. Buzzfeed adds:
What is clear is that in Butina, the Russian government either found or created an irresistible persona for US conservatives. The story she repeated over years of speeches and interviews — of a scrappy girl from Siberia fighting for gun rights in Russia — was carefully calibrated to show a passion for self-defense, a yearning for America’s easy access to guns, and a hint of criticism of Russia’s own laws.
"Anyone can be duped," Lewis writes. "However, some people were more vulnerable at certain times in our history than others." In the past, Russians co-opted members of the left. Now Russian President Vladimir Putin is running the same play on the right. That they fell so easily for both Borat and Butina, he believes, is no coincidence.

Russian intelligence knows what makes the right breathe. It knows their instincts. Republicans don't want to govern. They want to rule. To that end they have enacted a large set of anti-democratic measures in legislatures across the country for empowering themselves at the expense of representative democracy. To that end they have spent years promoting the spurious rumor that millions of unseen, illegal voters (black and brown ones) are corrupting election integrity. Russia has reinforced their efforts to erode confidence in U.S. elections through criminal interference in the 2016 elections. Donald Trump proclaimed the election rigged in campaign stops across the country.

The American Idea is built around majority rule, that "whichever cluster of interests and preferences are held by the greatest number of individuals should receive the lion's share of the political power at any given time," warns Damon Linker at The Week:
What we have seen in recent years is something else entirely. George W. Bush lost the 2000 presidential election by roughly half a million votes and yet won the presidency with the help of two counter-majoritarian institutions — the Electoral College and the Supreme Court. President Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes and yet won the presidency, this time because of the Electoral College alone. In 2012, Democrats in House races received nearly 1.5 million more votes than Republicans, yet due in large part to gerrymandered congressional districts, the Republicans won a majority of the seats by a margin of 234-201. Some models predict that in the upcoming midterm elections this November, Democrats could outpoll Republicans by 4, 5, 6, or even 7 percent while still failing to win a majority in the House.

Add it all up and we're left with something perilously close to minority rule. This is pure civic poison.
The prospect of permanent minority rule compounds the growing threat that those now primed to believe elections are rigged will reject the American norm of peaceful transitions between elected U.S. governments. Thanks to the NRA and it's Russian handlers, they'll have plenty of armament for the task. Putin will have just what he's always wanted. He's already enlisted useful idiots in the cause.

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.