It is mildly surprising that most Republicans, following the shameless sycophancy of President Trump, now profess an admiration for Vladimir Putin, a dictator who assassinates his opponents and has invaded a neighboring country. This is, of course, a dramatic reversal from the fervent and occasionally paranoiac anticommunism that was fundamental to the party’s identity until…well, until the day before yesterday. But it is not shocking. For the past several decades it has been clear that the Republicans consider the Democrats, alleged advocates of military weakness and sexual permissiveness, a graver threat to American democracy than any foreign adversary. Demonizing “liberals” is an article of faith. That’s why even never-Trump Republicans could not bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton. “Most Republicans,” New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait observes, “would rather win an election with Putin’s help than lose one without it.”
Republicans once dared to call it treason.
If Robert Mueller is allowed to finish his investigation, presumably we will learn to what extent the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. Given their refusal to accept any criticism of the man on a white horse in the White House, most Trump supporters are unlikely to be persuaded by the facts as presented by Mueller (a decorated war hero and a Republican), or even to believe that such facts exist. In the meantime, the U.S. intelligence services warn that Russia continues to undermine Western democracies at every opportunity. Russia, it seems, has both a persecution complex and a grandiose belief in its own messianic role in world affairs.