We are living through one of the most staggering political events in American history. What became very tangible with the exposure of Donald Trump Jr.’s email exchange to arrange a meeting with the lawyer who headed Putin’s PR campaign against the Magnitsky Act sanctions is earthshattering. What is unfolding is unprecedented and has America reeling.
The United States hasn’t been as bewilderingly broadsided by the Russians since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, when the U.S.S.R. demonstrated that it could put a satellite into orbit when the U.S. had not even established a space program yet.
The peculiar Russian genius has always been mysterious and alien to the West, and often baffling. The espionage activities of Russia and the underworld battles between the KGB, the CIA and the other spy organizations are the stuff of legend from James Bond to Spy Versus Spy.
Now we are witnessing a karmic backlash from the fallen Soviet empire. From the bowels of the KGB comes Vladimir Putin, a devious and highly skilled power player who comes out of the cloak-and-dagger culture of Soviet espionage and wants nothing more than to rebuild the fallen Russia into a superpower of its former glory.
He rises through the power structure, remakes Russia in his own image of oligarchical authoritarianism, and then turns his espionage genius toward getting the West back for the fall of the Soviet Union.
As in the days of Sputnik, America is now punch drunk, reeling from the series of mind-blowing revelations. The recent revelations that we owe to diligent news reporters and a rising grassroots research community have suddenly brought us into a new realm in which we can no longer reassure our delicate psyches by believing that it still may just be a fantasy, or as Trump says, “fake news.”
We can no longer go there, unless like Trump’s core following we are willing to turn over our fates to him as our leader no matter what he does, and will believe no one but him. For them he may well take that shot at a Fifth Avenue pedestrian and they would love him all the more for it.
So now we know from Donald Trump Jr. himself that the Trump administration did indeed work with the Russia government. We just don’t know to what extent. Yet. We should psychologically prepare ourselves for the possibility that this coming series of revelations, will be every bit as fantastic and unbelievable as what the Trump candidacy and presidency have brought us so far, and even more.
Now that it is impossible to entertain the possibility that the story is fake, we have just begun to assimilate the gravity of what has happened, and the astonishing success of Putin’s strategy.
If it is what it looks like now, Putin succeeded in derailing the election of Hillary Clinton, getting a new U.S. government in place that distanced itself from Europe and embraced Russia, is playing to Putin’s interests, and causing the U.S. to plunge in international standing almost overnight.
U.S. spy services have had brilliant success overturning governments in other countries, but now the shoe is on the other foot. It appears that Putin has succeeded in derailing the U.S. government and throwing it into chaos. If the US is left standing after this with no corrective action, the U.S. will have effectively given up its form of government and fallen under the influence of a foreign authoritarian power.
It isn’t that the U.S. democracy was so healthy before this. On the contrary. There were many weaknesses open to exploitation. The hackable and untrackable voting machines, the failure of the media system to inform the public rather to focus on superficial, salacious theatrics; the unregulated influence of big money; a lobbying system legalizes bribery; the falling level of education; the increasing pulverization of society . . . all these factors and others were seen as vulnerabilities to be exploited by the keen eye of Vladimir Putin.
Putin sized up the system and figured out how to get his hands on the levers of control. He found a willing dupe in Donald Trump and easily figured out how to manipulate Trump’s needy ego, quickly get compromising information on him and line him up as an intelligence asset par none.
And perhaps beyond their own best hopes the Russians succeeded in getting their man in the White House, their dunce, their stooge.
Now we are watching to see how the story plays out. It’s chilling, and frightening, because we don’t yet know how it will end. Will the Donald Trump story end before the end of the American democracy?
I was reluctant to give this story credence, though Trump’s paling around with Russian oligarchs was obvious enough and bad enough. Now it looks more and more as if the Russian meddling story is real, and is more serious and more amazing than most anyone wanted to give it credit for.
I feel like I am hearing an echo of the Red Scare of the ’50s, with the Russians as “the enemy within” that J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy railed about. But now it seems that there really was a brilliantly devious plan to undermine the U.S. government. And it succeeded beyond anything anyone had imagined. Except perhaps Vladimir Putin himself.
As of this writing there is no sign from the Republican Party of any appropriate response to the revelations of Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russian government to undermine the U.S. election. They are still seeing this only as an opportunity to ram through their Koch-inspired agenda of austerity for all but the 1 percent, and more tax breaks for them.
It’s going to take some Republican profiles in courage to end this nightmare, and so far there are no signs of spine or integrity among that crowd even in its most venerated senior members. And we wait with baited breath daily, hourly for the next shoe to fall.
David Cogswell publishes HeadBlast.