Vladimir Putin, the Pied Piper of the New Reactionary Populism
Pop quiz: who said these words?
“This must be the first presidential election in which the Russian president chooses his candidate.”
First hint. No, the speaker was not talking about Donald Trump, he was talking about the French election:
“If Europe’s far-right parties were Putin’s landing beach, he has made inroads, and hovers over the current French presidential election. During last year’s campaign for the nomination of France’s Republican Party—the newly rechristened home of the center-right—candidates tripped over themselves to pay obeisance. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy, vying to resurrect his career, sprinted away from his own history of slagging the Russian strongman. On a trip to St. Petersburg in June, he made a point of stopping for a photo op with Putin, pumping his hand and smiling broadly. Sarkozy’s pre-campaign book swooned, “I am not one of his intimates but I confess to appreciating his frankness, his calm, his authority. And then he is so Russian!” These were gaudy gestures, but hardly idiosyncratic. Sarkozy’s rival François Fillon behaved just as effusively, though his affection seemed less contrived—during his years as prime minister, from 2008 to 2012, he cultivated a tight relationship with the man he has called “my dear Vladimir.” In November, Alain Juppé, the Republican contender initially favored by oddsmakers, moaned, “This must be the first presidential election in which the Russian president chooses his candidate.” But deriding his opponents for “acute Russophilia” hardly helped him: Fillon is now the party’s nominee, having drubbed Juppé by more than 30 points.”
The good news is that for now, it looks like the French Great Centrist Hope, Emmanuel Macron, is going to win.
In any case, this quote is from a fascinating piece by Frank Foer in The Atlantic.
It confirms a long suspicion of mine. That Putin has very cleverly co-opted the populism of both Left and Right in the West post 2008 towards his own ends. We see how Alain Juppe warned about Putin trying to pick the French President. His choice remains Mary LePen. One subtext he tried to push post the terrorist attack in London a few days ago, is that this makes the case for LePen.
A large part of Putin’s project is manipulating fears over ISIS. The idea being that the only way for us to be safe if allow some strongman-or in LePen’s case strongwoman-to rule over us with dictatorial power.
“After the global financial crisis of 2008, populist uprisings had sprouted across Europe. Putin and his strategists sensed the beginnings of a larger uprising that could upend the Continent and make life uncomfortable for his geostrategic competitors. A 2013 paper from the Center for Strategic Communications, a pro-Kremlin think tank, observed that large patches of the West despised feminism and the gay-rights movement and, more generally, the progressive direction in which elites had pushed their societies. With the traditionalist masses ripe for revolt, the Russian president had an opportunity. He could become, as the paper’s title blared, “The New World Leader of Conservatism.”
Putin tries to influence both Left wing and Right wing populism but always in the end to the benefit of the Right. One way he’s curried favor with the Left is via Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.
Some, like Louise Mensch, claim Snowden is a Russian agent.
Others, like Glenn Greenwald, vociferously disagree.
Whether he is or not, he’s clearly a useful idiot. Obviously keeping someone in Russia who’s crime is releasing US state secrets is a win-win for Putin in terms of propaganda. Of course, if Snowden did that to Russia, he’s probably be thrown off some building somewhere mysteriously.
Speaking of Snowden remember all the hue and cry six weeks ago about Putin offering up Snowden ‘as a gift to Trump?’
Who knows what that was really all about but it’s totally died down now. Then there is Assange-who was important in facilitating Snowden ending up in Russia rather than South America. Assange wrongly has an image as a transparency activist, dedicated to human rights.
Despite the illusions of some on the Left:
Contrary to prevailing wisdom, the new populism cannot be wholly attributed to economic displacement. In a short period of time, the West has undergone a major cultural revolution—an influx of immigrants and a movement toward a new egalitarianism.
Somewhere Zizek’s ears must be burning-as Putin has stolen his rhetoric:
“Putin had never spoken glowingly of the West, but grim pronouncements about its fate grew central to his rhetoric. He hurled splenetic attacks against the culturally decadent, spiritually desiccated “Euro-Atlantic.” He warned against the fetishization of tolerance and diversity. He described the West as “infertile and genderless,” while Russian propaganda derided Europe as “Gayropa.” At the heart of Putin’s case was an accusation of moral relativism. “We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilization,” he said at a conference in 2013. “They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious, and even sexual … They are implementing policies that equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan.” By succumbing to secularism, he noted on another occasion, the West was trending toward “chaotic darkness” and a “return to a primitive state.”
The move of the Right to Putin didn’t happen overnight. It’s been happening the last eight years. Pat Buchanan embraced him in 2013:
“In 2013, the columnist Pat Buchanan championed Putin as an enemy of secularism: “He is seeking to redefine the ‘Us vs. Them’ world conflict of the future as one in which conservatives, traditionalists, and nationalists of all continents and countries stand up against the cultural and ideological imperialism of what he sees as a decadent west.” This type of homage became a trope among conservative thinkers—including Rod Dreher and Matt Drudge—and in turn influenced their followers. In mid-2014, 51 percent of American Republicans viewed Putin very unfavorably. Two years later, 14 percent did. By January, 75 percent of Republicans said Trump had the “right approach” toward Russia. (When asked about this change, Putin replied, “It’s because people share our traditional sensibilities.”)
So this is all part of a long term design by Putin. Remember how Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort-who suddenly, Trump barely knows-was-is?-being paid $10 million dollars a year to not just improve Putin’s image in the West but help him politically in the West.
Before signing up with Donald Trump, former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” The Associated Press has learned. The White House attempted to brush the report aside Wednesday, but it quickly raised fresh alarms in Congress about Russian links to Trump associates.
Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.
Influence politics. Our so-called President is Manafort and friends masterpiece.
P.S. As we saw in my poll out last week, the long awaited poll results are in, and right now I’m just 11 points down vs. Peter King (GOP-NY-District 2). And the voters don’t even know who I am yet.
There is nothing more important in getting answers to Trump-Russia collusion than a Democratic House in 2019. Please donate to help me in my part of the effort to fight for a Dem House.
Thank you. We must have a Dem House. And so, we will.