thing that so far has been hard to understand is why Trump’s white, conservative,
“Christian,” rural base is in favor of Trump’s suck-ups to Russia and Putin.
have supported him for the last two years, despite mounting evidence of his
collusion with Russian security and corporate forces. In foreign policy, Trump
has hewed to the Kremlin’s line in every respect, against the advice of his own
Generals, and to the bewilderment of his own State Department.
Now, in the past, the kind of people who support Trump were the fiercest anti-Communists in America. Their spiritual ancestors launched the Cold War, and in the 1950s they tried to impeach Chief Justice Earl Warren for being a Communist.
they’re the same ones who call Barack Obama a Communist, an allegation you can
find every day on Breitbart.
why is this rural, rightwing base so happy about Trump’s overtures to a country
they and their forebears have loathed for decades?
I’ve pondered this question over and over. It never made sense. The closest I could come to an explanation was to blame it on some kind of mental illness in his followers. After all, it’s insane to have been violently against Russia all your life, and then suddenly pull a 180 and decide, Hey, maybe they’re not so bad after all; if President Trump loves Russia and Putin, then I should too. It’s reminiscent of the last line in Animal Farm: “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
But I think I’ve finally figured it out. The lightbulb over my head went off when I read this little article over the weekend about how Russian citizens “have been recently detained in Russia’s Chechnya region on suspicion of being gay, in a throwback to an earlier crackdown.”
Putin’s homophobic policies are well known. In this, of course, the interests of Putin’s Russia and those of the “Christian” evangelicals, Pentecostals, radical Catholics and rightwing Mormons align. When the interests of two opposite camps align, they often form an alliance; that’s just standard rules of diplomacy and warfare. So this, in part, explains our puzzlement. White “Christian” homophobes in America know they have an ally in Vladimir Putin’s homophobic Russia.
But, you say, Russia is not a
Christian country. It’s officially atheist. So how could American “Christians”
possibly lay down in bed with a nation that disbelieves in God?
The Devil’s in the details. It’s true that Putin’s Russia is officially atheist. But Putin has been aligning his domestic policy more and more with the Russian Orthodox Church’s views. “In recent years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has embraced aspects of this Christian imperial ideology.” Putin’s cozying-up to the Church has “reinvigorated” it and Moscow has “mobilized” the Church, “in pursuit of its foreign-policy goals.”
So we now have two areas in which
the interests of Trump’s “Christian” base and those of Putin’s Russia overlap:
homophobia and a strong encouragement for and engagement with conservative Christians.
But wait, there’s a third area—possibly the most important from the American/Christian point of view in which the strange bedfellows make common cause. Russia is increasingly hostile to people of color. “Racist…chants have become more common” in Russia. Fewer that 1% of Russians are black, and they face a near-constant struggle against racism.
Putin’s racism embraces anti-Muslim policies as well; the country’s policies in the era of Putin are reverting to Mother Russia’s traditional view of itself as the Defender of White European civilization. Putin has even called himself “The Protector of the Faith.”
So here, too, “Christian”
conservative Americans see Russia as their international partner in promoting a
white nationalist, Steve King-style racist culture.
Vanity Fair this past summer reported on this phenomenon: under the tutelage of Steve Bannon, Trump’s “affinity for Russia…reflects a long-sought civilizational re-alignment.”
The core of this “re-alignment” lies in “White House support [for] proto-fascist
movements throughout Europe,” of which Russia’s Putin-Church coalition is
the largest and most important. “Putin is
standing up for traditional institutions,” Bannon argues, in explaining
that those “traditional institutions”
are the same as those the alt-right supports.
Which are–Homophobia, white nationalism
and “Christian” conservatism.
I don’t expect that most of Trump’s base has the particular understanding of history and political philosophy to understand these facts in detail. But they manage to absorb its core. That core is transmitted to them, indirectly, through Russian-influenced social media and, in particular, the fake posts that Russian intelligence, with the Trump campaign’s help, placed on platforms like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, which in turn influenced our election and got Trump elected. That core, also, is communicated directly to Trump supports via Fifth Columnists like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, and various White House spokespersons.
The upshot is that Trump supporters
know, in some vague, inchoate and yet visceral way, that Putin’s Russia is on
their side—and on Trump’s side. Russia may have been their traditional enemy,
but they have a new, even more menacing enemy: the “elite,” the “fake news,”
Hollywood, San Francisco, the failed New York Times, Hillary Clinton, gays, and
on and on. American liberals, for these white “Christian” rightwingers, are far
more dangerous than Russian Communists. If “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,”
then Putin, who is Trump’s BFF, has incredibly become the friend of rightwing
Why do I put “Christians” in quotes?
To be derisory. I understand Christianity. As a well-read Jew, I know its
history, its ideals, its theology. Jesus, the first Christian, is someone whom every
Jew “gets.” Every Jew has a little bit of Jesus in us, and an understanding of
where he’s coming from that, frankly, may be deeper than the way actual
Christians experience him.
But what I see in America today, in the guise of “Christianity” as illustrated by evangelicals, Pentecostals, and radical rightwing Mormons and Catholics, has nothing to do with the Christianity I understand. It’s faux-Christianity, fake Christianity—white supremacist, fascist-leaning political ideology masquerading as religious Christianity. That’s why, when I refer to these racist, homophobic people, I will continue to put “Christians” in quotes.So there you have it: the political alignment of Russia and Trump’s base, in three areas: homophobia, pro-Christianity and white supremacy. This is why that base doesn’t care about anything Mueller charges Trump with. Even if the Special Counsel proves beyond a doubt that Trump colluded with Putin to steal this election, the base will say, “Good! That’s what we wanted him to do.” They will never turn against him because what they really desire isn’t a free, democratic, “e pluribus unum” United States of America, but a Russian-American cabal, in which gay people are persecuted, “Christianity” is elevated to a state religion, and the non-white population is reduced to the barest minimum.