Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Putin's Challenge to the American Right (VIDEO)

From Andrew Sullivan, at the Weekly Dish, "An invasion in Europe has exposed the flimsiness of post-liberalism":

It would perhaps be too glorious an irony if it were Vladimir Putin who finally buzz-killed the American and European right’s infatuation with post-liberalism. But, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine staggers shambolically and criminally forward, it’s no longer unthinkable. The icon of the West’s new right is in serious trouble now — and it might tarnish all of those who only yesterday were idolizing his reactionary zeal.

It’s not so much Putin’s trashing of international law, his unhinged rehashing of post-Soviet grievances, his next-level Covid paranoia, the foul murders of his opponents, or his brazen embrace of shelling hospitals that has so deepened the damage to the Putin brand among the West’s new Russophiles. These atrocities and madnesses they have long found ways to live with. No, it’s Putin’s failure — thus far — to actually win the war he started that’s so damning. It’s one thing for a dictator to be deemed cruel; and quite another — and far more dangerous — thing for him to be seen as incompetent.

And it’s happened so fast. The love letters had been flowing for years now before this unfortunate interruption. “Russia is like, I mean they’re really hot stuff,” Donald Trump chortled in April 2014, adding that “now you have people in the Ukraine — who knows, set up or not — but it can’t all be set up, I mean they’re marching in favor of joining Russia.” Two weeks ago, in the face of Putin’s pre-invasion posturing over the Donbas region, Trump marveled:

How smart is that? I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine, of Ukraine, Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful … And he’s going to go in and be a peacekeeper. … There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right. … Here’s a guy who’s very savvy… I know him very well. Very, very well.

“They’re gonna keep peace all right.” Think of the depth of the cynical callousness that has to lie behind such a smirk. Notice that for Trump, Putin is not just a thug but a smart one, and the possibility of his brutal incursion into a sovereign neighbor state was, in Trump’s mind, “wonderful.” And cheap: “He’s taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions. I’d say that’s pretty smart.” With Trump, evil is always better when it’s also a bargain.

Even those on the far right who had long had to acknowledge that, yes, well, Putin was a bit of a sociopath, nonetheless professed to admire his skill, if not his motives. Nigel Farage, the well-nicotined Brexit pioneer, called Putin one of the world leaders he most admired, hurriedly hedging with “as an operator, particularly the way he managed to stop the West from getting militarily involved in Syria.” He later reiterated: “He’s a very canny, very sharp, very clever political operator.” Eric Zemmour, the dynamic far-right leader in France, also spoke highly of Putin, calling him “the last bastion against the hurricane of the politically correct which, starting in America, has destroyed all the traditional structures of family, religion and nation.” He later added, “I dream of a French Putin emerging, but there is none.”

Putin’s Russia, like Orban’s Hungary, appealed to many post-liberal conservatives in the West for obvious reasons. Part of it was the shamelessness of the strongmen’s ethnically-homogeneous nationalism, compared with what was seen as the simpering, multicultural globalism of EU types; part was hatred of Obama, who was always deemed weak in contrast with, er, anyone; and part was a more amorphous but nonetheless profound view of Putin and Orban as cultural traditionalists, standing up to Western decadence, as it staggers into its Drag Queen Story Hour hellscape. For besieged social conservatives and Christianists in America, Putin loomed like some phantasm of strange hope.

Steve Bannon summed it up: “Putin ain’t woke. He’s anti-woke.” Congressman Madison Cawthorn took it further: “Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt, and it is incredibly evil, and it has been pushing woke ideologies.” That plucky little Zelensky, speaking live to the British House of Commons as bombs rained down on his country’s cities? An “incredibly evil” “thug.” Our old friend Dinesh D’Souza, in his usual temperate style, sees the Democrats as posing “a far greater threat to our freedom and safety than Putin.” And Bannon is still urging his minions to give “zero dollars to Ukraine,” even as the corpses of children lie on the streets. There’s an alt-right edginess to this moral perversity.

And over the years, this drumbeat of love for the Russian dictator shifted the views of many grassroots Republicans. In the wake of Trump’s personal infatuation with Putin, the murderer’s favorability among Republicans jumped from 10 percent in 2014 to 37 percent by December 2016. Until as recently as January this year, “62 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents considered Vladimir Putin a stronger leader than Joe Biden.” That’s the primrose path down which the GOP led its supporters — seeing Putin as a more legitimate president than Biden.

The last two weeks, to put it mildly, have pummeled this narrative...

Still more.