U.S. Midterms a Referendum on Saving Putin

Marjorie Taylor Greene, a fascist dimwit of the first rank, essentially the Republican Party’s direct answer to communist harpy Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, announces at a campaign rally that “the only border [Democrats] care about is Ukraine, not America’s southern border. Under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine. Our country comes first.” By falsely framing the border issue as “southern border versus Ukraine,” she has essentially and gratuitously branded Ukraine an enemy of U.S. sovereignty, thus rousing a Republican crowd to angry cheers by promising to abandon Ukraine as though this were a patriotic stand.

Meanwhile, the Republican minority leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, says much the same thing in his more mealy-mouthed fashion, thereby sealing it as an official campaign plank at the party’s establishment level: “I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine. They just won’t do it.”

Note that this way of expressing the matter — “We have to stop wasting money on Ukraine” — only sounds reasonable to people who are blind to, or have deliberately blinded themselves to, what is actually at issue here. If these House Republican cretins and their “conservative media” boosters were at least honest enough to say what they mean, namely that they do not wish to spend anymore American resources resisting Vladimir Putin’s tyrannical aggression against a fledgling democracy and potentially valuable ally, then at least Republican voters would be put in the position of deciding and declaring what they really care about, and why. And this, of course, is precisely why the Republicans begging for votes deliberately avoid this more honest framing. They are effectively making the U.S. Midterm elections into a referendum on using the power and influence of the U.S. government to sway the world away from its opposition to Putin; or stated more directly, a referendum on saving Putin from his ongoing, humiliating, and likely regime-ending, defeat in Ukraine. 

In short, the congressional wing of the Republican Party is openly supporting Putin’s oligarchy and aggression by actively, vocally, publicly promising to pull the rug out from under Putin’s primary and increasingly existential threat of this moment. The only rational inference to draw from this public declaration of intent: They want Putin to win, and Ukraine to lose, period. Greene says so. McCarthy merely implies it. The crowd at Greene’s rally hears the message loud and clear, and cheers it on, although admittedly the reaction of people who would willingly attend a Marjorie Taylor Greene rally presumably represents the kookier, more explicitly pro-fascist wing of today’s GOP, i.e., the Trump/Putin wing.

To those still confusing what today’s House GOP establishment is saying with old-fashioned fiscal restraint or “non-interventionism,” consider the following analogy:

George, the biggest and strongest boy in the school, sees a classmate and occasional homework partner, Vitali, being bullied by a few of the school’s most belligerent thugs, led by Vlad. At first, George directly warns the bullies to leave Vitali alone, with clear suggestions that if they don’t cut it out, they might end up having to deal with George himself. Buoyed by George’s support, and the knowledge that George won’t let him get beaten to a pulp without intervening in his defense, Vitali stands up to the bullies repeatedly and bravely, avoiding giving up his lunch money most of the time, and even pushing back more than once, although incurring a black eye or two in the process. Eventually, sensing that Vitali has made a strong enough statement in his own defense that Vlad’s punks might start to give up their bullying behavior soon, George thinks, “Vitali doesn’t really need my help anymore, and besides I have my own problems.”

And then what? Well, this story has two possible endings, so let’s look at each of them.

Scenario 1: So George quietly and privately tells Vitali, “You know, I can’t always be around when Vlad confronts you, but I think you’re doing a good job of fending his gang off anyway, and you’ve definitely earned their respect. So I’m on your side, but from now on I can’t promise to actually be at your side all the time. In any case, if he bothers you again, punch his lights out.”

Scenario 2: So George stands up at the front of the class and says to everyone, in an angry voice, “I’ve spent a lot of time and energy supporting Vitali, but from now on he’s on his own. I don’t have time for his problems, so I’m not going to hold his hand anymore, and I don’t know why I ever did.” Many students applaud George’s declaration, while sneering at Vitali. Vlad watches this scene from the back of the room, quietly imagining his next confrontation with Vitali behind the school.

Compare my little story, with its alternative endings, to the GOP’s current election rhetoric regarding Ukraine and Vladimir Putin. Scenario 1 represents what a principled non-interventionist, but one with character and a basic sense of right and wrong, would do. Scenario 2 represents what today’s House Republican leaders, literal and popular, are in fact doing. If you cannot understand the difference, then I hope you are never my neighbor — for your sake as well as mine. I like people whose inclination is to mind their own business, but I have no wish, on the other hand, to live near cowardly idol-worshippers who hide their lack of principle and character behind pseudo-tough-guy chanting and posing. And I know very well that people of that stripe would not like living near me, since many of them proved it with ample clarity during 2016, the year when cowardly, unprincipled hiding behind the ersatz strength of a large and frightened crowd, sometimes euphemized as populism, became the leading voice on the American “right,” and I quietly abandoned that crowd to their fear and unreason in favor of the greener pastures of, frankly, anywhere else.

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