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Conservative No More

The historian Thomas Zimmer has written a series of articles that he describes as “a reflection on what we are up against”. Below is the gist of part 1, part 2 and part 3.

A reactionary counter-mobilization against egalitarian multiracial, pluralistic democracy.

That is the formulation I have been using to describe what is happening on the Right (and beyond), to capture what is animating conservative politics, and to grasp what, exactly, those who envision America as a truly functioning democracy are up against.

I think it’s worth reflecting on each of these terms:

  • Reactionary – rather than conservative
  • Counter-mobilization – rather than backlash
  • Egalitarian multiracial, pluralistic democracy – rather than just: democracy

A counter-mobilization 

Let’s start with what I think is the component that requires the least explanation: a counter-mobilization, rather than a backlash. The problem with the “backlash” narrative is that it tends to put the agency solely with traditionally marginalized groups who are ultimately at fault for causing an inevitable reaction, a predictable, near-automatic response. This makes the backlash narrative attractive to people who seek to delegitimize the supposed “excesses” of social justice activism and any kind of politics that aims to level traditional hierarchies. In such a tale, reactionaries have no agency and thus can’t be blamed, are only – and at least somewhat justifiably – reacting to marginalized groups going “too far”….

The term “counter-mobilization” … acknowledges that the reactionary ire is directed at concrete change. It is true that due to political, social, cultural, and, most importantly, demographic developments, the U.S. has become significantly less white, less Christian, more multicultural, more pluralistic over the past few decades. What the Right is trying to counter is, at least in this broad sense, real; these are not just figments of the rightwing imagination. But the key is to acknowledge that reactionaries are actively mobilizing, they are deliberately participating in a political project of preventing America from ever becoming an egalitarian multiracial, pluralistic democracy….

Egalitarian multiracial, pluralistic democracy

Why make things complicated? Why add a bunch of qualifiers in front of “democracy” that together make for a rather clunky phrase? Because the first question we should ask whenever someone says “democracy” is: What kind of democracy, how much, and for whom?

We should recognize that, historically, the term “democracy” applied to polities and societies that differed widely in terms of who was actually allowed and enabled to participate in the political process as equals – and even more so with regards to whether or not they extended the democratic promise to other spheres of life beyond politics, to the workplace, the family, the public square….

Democracy should be explored and assessed not as a yes-or-no proposition, but on a scale – with an emphasis on change over time and on the changing practical reality, on how democracy actually structures the lives and experiences of the people….

The American project has always been shaped by two competing, fundamentally incompatible visions for what the county should be. On the one hand, there is the idea that the world works best if it is dominated by wealthy white men [note: or simply white men, or Christians, or whatever preferred group]; on the other, the goal of creating a society in which the individual’s status would not be significantly determined by wealth, race, religion, gender, gender or sexual orientation…. Right-wingers abhor this egalitarian vision [of multiracial, pluralistic democracy]….

Reactionary

The character of the counter-mobilization against egalitarian multiracial, pluralistic democracy is more adequately described as reactionary, rather than conservative….

More and more people on the Right – people who are at the center of conservative politics, or at least close to it in terms of their ideas and agenda – are rejecting the label “conservatism.” A few weeks ago, The Federalist – one of those supposedly / formerly conservative outlets that provide a useful window into what is happening in the rightwing pundit and pseudo-intellectual scene – published a really instructive piece… It was entitled: “We need to stop calling ourselves conservatives.” According to the author, conservatism, a political project that was all about conserving and preserving the existing order of traditional American norms and values, had failed and was entirely unequipped to handle “our revolutionary moment.”

This indeed reflects a widely accepted understanding of what “conservatism” is: Conservatives focus on preserving and conserving what exists, they push back against change if it threatens the traditional order of things. That’s perhaps not an exact definition, but it captures the essence of what is usually associated with the term in the broader public discourse. It is, ultimately, a project of hierarchy maintenance (which follows directly from the preserving/conserving idea, although conservatives tend to dislike it when it’s phrased in this way).

But according to The Federalist, there is no point in trying to preserve and maintain what has actually long been destroyed – America, in this view, has been turned into a “woke dystopia,” something traditional conservatism had failed to prevent. Instead of continuing on a path that has led to destruction, those who used to see themselves as conservatives need to “claim the mantle of revolutionaries” – commit themselves to a (counter-)revolutionary, radical fight against these un-American leftist forces.

The Federalist is very explicit about what such a not-conservative-anymore fight against leftism would entail in practice: The goal is to forcefully mobilize the coercive power of the state to impose a return of the traditional order onto the country and defeat those enemies within. In the words of the author: “The left will only stop when conservatives stop them, which means conservatives will have to discard outdated notions about ‘small government.’ The government will have to become, in the hands of conservatives, an instrument of renewal in American life – and in some cases, a blunt instrument indeed”….

Republicans are trying to turn the clock back by many decades wherever they are in charge: At least to the 1950s, the pre-civil-rights era, in the political, social, and cultural sphere; even further back, to the pre-New Deal era, in the realm of economics and in terms of the state’s role in regulating the economy. And they are pursuing this vision they want to impose on the entire country in increasingly aggressive fashion.

No more conserving, preserving, certainly not in the colloquial sense. American conservatism is now taking an openly and aggressively hostile stance towards the current order, and towards “liberalism” (very loosely defined) in general. It is this specific attitude, this disposition towards liberal democracy and anything derided as “leftwing” and “woke” that characterizes today’s Right. Conservatives have given themselves permission to escalate. That’s where the center of conservative politics currently is….

Unquote.

One point: I’m not sure “reactionary” is the appropriate word to replace “conservative”. It might be better to think of the right’s project to stop progress as “radical”. One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of “radical” is “advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs”.

Prof. Zimmer promises to continue this series of articles on “what we’re up against” at his Substack newsletter “Democracy Americana”.

The Reactionary Politics of Resentment

How did the Republican Party get so extreme? Paul Krugman of The New York Times asks the question and offers an answer — or rather a historical parallel:

… The Republican turn toward extremism began during the 1990s. Many people have forgotten the political craziness of the Clinton years — the witch hunts and wild conspiracy theories (Hillary murdered Vince Foster!), the attempts to blackmail Bill Clinton into policy concessions by shutting down the government, and more. And all of this was happening during what were widely regarded as good years, with most Americans believing that the country was on the right track.

It’s a puzzle. I’ve been spending a lot of time lately looking for historical precursors — cases in which right-wing extremism rose even in the face of peace and prosperity. And I think I’ve found one: the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s.

It’s important to realize that while this organization took the name of the post-Civil War group, it was actually a new movement — a white nationalist movement to be sure, but far more widely accepted, and less of a pure terrorist organization [than the 19th century Klan]. And it reached the height of its power — it effectively controlled several states — amid peace and an economic boom.

What was this new K.K.K. about? I’ve been reading Linda Gordon’s The Second Coming of the K.K.K.: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition, which portrays a “politics of resentment” driven by the backlash of white, rural and small-town Americans against a changing nation. The K.K.K. hated immigrants and “urban elites”; it was characterized by “suspicion of science” and “a larger anti-intellectualism.” Sound familiar?

… Republican extremism clearly draws much of its energy from the same sources.

And because G.O.P. extremism is fed by resentment against the very things that, as I see it, truly make America great — our diversity, our tolerance for difference — it cannot be appeased or compromised with. It can only be defeated.

Adam Serwer of The Atlantic says overturning Roe v. Wade is “just the beginning of the Court’s mission to reshape all of American society according to conservative demands”, taking advantage of their office to address the resentments and supposed grievances of the Republican Party’s most dedicated supporters: 

Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson [announces] that when it comes to rights “not mentioned in the Constitution,” only those “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” are protected. If you’re asking yourself who decides which rights can be so described, you’re on the right track….

As the three Democratic-appointed justices note in their Dobbs dissent, more constitutional rights now are on the chopping block. “Either the majority does not really believe in its own reasoning. Or if it does, all rights that have no history stretching back to the mid-19th century are insecure,” the dissenters wrote. “Either the mass of the majority’s opinion is hypocrisy, or additional constitutional rights are under threat. It is one or the other.” It seems to be the latter: In his concurrence, Justice Clarence Thomas writes that precedents establishing access to contraception, legalizing same-sex marriage, and striking down anti-sodomy laws should be “reconsidered”….

The Supreme Court has become an institution whose primary role is to force a right-wing vision of American society on the rest of the country. The conservative majority …  takes whatever stances define right-wing cultural and political identity at a given moment and asserts them as essential aspects of American law since the founding, and therefore obligatory…. The dictates of the Constitution retrospectively shift with whatever Fox News happens to be furious about. Legal outcomes preferred by today’s American right conveniently turn out to be what the Founding Fathers wanted all along.

The 6–3 majority has removed any appetite for caution or restraint, and the justices’ lifetime appointments mean they will never have to face an angry electorate that could deprive them of their power. It has also rendered their approach to the law lazy, clumsy, and malicious…

Many of the Court’s recent decisions, even before Dobbs, have demonstrated this. In the case over the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for employers, the conservative justices disregarded the explicit text of a federal statute allowing the government to set emergency regulations governing “toxic substances or agents” in the workplace, and employed soft anti-vax arguments that had only become prominent in conservative media since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. As part of its rationale, the majority wrote that “in its half century of existence,” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration “has never before adopted a broad public health regulation of this kind,” which is true, because during that period there had not been a global pandemic that killed more than 1 million Americans.

In their decision earlier this week overturning restrictions on concealed carry of firearms in New York, the right-wing justices ignored historical examples of firearm regulations in order to argue that any such regulations—not just those in New York—were presumptively unconstitutional. The decision was a significant escalation in the Court’s gun-rights jurisprudence from the 2008 Heller decision, which found an individual constitutional right to possess a firearm. In the most recent ruling, Thomas wrote that only those restrictions “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation” are constitutional, but he did so ignoring, as the writer Saul Cornell points out, a centuries-long history of closely regulating arms in densely populated areas. That record is irrelevant. The restrictions deemed consistent with tradition will be whatever the current right-wing consensus happens to be.

Unquote.

Yesterday was more of the same. A federal judge had written a 157-page decision ordering Louisiana’s Republican legislature to change a proposed congressional map that she said violates what’s left of the Voting Rights Act, because, although Louisiana’s population is one-third Black, the map would insure that five out of six congressional districts elect Republicans. Her decision was upheld by an appeals court. Over the objections of the three Democrats on the Supreme Court, and without offering any explanation, the Republican majority overruled the judge and the appeals court. That means the map will be used for November’s elections. The Republican National Committee couldn’t have asked for more.

Yeah, There’s a Name for It

We’re having a primary election today. The people I planned to vote for had no opposition, but I walked over and voted anyway. Voting is a ritual of democracy! (Plus our local election workers used to provide cookies.)

It was worth the trip. They have new, electronic, paper ballot machines. You put in a piece of paper, vote on the touchscreen, and then you look through a little window to see your votes printed on the paper. If it all looks ok, you press “cast your ballot” and the paper goes into a container. So there’s a paper trail if there’s a recount. Very cool. Every voter in the US should be able to use a machine like that. While voting still matters.

From Greg Sargent of The Washington Post:

“1776 motherfuckers.”

That’s what an associate texted to Enrique Tarrio, then the leader of the Proud Boys, just after members of the group stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. In a new indictment that prosecutors filed against them, variations on that idea abound: Members refer to the insurrection as a glorious revival of 1776 again and again, with almost comic predictability.

… The way 1776 comes up in the indictment — combined with some surprising new details it reveals — should prompt a serious look at how far-right extremist groups genuinely think about the long struggle that they envision themselves waging.

In short, groups such as these generally are driven by a dangerous vision of popular sovereignty. It essentially holds that the will of the truly authentic “people,” a flexible category they get to define, is being suppressed, requiring periodic “resets” of the system, including via violent, extralegal means.

Such groups aren’t going away anytime soon. We should understand what drives them.

The new indictment that a grand jury returned on Monday against Tarrio and four other Proud Boys is for “seditious conspiracy.” This requires prosecutors to prove that at least two people conspired to use force to overthrow the U.S. government or subvert the execution of U.S. law.

To build this case, prosecutors have sought to present extensive evidence that the Proud Boys fully intended to use force to subvert governmental authority and relevant laws concerning the transfer of presidential power. This included arming themselves with paramilitary gear and discussing violent disruptions online in advance…. The indictment alleges that they attacked police officers, breached police lines with violence, and helped coordinate the storming of the Capitol in real time.

What’s more, in the indictment prosecutors disclose highly revealing text exchanges between Tarrio — who was not present that day — and another member later on Jan. 6. The exchanges appear to refer back to a document Tarrio possessed called “1776 returns,” which reportedly contains a detailed scheme to attack government buildings.

Those text exchanges compare Jan. 6 to both 1776 and the attack on “the Winter Palace,” which helped lead to the Russian Revolution. This seeming reference back to that document perhaps suggests they viewed Jan. 6 as the successful execution of a premeditated plan….

In this context, while all the 1776-oriented talk might seem like posturing, it points to something real and enduring on the far right.

It isn’t easy to pin down the Proud Boys, who tend to define themselves as defenders of Western civilization. Tarrio’s views appear pretty convoluted. In a 2021 interview, he admitted that the 2020 election had not been stolen from former president Donald Trump,… yet he openly celebrated the “fear” that members of Congress felt of “the people,” and helped mobilize Proud Boys to mass around the Capitol that day.

So how to make sense of that, as well as the broader tangle of ideologies on the far right?

helpful framework comes from Joseph Lowndes, a scholar of the right wing at the University of Oregon. As Lowndes notes, a longtime strain in American political culture treats procedural democracy as itself deeply suspect, as subverting a more authentic subterranean popular will.

For such ideologues, what constitutes “the people” is itself redefined by spasmodic revolutionary acts, including violence. The people’s sovereignty, and with it the defining lines of the republic, are also effectively redrawn, or even rebirthed, by such outbursts of energy and militant action.

In this vision, Lowndes told me, the “people” and the “essence of the republic” are “made new again through acts of violent cleansing.” He noted that in this imagining, the “people” are something of a “fiction,” one that is essentially created out of the violent “act.”

“This regeneration through violence is going to be with us for a long time,” Lowndes said, “because it is fundamental to the right-wing political imagination.”

Lurking behind all the 1776 cosplay, then, is a tangle of very real radical and extreme ideologies…. They aren’t going away.

Unquote.

Journalist John Ganz sums up the current situation in response to a New York Times article by a “National Review fellow”, Nate Hochman:

Since he’s fond of Marxist categories, I’d like to introduce Hochman to another one: totality. This refers to the notion that we have to analyze a social and political situation in its entirety, and that failing to do so will give us a false or incomplete picture. While he is more frank than most, Hochman doesn’t want to look at the Right in its totality. While he seems comfortable with the portions of the right that, despite being demagogic and repressive, remain within the bounds of legal and civic behavior, like the anti-trans and anti-Critical Race Theory campaigns, he doesn’t really want to talk about January 6th, or the stolen election myth, great replacement, or the cultish worship of T____, or the Proud Boys, who now have a significant presence in [the] Miami-Dade Republican party….

But these things are as much, if not more, emblematic of the modern Republican party as young Mr. Hochman in his blazer over there at The National Review….

So now let’s recapitulate the totality of the political situation, with the help of Mr. Hochman’s fine essay. He wants to say this new right is essentially a secular [non-religious] party of the aggrieved, [a coalition that feels] the national substance has been undermined by a group of cosmopolitan elites, who have infiltrated all the institutions of power. That believes immigrants threaten to replace the traditional ethnic make up of the country. That borrows conceptions and tactics from the socialist tradition but retools them for counter-revolutionary ends. That is animated by myths of national decline and renewal. That instrumentalizes racial anxieties. That brings together dissatisfied and alienated members of the intelligentsia with the conservative families of the old bourgeoisie and futurist magnates of industry. That looks to a providential figure like T___ for leadership. That has street fighting and militia cadres. That has even attempted an illegal putsch to give their leader absolute power.

If only there was historical precedent and even a neat little word for all that.

Unquote.

Well, here’s a hint. The precedent is Nazi Germany and the neat little word is “FASCISM”.

The Terrorists Among Us

In the aftermath of the massacre in a black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday, it’s worth noting a study produced by the Anti-Defamation League. They found that in the ten years between 2012 and 2021, 75% of the murders in the US that were connected to political extremism were committed by the radical right (otherwise known as upstanding members of the Grand Old Party). From David Leonhardt of the NY Times:

Over the past decade, the Anti-Defamation League has counted about 450 U.S. murders committed by political extremists.

Of these 450 killings, right-wing extremists committed about 75 percent. Islamic extremists were responsible for about 20 percent, and left-wing extremists were responsible for 4 percent.

More than half of the murders were specifically tied to white supremacists:

As this data shows, the American political right has a violence problem that has no equivalent on the left. And the 10 victims in Buffalo this past weekend are now part of this toll. “Right-wing extremist violence is our biggest threat,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the ADL, has written. “The numbers don’t lie.”

The pattern extends to violence less severe than murder, like the Jan. 6 attack on Congress. It also extends to the language from some Republican politicians — including [the former president] — and conservative media figures that treats violence as a legitimate form of political expression. A much larger number of Republican officials do not use this language but also do not denounce it or punish politicians who do use it; Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, is a leading example.

. . . The precise explanation for any one attack can be murky, involving a mixture of ideology, mental illness, gun access and more. In the immediate aftermath of an attack, people are sometimes too quick to claim a direct cause and effect. But it is also incorrect to pretend that right-wing violence and left-wing violence are equivalent problems.

If you talk to members of Congress and their aides these days — especially off the record — you will often hear them mention their fears of violence being committed against them.

Some Republican members of Congress have said that they were reluctant to vote for [the ex-president’s] impeachment or conviction partly because of the threats against other members who had already denounced him. House Republicans who voted for President Biden’s infrastructure bill also received threats. Democrats say their offices receive a spike in phone calls and online messages threatening violence after they are criticized on conservative social media or cable television shows.

People who oversee elections report similar problems. “One in six elec­tion offi­cials have exper­i­enced threats because of their job,” the Brennan Center, a research group, reported this year. “Ranging from death threats that name offi­cials’ young chil­dren to racist and gendered harass­ment, these attacks have forced elec­tion offi­cials across the coun­try to take steps like hiring personal secur­ity, flee­ing their homes, and putting their chil­dren into coun­sel­ing.”

There is often overlap between these violent threats and white supremacist beliefs. White supremacy tends to treat people of color as un-American or even less than fully human, views that can make violence seem justifiable. The suspect in the Buffalo massacre evidently posted an online manifesto that discussed replacement theory, a racial conspiracy theory that Tucker Carlson promotes on his Fox News show.

“History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse,” Representative Liz Cheney, one of the few Republicans who have repeatedly and consistently denounced violence and talk of violence from the right, wrote on Twitter. “The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and antisemitism,” Cheney wrote, and called on Republican leaders to “renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.”

A few other Republicans, like Senator Mitt Romney, have taken a similar stance. But many other prominent Republicans have taken a more neutral stance or even embraced talk of violence.

Some have spoken openly about violence as a legitimate political tool — and not just [the party’s leader], who has done so frequently.

At the rally that preceded the Jan. 6 attack, Representative Mo Brooks suggested the crowd should “start taking down names and kicking ass.” Before she was elected to Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene supported the idea of executing Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats. Representative Paul Gosar once posted an animated video altered to depict himself killing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and swinging swords at Biden.

Rick Perry, a former Texas governor, once called the Federal Reserve “treasonous” and talked about treating its chairman “pretty ugly.” During Greg Gianforte’s campaign for Montana’s House seat, he went so far as to assault a reporter who asked him a question he didn’t like; Gianforte won and has since become Montana’s governor.

These Republicans have received no meaningful sanction from their party. McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, has been especially solicitous of Brooks and other members who use violent imagery.

This Republican comfort with violence is new. Republican leaders from past decades, like Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, Howard Baker and the Bushes, did not evoke violence.

“In a stable democracy,” Steven Levitsky, a Harvard political scientist, told me, “politicians unambiguously reject violence and unambiguously expel from their ranks antidemocratic forces.”

Russia Ain’t the Soviet Union Anymore

Two European academics who have studied Russia’s culture and politics explain why the war in Ukraine is much more than a response to NATO. They also explain why segments from the most extreme Fox News programs are replayed on Russian TV:

In recent weeks, many analysts — especially those trying to find a logical justification for the Russian war in Ukraine — have argued that the Kremlin was reacting to a perceived threat from NATO encroachment and the Western alliance’s push into Russia’s sphere of influence.

While that may be so, such explanations miss an important point. . . . 

Gay parades and cancel culture

In his sermon approximately two weeks into the war, on March 6, the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church justified the invasion of Ukraine as necessary to defend Orthodox Christians against Western values and gay pride parades. On March 24, during a meeting with young artists, Russian President Vladimir Putin complained about cancel culture, arguing that much the way J.K. Rowling was criticized for her opposition to transgender rights, the West was now “trying to cancel a whole 1,000-year culture, our people … Russian writers and books are now canceled.”

Russia presents itself as being at the forefront of the global culture wars, leading the resistance to liberal values. Russian anti-Westernism has religious implications: According to its own narrative, Russia is guarding true Christian faith, as embodied in the Eastern Orthodox church, from Western attempts to distort it, whether through Marxism in the 20th century or liberalism in the 21st.

Ukraine plays an important role in this story. It is depicted as part of the “Russian world,” the cradle of Russian civilization, which for many centuries was centered not around Moscow but around Kyiv, capital of today’s Ukraine. Ukraine’s choice to orient itself toward the West and reconcile a Slavic Orthodox identity with liberal democratic values is thus dangerous to this Russian vision of itself.

Global Christian Right

The arguments about gender freedoms and cancel culture that we hear today from Patriarch Kirill and Putin are nothing genuinely Russian. They derive from a global Christian right ideology, which Russian conservatives learned about in the 1990s.

Right after the end of the Cold War, Christian right activists, especially from the United States, flocked into Russia; among them were Focus on the FamilyCoMission and the World Congress of Families. From the 1990s onward, Russian conservatives have argued that the frustrations of their society falling apart result from painful liberal socioeconomic reforms. Their argument combines elements of a late-Soviet conservative social ethos, Russian Orthodox traditionalism and huge transnational influences.

Today’s Russian discourse on traditional values is a hybrid of Christian right ideas from the global culture wars and nostalgia about Russia’s great Soviet and even greater imperial and Orthodox Christian past.

The whimsical West

This type of Russian cultural conservatism was marginal until around 2010, when it started to migrate to the center of Russian political life — decisively so during Putin’s third term as president. For Putin, the traditional values discourse was a good pretext for political repression — exemplified in the treatment of the Pussy Riot women — and a shield against rising opposition, which demanded more freedoms.

Traditional values and the defense of Christianity were a suitable foundation for the new Russian foreign policy mission: becoming the leader of those countries and actors that were not, were no longer or had never wanted to be “liberal.”

In the process of “learning” the global culture wars, Russian conservatives not only defined their national identity in relation to a global Christian conservatism, but also acquired a precise vision of the West as spiritually hollow and failing. Christian conservatives flocking to Russia conveyed an image of the West that was torn, weak and doomed, because it no longer had children, no longer had values, and did not even distinguish between men and women. As a result, many Christian conservatives from the United States and Europe  looked to Russia with hope.

Christian conservatives’ image of a failing and doomed West began to dominate views of Russian conservative elites during the late 2000s. But Russian elites saw their Western conservative partners as part of that failing West: they too were weak and pitiful heralds of a West in decline.

Russian triumphalism

This account of the West helped give birth to a new Russian triumphalism. Russian media filled with TV shows and “documentaries” on “Gayropa” and “Sodom.” These shows conjured up a caricature of weak “gayish” Western males and women who lost their femininity by competing with men in spheres where they could achieve nothing serious.

Russian media frequently stressed the oddity that many Western democracies nominated women as defense ministers, as if that was the ultimate proof that the West has lost its ability to defend itself. In this collective image of a weak West, Russia depicted itself (to the inside and outside) as the country of strength, the bulwark of traditional families: with strong men, fertile women and children properly guarded against subversive homosexual propaganda.

Russian triumphalism

This image is without any empirical foundation, but that was not important. It resulted in an internal perception of Russia as world messiah and a force preventing the world from sliding into the chaos of evil, with a special mission of saving the world from liberal depravities. The Patriarch’s March 6 sermon expressed precisely that worldview.

Fascinated by this flattering vision of Russia, elites, it seems, overestimated Russia’s strength and underestimated Ukraine’s. The Kremlin also appears to have underestimated the strength and unity of the collective West, which appears not as corrupted and not as weak as Russia imagined. Pointedly, J. K. Rowling, whom Putin mentioned as a victim of Western cancel culture, refused his characterization and accused Putin of killing civilians instead.

Unquote.

Everybody should keep in mind that 21st century Russia isn’t the 20th century Soviet Union. There are no communists in power now. Putin is yet another neo-fascist authoritarian, the kind that rules over HungaryBrazilIndiaTurkey, the Philippines and elsewhere. That’s why our former president and other Republicans admire Putin and those like him. The days when being an anti-Communist meant being anti-Russia are long gone.

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