From the moment we started seeing Putin get behind Trump's campaign in 2016, it was clear what the overriding bet for Russian foreign policy was: a weak, incompetent and ultra-divisive American president. That gamble was, historically, the best bet any Russian leader has made since Peter the Great went to war against Sweden and winning the battle of Poltava in 1709, replacing Sweden as the dominant power in the Baltic Sea and clinching Russia's control of Ukraine. Putin's winning bet on Trump undermined the national security of his country's top competitor more successfully than any Russian leader had done in history.
This morning, Washington-based NY Times national security reporter Julian Barnes analyzed, albeit ever so superficially, a National Intelligence Council report released today "about the potential fragmentation of society and the global order."
The report does not overtly blame the overwhelming political and social fragmentation in the U.S. on either Trump or Putin directly, although the implication is that Trump's incompetent handling of the pandemic has been a key cause. Barnes wrote that the report demonstrates how the pandemic showed the "weakness of the [American] world order and that the institutions devised to face past crises are inadequate to coordinate a global response to new challenges like the spread of Covid-19. The failure of those institutions deepened public dissatisfaction and further eroded faith in the old order."
“Efforts to contain and manage the virus have reinforced nationalist trends globally, as some states turned inward to protect their citizens and sometimes cast blame on marginalized groups,” the report said. The response to the pandemic has fueled partisanship and polarization in many countries as groups argue over the best response and seek scapegoats to blame for spreading the virus and for slow mitigation efforts.
...Climate change was also a focus of the report, which noted the difficult adaptations that countries would need to make, such as building rainwater storage and reinforcing sea walls. Climate change would further drive global migration, which is already increasing, the report predicted. Technological innovation and cooperation between China and the West are keys to adapting to climate change, demographic shifts and other challenges, it said.
Income inequality could grow worse, the report said, tying it at times to information inequality.
The “trust gap” between an informed public that has faith in a government solution and a wider public with deep skepticism of institutions is growing, the report said.
The problem is made worse by technology. Algorithms, social media and artificial intelligence have replaced expertise in deciding what information spreads most widely, and that has made the public more vulnerable to misinformation.
Looking at every one of these factors, it would be hard to deny that Putin sure got his money's worth for the small investment he made in electing Trump and pushing Trumpism via social media. After all, the report posits, "Over time these trends could weaken democratic governments," precisely what empowered Trumpist politicians like Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick in Texas, Brian Kemp and Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia, Ron DeSantis in Florida and Kristi Noem in South Dakota are working towards doing. The report points out that "At the same time that populations are increasingly empowered and demanding more, governments are coming under greater pressure from new challenges and more limited resources. This widening gap portends more political volatility, erosion of democracy and expanding roles for alternative providers of governance. Over time, these dynamics might open the door to more significant shifts in how people govern."
In his Bulwark piece yesterday, Red Bull, Elon Musk, and Matt Gaetz, Jonathan Last noted that one of the two ruling political parties in the U.S.-- the one that Trump, with Putin's help, destroyed-- is no longer a traditional political party-- just a lifestyle brand for, overwhelmingly, morons. "Does it matter to his future political prospects," asks Last, "that Matt Gaetz doesn’t advance legislation? Does it matter that Madison Cawthorn staffed up his office with comms people? Does it matter that Marjorie Taylor Greene doesn’t have committee assignments?" He wrote that they would-- "in a system where legislative accomplishments influenced voter behavior. But the preponderance of evidence suggests that Republican voters don’t care about tangible government outcomes. They don’t care whether or not a border wall is built, or who would have (theoretically) paid for it. They don’t care about whether or not the government fails to manage a global pandemic, killing hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens. They don’t care if unemployment is up-- or down. They don’t care about stimulus checks. Or the national debt... Republican voters-- a group distinct from Conservatism Inc.-- no longer have any concrete outcomes that they want from government. What they have, instead, is a lifestyle brand. And if you want to move up the ladder within a brand network, you don’t do it by governing or making policy. You do it by getting attention.
Trump was the first figure to understand that this was where Republican voters had moved. Once you view Republican politics as an attention economy, everything about Trump’s rise and domination makes sense.
And it explains Matt Gaetz, too.
His current-- I’m not sure what we’re supposed to call this, maybe “predicament”?-- isn’t a threat. It’s the best thing that could possibly have happened to him. Gaetz gets to fill the attention vacuum left by Trump’s exile. He gets to posture and preen. Everyone talks about him and the fact that Democrats hate him only makes him more attractive to Republican voters.
This “scandal” has leveled up Matt Gaetz and made him a contender for any office he so desires (so long as he doesn’t actually go to jail) because the attention he has from Republican voters is incredibly valuable-- and can be leveraged into power. No part of the Republican voting coalition will consider any of this as a mark against him.
As you may have seen this morning, QAnon congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, perhaps the least accomplished member of Congress other than Lauren Boebert, the other QAnon congresswoman, received more money in contributions-- $3.2 million from over 100,000 donors (an average of around $32 each)-- than any other member of Congress. Maybe next cycle Gaetz will surpass that. Or maybe Mad Cawthorn will shoot Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy on C-SPAN, making him the recipient of the most contributions-- Cawthorn, not McCarthy.
What if Trump started eating their children? Would Republicans still back him? Some might not, but probably most would. We covered the Trump-donor rip-off scandal last weekend so, no need to rehash-- which Maddow did a greta job doing last night in the video above. But if having your back account emptied-- or your child eaten-- to be part of Club Trump, what was once the GOP is all in.
Congressional Republicans seem to think that running around in circles screeching about investments on "Care Infrastructure" will turn off voters to Biden's popular infrastructure bill. Maybe it will with some members of the lifestyle brand club but as of this morning, among the 71% of Americans who support the investments in the Care Infrastructure are 58% of Republican voters (32% of Republicans are opposed-- as are 6% of Democrats and 22% of independent voters).
This breaks down tp 5 major initiatives, the most popular of which-- affordable care for the elderly and for people with disabilities-- is supported by 79% of the voters and the least popular of which-- creating millions of good paying jobs for care providers-- is supported by 71% of the voters. GOP bugaboos like affordable wage, paid family leave and affordable child care-- are all immensely popular. Now... can Democratic Party candidates get voters to express that support for these and other popular policies at the polls? Or has voting become just another fashion choice?