During the 2016 presidential campaign, Republican nominee Donald Trump urged a foreign power, Russia, to interfere in the American election in order to undermine his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Russia complied. The American intelligence community, including the CIA and FBI, has reached a “strong consensus” that the Russians interfered with the presidential election in order to help Donald Trump win.
It has also been reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed this espionage operation. So serious was Russian interference in the American presidential election that the Obama administration warned Putin that it was tantamount to “armed conflict.”
Republican leaders in Congress were briefed on Russia’s interference in the presidential election and how it was targeted at elevating Trump and hurting Clinton. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other congressional Republicans chose to block any public discussion of these findings. In what could be construed as a quid pro quo, McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, has been selected by President-elect Trump for a Cabinet position in his administration.
Donald Trump’s flirtations with Russia and Vladimir Putin are part of a broader pattern of reckless and irresponsible behavior. Trump has numerous conflicts of financial interest that would appear to violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution. His sons, Eric and Donald Jr., were involved in a scheme (since withdrawn) that looked a lot like an attempt to sell access to his administration through million-dollar “charity” donations.
Trump has threatened to violate the First Amendment by suppressing freedom of the press, encouraged violence against Clinton and those he deemed his enemies, suggested he would not respect the outcome of the election if he lost and now promoted people widely regarded as white supremacists or white nationalists to senior positions in his administration. Donald Trump has also selected key advisers and cabinet level officials who have close personal and financial relationships with Russian leaders in banking, finance and government.
The sum total of these facts leads to a very troubling conclusion.
President-elect Donald Trump is a traitor. As suggested by John Shattuck, a Harvard university professor, in the Boston Globe, Trump’s actions may approach the legal definition of treason as defined by U.S. federal law.
Members of the Republican Party who knew about Russia’s efforts to interfere with the presidential election and chose to suppress or block such information, for fear of hurting their candidate’s chances, are also traitors.
In light of Russia’s interference with the presidential election, Republicans and others who voted for and support Donald Trump are also traitors, at least to the degree that they do not now work against and denounce him.
Reconciling Trump’s traitorous behavior with how Republicans and conservatives view themselves as the party of “patriotism” and “national security” is a puzzle of sorts. How do they resolve this state of cognitive dissonance?
Writing about Oscar Wilde, David Friedman observed that a celebrity is someone who is famous for being famous. This logic applies to the Republican Party and how it has presented itself in regard to national security. For example, this tautology ignores the fact that the Cold War was not won by one president — certainly not by Ronald Reagan, a figure who has been undeservedly elevated to sainthood in American political culture — but because of a continuity in foreign policy across both Democratic and Republican administrations.
The Republicans’ claim that theirs is the party of national security and that they are better than Democrats at “keeping America safe” is gutted by the legacy of 9/11 and George W. Bush’s imperial misadventures in the Middle East, which taken together constitute one of the greatest foreign policy failures in the history of the country.
Trump voters and other American conservatives have been subjected to a several decades-long disinformation and propaganda campaign, led by Fox News and the broader right-wing news-entertainment media. This has created an alternate reality that exists separate and apart from the empirical, fact-based world. As shown by recent public opinion surveys, Donald Trump supporters hold many false and bizarre beliefs. As Salon’s Bob Cesca summarized in a recent essay, here’s what Trump voters said they think about a series of issues in a December poll:
- 40 percent of Trump voters insist that he won the national popular vote.
- 60 percent of Trump voters think that Hillary Clinton received millions of illegal votes.
- 73 percent of Trump voters believe that George Soros is paying anti-Trump protesters.
- 29 percent of Trump voters don’t think California votes should be allowed to count in the national popular vote.
- 67 percent of Trump voters think the unemployment rate went up under President Barack Obama. Only 20 percent accurately believe it went down.
- 39 percent of Trump voters think the stock market went down under Obama. And 19 percent are unsure.
- 14 percent of Trump voters think Hillary Clinton is connected to a child sex ring run out of a Washington pizzeria. Another 32 percent aren’t sure one way or another. Only 54 percent are certain that Pizzagate is a myth.
Conservatism is a type of political religion and cult; Trump is now the leader of that cult.
In many regards American voters are not very sophisticated. They also do not have a schema for consistently and logically understanding and processing complex political events and issues. Because of the influence of corporate money and advertising (Trump received the equivalent of $5 billion in free advertising during the presidential campaign, according to news reports), the Fourth Estate has largely failed to fulfill its watchdog function and to educate the American people so that they can make informed and intelligent decisions about their leaders.