From Russia with Love

As the Trump administration attempts to find stable footing following their “loss” in federal court over the “Muslim Ban,” the executive branch is now dealing with the fallout of what some believe could be the biggest political scandal since “Watergate.” While it is hard to say, for now, how much more there is to know and whether or not the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia were as ethically dubious as they seem, it is safe to say that the “Russian connection” will remain an issue of intrigue for the foreseeable future.

There are many compelling threads concerning the Trump administration’s ties to Russia, but the one that stands out the most, so far, is the fact that former NSC advisor Michael Flynn and possibly several others were in frequent contact with the Russian government before Trump took office. Under the much discussed but highly nebulous “Logan Act,” no private, American citizens can negotiate with foreign government without official authorization. Only one person has ever been indicted under the felony offense, but the potential scandal regarding lies and misinformation could plague the Trump administration worse than any Logan Act conviction ever could. Also, the scandal has surprisingly turned even more former allies against Trump, including administration officials, intelligence operatives and media members. Remember, “the leaks are real, but the new is fake.”

Personally, though, what interests me the most about the scandal is how it has had little to no impact on the opinions of a GOP that was just recently relishing the fact that Obama was, ostensibly, mistaken when he said Russia was not America’s “top geopolitical adversary \.” Now, as we have discussed in class, public perception towards divisive issues can largely be shaped by political party affiliation.

This scandal, once again, brings attention to an occurrence within political science that has interested me since the beginning of Trump’s campaign: when it comes to the “less important” issues, will the majority of people, or at least a significant portion of the population, change their views previously held views to match either their party or their favored candidate? The first, clear example of this phenomena regarding Trump, I recall, was when a considerable portion of the GOP electorate dramatically changed their views on “free trade.” As the prospect of a Trump presidency gained notoriety and positive feedback from the GOP base, there was a sharp, rapid decline in the GOP’s positive feelings towards “free trade.” As recently as 2015, 51% of GOP leaning voters believed free trade had been a “good thing.” In 2016, that number of GOP leaning voters who thought free trade to be a “good thing” dropped all the way to 32%. N0w, either millions of GOP voters decided to research, analyze and alter their opinions on trade within the course of a single year, or their new opinion was formulated by constantly seeing Donald Trump bash America’s “bad trade deals.”

Similarly, GOP voters are having a similar change of heart towards America’s relationship towards Russia and Putin. After the campaign and election of Trump, GOP voters have overwhelmingly warmed to the idea of an improved relationship with the former Soviet Union, and they have also warmed to the idea of working with Putin. The same can also be said in regards to public opinion of “the Russian hacks” and “Wikileaks.”

My feelings have always been, though, that there is breaking point for most people when it comes to their ability to rationalize or defend. So, hopefully in my opinon, that point is more mild than severe, and comes sooner rather than later.

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2 Responses to From Russia with Love

  1. Ryan Wadding says:

    I think you bring up an interesting point. This Trump phenomenon is fascinating, and not because many of his supporters are Republicans, but it seems as though his supporters defend him no matter what. For example, how many conservatives chastised Obama for taking time off to Golf but now defend Trump vehemently for not only golfing once in a while, but golfing every weekend? I think what shocks me the most though, is the Russia issue you point out. Many of Trump supporters were alive around the time the Soviet Union was a major superpower and our primary adversary; yet, they do not seem to mind this administration having some sort of undisclosed relationship with Putin and Moscow. I have witnessed his supporters even defending the relationship by arguing that we should have strong relations with Russia. My shocks stems from the fact that even though I was not alive for the Soviet era, I know a bit about the Soviet Union and contemporary Russia and while we should certainly have strong diplomatic relations with Moscow, we should generally view Moscow with a degree of suspicion. And Trump implying that we are no better than Russia in the international arena is ridiculously offensive. Anyway, it is interesting to witness his supporters react to controversies surrounding this administration. Also, if you do not have a thesis in mind I think the last sentence of your third paragraph is definitely a start. Cheers!

  2. ralf says:

    You absolutely hit the nail on the head regarding how the United States responds to scandals. Donald Trump has remarkably introduced a notable change in how we react to controversy and even the consequences associated with such controversy. A presidential candidate brandishing xenophobic rhetoric and admitting to, or at least joking about, committing sexual assault has blossomed into a President faced with geopolitical scandal. The Immigration Ban has done little to increase positive relations with the Middle East, especially given the somewhat random assortment of countries. Our relations with Mexico are in question, as Trump promises a border wall at the ultimate expense of Mexico despite the Mexican President swearing against it. Yet there is still strong support from the American public for both of these actions. These issues are much more complicated than just single lines of opinionated interpretation, yet this new era of Trumpian politics has changed what we deem is controversial. Not only in politics either, as even our own President runs to Twitter to discuss his views of his show, The Apprentice, or the most recent SNL skit. This is a cultural disruption of American perception within our interior politics with each other and our perception of the rest of the world. How much controversy is too much? While you are correct that some Trump supporters are now regretting their decision, there is still a large and present audience supporting our President and his actions, whatever these actions prove to be. The almost continuous thread of controversy surrounding Trump’s campaign and term have desensitized the American public to the very complex actions of politics and political action. We are able to roll our eyes, scoff, or even organize a march in retaliation towards the news of Trump controversy as the Fake News displays their glaringly short headlines, but it does little to educate the public of the real, complicated ramifications of legislation or even simple political action. There is a clear distrust in our current form of information as the denunciation or clear banishment of Mainstream Media has reached a troubling amount. What we have reached is a conflict between our nation’s highest possible office and the socio-political perception of media, specifically criticisms of the State itself (Trump). When you say GOP voters have warmed up to Putin, you weren’t kidding because what I described as present in our country under Trump is paralleled by Putin’s Russia. Comparing the United States and Russia is comparing apples to oranges but both countries are woven together regardless due to the tension of the Cold War. Since both powers discovered their pointless capacity to destroy each other with nuclear weapons, we have resorted to the realm of espionage from both countries to influence each other. This was accomplished through NATO alliances with Europe and the expansion of western culture and the remaining power of Russia vying for power in the once Soviet Union. Propaganda from both sides creates a wretchedly tense form of geopolitics where true and accurate intel is the most valuable asset to the expansion of power. Unfortunately, the supply of credible information is either too troubling and complex to take seriously or too serious it must be fake.

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