Liberals should be skeptical of Russia conspiracy theoriesBy Sam West | 02/05/2018 8:01am
In 2012, Islamic militants killed four soldiers at a U.S. embassy in Benghazi and every conservative in America blamed President Obama. The administration’s response to the attacks sparked fiery right-wing anger at a series of increasingly arcane controversies. Did Obama condemn the attacks as “terrorism” or just call them an “act of terror?” Was Hillary Clinton flippant toward fallen soldiers during her Congressional testimony? Did Susan Rice blame the whole attack on a bizarre anti-Muslim b-movie?
The Benghazi attacks became a vehicle for Republican rage and conspiracy for no good reason beyond the fact that Obama represented everything conservatives loathed. Now Trump is President, liberals are out of power, and they have their own Benghazi: the interminable investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
It’s alleged that members of the Trump campaign conspired with Russian officials to denigrate Hillary Clinton, and that Trump is attempting to stop special counsel Robert Mueller from fully proving this. Every week there’s a new wrinkle to the story: a memo, a potential firing, an angry statement from Trump. Despite this, calls for the President’s impeachment have gone nowhere. The importance of the Russian investigation has been overblown to the point of hysteria and magical thinking, and Democrats could do with a dose of reality.
Robert Mueller should of course continue his investigation unencumbered by the executive branch. Given that Trump’s campaign was run entirely by media grifters and Donald’s stupid children, I think it’s quite likely that they committed ethical malfeasances.
What I don’t buy is grand conspiracy. I don’t believe that Donald Trump, possibly the dumbest man alive, coordinated a secret heist to steal the American presidency with the help of an Eastern European strongman. There is no evidence for this claim that rises above the level of a bulletin board covered in maps and red string.
“Russia stuff” is always used as a casus belli for the absolute fantasy of a Trump impeachment. Let’s say it can be proven that George Papadopoulos or Donald Junior met with Russian government officials. Maybe Trump fires Robert Mueller tomorrow just because he feels like it. What then? Are 218 Republicans in the House going to vote for impeachment? Are 67 Senators going to vote him out of office?
If you believe there’s a single Republican who would try to get rid of the guy who passed tax cuts, you’re as dumb as John Podesta clicking a phishing link.
The crux of the conspiracy rests on the idea that Russia’s interference in the election constituted an unprecedented attack on American democracy. Factually, the extent of this interference is that, one, hackers from Russia gave Wikileaks a bunch of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee, and two, Russian trolls put fake news on Facebook.
It requires a very low estimate of the intelligence of the American people to believe that hundreds of thousands of voters were swayed by poorly translated articles calling Hillary Clinton a pedophile. If fake news is such a powerful tool, why did Americans never elect Bat Boy President? Also, was it not “foreign interference” when the House of Saud gave millions to the Clinton foundation?
I support the Mueller investigation. I am simply frustrated by liberals’ descent into absolute paranoia. Rachel Maddow, a journalist I once had a lot of respect for, did a whole segment on her show last week that just listed Russian businessmen attending the Davos conference with Trump. What purpose did this serve? MSNBC host Joy Ann Reid once attempted to tie Trump to Russia through his Eastern European wives, accusing Ivana Trump of hailing from the fictional nation of “Soviet Yugoslavia.”
In the same way that conservatives used Benghazi to smear Obama, liberals use the idea of Russian interference as a way of convincing themselves that the Trump presidency is simply illegitimate. These are often the same people who loved Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated campaign slogan “America is already great.” By making Trump into a foreign enemy, they can pretend he doesn’t represent our country. The bad news is, he does. Trump represents everything bad about America: racism, sexism, greed, xenophobia and violence.
Democrats looking for a message shouldn’t descend into conspiracy. They should counter Trump and the Republican Party’s hateful rhetoric and offer voters programs that will materially benefit their lives. Instead of impeachment, talk about a higher minimum wage, universal healthcare or green jobs for all.
And for the love of God, everyone stop with those posters of Trump and Putin kissing. It’s 2018, man.
Sam West is a senior majoring in history and journalism. His column runs biweekly. He is the managing editor of the CW.