Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Naming Things

Bookmarking Masha Gessen.

The big disconnect in this blog is that I have hardly written a word about Donald Trump, who has been dominating my consciousness, as well as the country's, for the last 18 months.

I look forward to the day sometime in the future when the country reaches some kind of consensus about what the Trump Ascendancy meant.  What's difficult right now is the heightened sense of anxiety and confusion, of cognitive dissonance, that so many of us feel.  It's been barely a month since Trump's inauguration, but it feels like years.

Even Trump supporters, I imagine, must be confused about the wave of resistance that has swelled SINCE the election. It certainly says something not-so-good about the American left-liberal side, that it appears we really got motivated only after the votes were cast.  We were complacent, and now we're full of recriminations and denial.

The Democratic Party is still groping for unity.  It's still divided along the roughly the battle lines that formed between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders during the primaries.  We just had a race for DNC Chair, something I don't think is worth much worry, given the tiny ideological distance between the two leading candidates.  But Bernie people became invested in Keith Ellison, and Hillary people gave some degree of behind-the-scenes institutional oomph to Tom Perez.  Perez won, and instantly anointed Ellison as his Vice Chair (it seems by advance agreement, whoever had lost would have joined sides in this way).  But many Bernie people feel slighted nonetheless.

Today I want to note something.  I hope that, eventually, it will be hard to remember this.  It's still unclear how much credit for Trump's election is due to the clandestine efforts of business and government forces in Russia.  Plainly, Vladimir Putin wanted Trump to be elected.  Whether Putin and his collaborators really pulled it off--I hope history will rule decisively on that question.
Right now this is a point of contention between "the Left" (Bernie people, The Nation magazine, Glenn Greenwald) and "liberals" (Hillary people, Lawyers Guns & Money).  To some on the Left, invoking Putin's name as an anti-Trump epithet is an act of red-baiting, reminiscent of Joe McCarthy. 

I find this condescending in the extreme.  I've paid enough attention in my lifetime to have noticed that the Soviet Empire crumbled, and Russia pivoted from a socialist state to a right-wing authoritarian state.  There's a big difference between Putin and the oligarchs, and the old Soviet leaders and state structures.  It would be stupid not to notice the difference.  It would be highly disingenuous to pretend not to notice.  I strive to be neither stupid nor disingenuous.  PUTIN IS ON THE RIGHT.  Surely the Democratic Socialists of America and The Nation can agree to this.  Glenn Greenwald may be beyond hope.

We need brave and steady voices to help us cut through the chaos and tension of the moment. Indivisible, an organization founded by Democratic Hill staffers, is one; its mission is to give smart tactical advice to the anti-Trump resistance without blunting the urgency of that resistance.  Masha Gessen, Russian emigre journalist, is another.  Here she is talking about Trump and Putin, and about a conspiratorial view of world events versus a chaos-theory view that I incline toward.