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Opinion | Republicans really hate Russia — now

As late as last week, a whole bunch of prominent Republicans (and not-so-prominent Republicans) were cheering on Russia and Putin.

(STOCK)

Republicans aren’t supporting Russia, and how dare you even suggest such a thing! They hate Vladimir Putin! They would absolutely never, ever, ever support such a heinous man. 

I know this to be true because my email inbox and text messages filled up Sunday with Republican friends – that’s right, I have some – writing to say how wrong I was when I tweeted that it should surprise no one that a large portion of Republicans are cheering on Russia. 

Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth responded on Twitter to say that no Republican he knows is supporting Russia. Former Alabama state Sen. Dick Brewbaker had a similar comment for me. 

Where on earth could I have gotten such an idea? 

Well, there was this video of a speaker – a Holocaust denier and unabashed racist – and a crowd at the very-rightwing Republican AFPAC conference applauding Russia and literally chanting Putin’s name. Then there was this nighttime TV host of the top-rated cable show, Tucker somethingorother, who stated on air that he was pulling for Russia and later went on a lengthy diatribe asking why he should dislike Putin, who has never done anything to Tucker personally. 

And let’s not forget the former president and undisputed leader of the Republican Party, Donald John Trump, praising his pal Putin, calling his military moves “genius” and “so smart,” while also criticizing American leadership. 

But let’s not stop there. 

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There was the little matter of 52 Republican senators voting against military aid to Ukraine because they were trying to force Ukrainian president and all-around bad ass Volodymyr Zelenskyy to manufacture anything they could use to hurt then-candidate Joe Biden.  

Let’s also not forget that impeachment No. 1 for Trump was directly tied to his attempted extortion of Zelenskyy in the infamous “perfect phone call,” in which Trump threatened to withhold aid unless he got dirt on Biden. 

Oh, and I know this was all the way back like six years ago, but that Trump guy also had like every single person in his family and inner circle somehow tied to a Russian official. Some of them even went to prison for it. In total, at least 17 Trump campaign officials had more than 100 contacts with Russian officials in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election. 

So, yeah, to quote Hitler just outside of Moscow in ‘41: That’s a lot of Russians. 

The truth is there have been a whole lot of Republicans over the last six to eight years who have cozied up to Putin – and a number of other authoritarian leaders around the world – and enjoyed the spoils of the oligarchy. And those Republicans who weren’t cozying up were dismissing the very legitimate fears and outcries from those who saw those relationships as problematic. As giving legitimacy to a murderous dictator. As emboldening a madman. 

And we were right. 

But it didn’t matter. Because Putin and Russia had helped deliver the White House in 2016 and the leader of the party had a special relationship with the dictator. So, some of the same people who cheered Ronald Reagan’s anti-Soviet Union rhetoric closed their mouths and looked the other way. And pro-Russia sentiment within the GOP grew. 

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And, well, here we are. 

With a handful of level-headed Republicans – and I count both Ainsworth and Brewbaker in that group – surprised that someone would suggest that a large number of their party mates might be supporting Russia. Even when that’s very clearly the case. 

This sort of a blindspot is a problem for Republicans, as the ever-growing white supremacy wing of the party has proven. They’re perfectly willing to accept deplorable people and entertain deplorable ideas – just so long as both are kept at the fringe – in order to win elections. But they are always shocked – and I think genuinely so, in some cases – when people then assign those deplorable beliefs to the Republican Party as a whole and attach the GOP label to those deplorable people. 

They shouldn’t be.

This is what happens when you abandon all interest in actually governing. When your party’s root ideology is opposing things other people are doing. When you lack even the most basic policy ideas. 

You gotta keep those voter numbers up somehow, right? So, culture wars and subtle racism for everyone!

The problem is that without an ideology, without some sort of a guiding principle, there’s nothing holding the rank and file affixed to common sense and decency. And before long, the combination of bad people and no guidance leads to believing some really crazy stuff. 

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Like that Putin ain’t so bad. Or that Russia’s just trying to farm.

Written By

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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