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Putin Cannot Be Blamed for Trump's Base
by George Cassidy Payne
2018-08-02 07:13:00
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For the record, I am against foreign interference in free elections. Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election is an assault on democracies everywhere, and it flat out disregards the will of the American people.

puttr001_400However, there are certain factors that led to Donald Trump’s victory that cannot be blamed on Vladimir Putin. For one, the Russian autocrat did not create our nation’s education crisis. In Rochester, NY, the city in which I call home, the Rochester City School District has a graduation rate of 50%. America’s national and global rankings in STEM, the arts, and history have been steadily declining for decades. A recent survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found that “just a quarter of Americans in the nationally representative survey could name all three branches of government — the worst showing on that question in six years… Nearly a third could not name a single branch of government.*

Trump’s base, as has been well documented, consists primarily of white, uneducated, and lower income voters.  As a consequence of the dismantling of our public education system and the watering down of expectations and standards across the board, with or without Putin’s subterfuge, the United States was primed for an intellectual implosion.

Nor did Putin create our nation’s manic preoccupation with violence. He simply exploited it for his own purposes. Trump’s campaign rhetoric was based on machismo, a tough on crime posture, anti-immigrant hate speech, and xenophobic taunts aimed at “radical” Islam. His base eats this up. In fact, every time the president has authorized military action his poll numbers rise significantly; and the very reason he is taking so much heat for the Helsinki debacle, is because he failed to be aggressive enough.

Furthermore, Putin cannot be blamed for America’s racism, disrespect towards women, and long history of discrimination against minorities in general. No matter how sinister Putin’s antics may be, they cannot explain slavery, Jim Crow, segregated schools, assassinated African- American leaders, and countless other abuses that have been going on in America for centuries. Trump has been popular with his base because he is adept at speaking in code words and dog whistles. Ultimately, what his base gets from him, is a thinly veiled promise to make the civil rights movement both politically and legally irrelevant. Again, this cultural phenomenon has nothing to do with the geopolitical strategies of Mr. Putin. No matter what Putin does to intervene in our national affairs, his motives and actions will not alter the genetic legacy of white male superiority that has infiltrated every pore of social life in this country since its inception.

Suffice it to say, Putin is brazenly attacking the heart of our democracy. But his crimes are not to be blamed for the social preconditions in America that enabled Donald Trump to pull off one of the most improbable and alarming upsets in U.S. electoral history. Putin will never be the cause of a U.S. downfall; the man simply manipulates the weaknesses our country-Mr. Trump included- as he currently finds them.




George Cassidy Payne is an independent writer, social justice activist, and adjunct professor of philosophy at SUNY.


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