The Trump Conspiracy Story and the Left
President Obama has confirmed that the FBI thinks agents of the Russian government were behind the Wikileaks that brought down Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. The FBI is now actively investigating if any laws were broken. The widely discussed theory is that President Vladimir Putin does not like Hillary Clinton and is more than comfortable with Donald Trump becoming the U.S. President. Did Putin hack the DNC to undermine Clinton and promote Trump? Some think yes because Trump is already beholden to Putin and his bankers as the only source of funding for his business, given that, after six bankruptcies, U.S. banks will not lend him any more money. This explains, some say, why Trump wants to undo NATO, demur on helping the Ukraine, and speaks so complimentary of Putin as an authoritarian leader. Trump is in the pocket of Putin goes the conspiracy theory. George Will believes that Trump will not release his tax returns because they will reveal his indebtedness to Russia. Trump is, thus, the “Siberian Candidate,” according to Paul Krugman.
Dana Millbank has noted that this is one conspiracy theory Trump distinctively does not like, even though he suggests Obama is a Muslim with sympathies to ISIS, who was not born in the U.S., and that Ted Cruz’s father might have been involved in the Kennedy Assassination. It remains to be seen if this conspiracy will pan out. Trump refused to say in a Republican primary debate whether he has ever spoken to Putin. In return, Putin has not said if he has ever spoken to Trump. But they have exchanged public compliments . It is widely known that Trump relies heavily on Russian finance. His campaign is staffed from top to bottom with people who have strong Russian ties. Trump has made it clear that he feels like he can work with Putin. This is a conspiracy theory that has a lot going for it.
Would Putin actually tamper with the U.S. presidential election? He has tried to influence elections elsewhere on behalf of right-wing xenophobes so why not here? Shouldn’t he have covered his tracks better? On this, however, I have no idea about the level of technical sophistication needed to keep this conspiracy secret.
There is a lot of politics about how people are reacting to this story. What is particularly disheartening is the unwillingness by many on the left to take the story seriously and to openly disdain the people who do. They airily dismiss it as “liberal birtherism,” suggesting that liberals are all too willing to push the story just to get Trump in trouble. Perhaps it will come to the point that Trump becomes compelled to release his taxes to prove that he is not in hock to the Russians. Although, on the other hand, he may have to hesitate because of what his returns may reveal as far as paying a far share of taxes and a respectable amount to charity.
The Left’s resistance to the Trump-Putin conspiracy is in itself very political. The story has credibility backed by an FBI investigation, but yet, the left still resists. Why the intransigence now when other conspiracy stories with less backing about the Koch Brothers and other big money people get passed around daily? Is it because they want to defend Trump’s good name, or because they do not like smearing Putin with old Cold-War stereotypes? I doubt that leftists are all that interested in defending the good name Trump does not have, but I also think they are not likely to be all that worried about reinforcing Cold War stereotypes. Instead, many Bernie or Bust people simply do not like Hillary Clinton and would like to see her lose; they dismiss stories that might help her even if it means we get Trump as President.
The hatred of Hillary in our politics comes and goes on the right and on the left. But this time, because she is running for President, it is really amped up. The mantra here is that she is really no better than Trump. And with Trump we would get a total repudiation of the elite-dominated system that could create an opening for real change.
This crisis theory for change has the actress Susan Sarandon as its most prominent proponent during this election. There is a widely circulated image of her at the Democratic National Convention sitting unhappily while others cheer Hillary. She still holds out the possibility of voting for Trump. So do a few other Bernie supporters. These folks want change and are willing to play with fire to get it. This is a really bad theory that incorrectly assumes if things get terrible under Trump, Americans will undoubtedly turn to the left to fix it.
The conspiracy theory is its own story. But the election is a bigger one. Trump should release his taxes. Let’s have a discussion about to whom he owes money, and whether that would affect how he governs. And let’s have the same discussion for Hillary. Let the people decide. But shutting down that discussion before it starts seems wrong. Doing it because you already have your own preferred outcome to the election would be reprehensible.