Let’s start by establishing a few verifiable facts. Vladimir Putin’s government engaged in a large-scale, multi-pronged attempt to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election, specifically in support of Donald Trump, but also with the intent of damaging confidence in the electoral process. Trump lost the popular vote but won an electoral college victory due to narrow margins in key states. For well over a year as of this writing (July 2017) evidence has been coming to light showing extensive and often clandestine connections between the Russian government and Trump’s family and staff. As president, Trump is more supportive of Putin’s policy goals than any U.S. president ever has been. All these are publicly-known, incontrovertible facts.
In short, there is every reason to believe that the president of the United States was selected by, and is (wittingly or not) serving the government of a hostile foreign power. And he’s opposing all investigation into whether that might be the case, which doesn’t look great. This is not a situation we’ve ever been in before as a nation, and, unsurprisingly, a lot of people are kind of freaked out by it.
Even weirder, though, is the fact that a lot of people aren’t freaked out. I have been wondering why significant percentage of Americans seems to regard this situation as acceptable, as basically normal.
Then it occurred to me: for them, it is normal. If you get your information from Fox News and all the other right-wing outlets, you’re quite used to hearing that the president is a traitor. That is, in your world, a perfectly normal and expected thing to say. They chanted it nonstop for eight years, after all, based on absolutely nothing. As far as Trump voters are concerned, calling the president a traitor is just the done thing.
This is a longstanding theme with the American right wing, going back to the days of the John Birch society and their favorite book None Dare Call It Treason. By the time Obama was elected, it was more or less habitual. I suspect that on some level, a lot of these people understand it’s a game they’re playing. You call the president a traitor because that’s how you register discontent, not because you think it’s factually true.
We assume of others what we know of ourselves. When right-wingers see reports of Trump’s deeply suspicious and illegal activities regarding Russia and the election, they naturally figure this is just another iteration of the same game they like to play. It doesn’t occur to them that they’re the only ones who play that game; even the most bizarre left-wing accusations against right-wing presidents don’t generally try the “agent of a foreign power” bit. But once they’ve mentally categorized it as “just the usual charges-of-treason nonsense”, the actual facts and evidence can no longer penetrate.
Our nation (probably) has a president in service to Moscow, and he’s a Republican. And half of the country is so conditioned by fifty years of crying wolf about Democrats serving Moscow that they literally can’t understand that this is real.
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