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Masha Gessen: "Russia: The Conspiracy Trap"


At the website of the New York Review of Books, Masha Gessen cautions against focussing excessively on the almost daily leaks that suggest a connection between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. The allure of this potential conspiracy, writes Gessen, distracts attention from Trump’s more open and arguably more harmful attacks on American democracy. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

The dream fueling the Russia frenzy is that it will eventually create a dark enough cloud of suspicion around Trump that Congress will find the will and the grounds to impeach him. If that happens, it will have resulted largely from a media campaign orchestrated by members of the intelligence community—setting a dangerous political precedent that will have corrupted the public sphere and promoted paranoia. And that is the best-case outcome.

More likely, the Russia allegations will not bring down Trump. He may sacrifice more of his people, as he sacrificed Flynn, as further leaks discredit them. Various investigations may drag on for months, drowning out other, far more urgent issues. In the end, Congressional Republicans will likely conclude that their constituents don’t care enough about Trump’s Russian ties to warrant trying to impeach the Republican president. Meanwhile, while Russia continues to dominate the front pages, Trump will continue waging war on immigrants, cutting funding for everything that’s not the military, assembling his cabinet of deplorables—with six Democrats voting to confirm Ben Carson for Housing, for example, and ten to confirm Rick Perry for Energy. According to the Trump plan, each of these seems intent on destroying the agency he or she is chosen to run—to carry out what Steve Bannon calls the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” As for Sessions, in his first speech as attorney general he promised to cut back civil rights enforcement and he has already abandoned a Justice Department case against a discriminatory Texas voter ID law. But it was his Russia lie that grabbed the big headlines …

Imagine if the same kind of attention could be trained and sustained on other issues—like it has been on the Muslim travel ban. It would not get rid of Trump, but it might mitigate the damage he is causing. Trump is doing nothing less than destroying American democratic institutions and principles by turning the presidency into a profit-making machine for his family, by poisoning political culture with hateful, mendacious, and subliterate rhetoric, by undermining the public sphere with attacks on the press and protesters, and by beginning the real work of dismantling every part of the federal government that exists for any purpose other than waging war. Russiagate is helping him—both by distracting from real, documentable, and documented issues, and by promoting a xenophobic conspiracy theory in the cause of removing a xenophobic conspiracy theorist from office.

Image via The Independent.


Masha Gessen is exactly right. We need to understand the Russia connection solely to prevent future intervention in our elections. That’s completely separate from how we fight Trump’s disastrous policies right now, including his efforts toward “dismantling every part of the federal government that exists for any purpose other than waging war.” Let’s focus on how we can replace Trump’s policies with just ones, not on trying to impeach him for connections to Russia. Bernie Sanders had astounding popular support during the primary. It’s urgent now to develop a real left (not the old Democratic one integrated with corporate interests) that’s funded only with small donations so it’s free to really fight against corporate interests in destroying the environment, buttressing vast income inequality, etc.