Trump’s America, Putin’s Russia, and the difference a week makes

What a difference a week makes.

We’re used to seeing the forces of the state visiting petty hostility and obstruction on those from Moslem regions, but that’s Putin’s Russia, not the USA.

We’re used to seeing official spokespeople lying openly and shamelessly, and shutting down critical voices that dare question them, but that’s Putin’s Russia, not the USA.

We’re used to seeing personal favourites elevated into crucial national security and policy roles, instead of sober professionals, but that’s Putin’s Russia, not the USA.

We’re used to seeing the personal financial interests of presidential favourites protected and furthered by state policy, but that’s Putin’s Russia, not the USA.

I’m still not at all convinced by the whole ‘Siberian candidate’ line that presents Donald Trump as a puppet of Vladimir Putin’s. Instead, what we see, I fear, is a miserable and soul-rotting convergence of populist authoritarianisms, a backlash against a northern hemisphere trend towards pluralism, multi-culturalism and proceduralism. An atavistic desire for charismatic (in the technical sense: to me, The Donald has all the personal charisma of an Italian TV game show host), patriarchal, personalised leadership, for simple solutions to complex problems, for the easy substitution of confidence for competence.

The good news, though, is that just as a massive majority of Russians express their approval of Putin but are not eager for some civilisational clash with the West, are fully aware of and disgusted by the corruption and incompetence of the state, and just want to live a ‘normal’ life, so too the early signs are that Trump’s narrow and technical victory is not an expression of a true majority opinion of the American people. The bad news is that it is not so easy to mobilise silent majorities, and that in the meantime, the executive can do a lot of harm. It’s going to be a rough, dark few years.

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  1. At least the US founding fathers left some wise checks in place. Trump will go up against a Congress that is (at least now) fairly sane. Moreover, the regime incompetence displayed so far means that he will probably not be able to deliver on much of his programme. Most of his people actually voted pragmatically, in the hope that a “businessman” could make them better off. (Tell that to the folks at Trump U.)

    Barring a mass substitution of Trump-controlled robots in nearly all of the US govt, he wont last long.

    • Mark Galeotti

       /  January 29, 2017

      We can hope, although even the bulwark of the Constitution depends on who ends up filling that Supreme Court position. Even if Trump cannot deliver, he can still destroy, though.

  2. Hello Mark, as usual right on target with your comments!
    To me, the USA is in fact not really a country in the organic growth sense, but a “journey”, and on that journey some surprising choices in leadership are made. If this choice becomes toxic, impeachment awaits and other choices will be taken.

  3. Unfortunately, well put. The biggest risk is that to undo the damage of a Trump administration, the Democrats need to not only take back the White House but also Congress in order to restore laws eviscerated by Trump. Let’s hope that there is only one vacancy on the Supreme Court for him to fill.


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