Trump Assisting Putin In His War On Liberal Democracy
Whether he knows it or not, Donald Trump is assisting the Russian leader in his goal of undermining the foundational institutions of democracy and freedom.
As Steven Taylor noted over the weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with the Financial Times that the idea of western liberal democracy, which has been the foundation of government in the United States since the Declaration of Independence, and the foundation of government in the western world since at least the end of World War Two, was obsolete:
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview published on Thursday that liberal values were obsolete because they had been rejected by the majority of the people in Western nations.
Putin told the Financial Times newspaper that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made a cardinal mistake by adopting a liberal policy towards immigration from the Middle East.
“The liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. The migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants must be protected. What rights are these? Every crime must have its punishment,” Putin said in the interview.
“So, the liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population,” he said.
Putin said Russia is not homophobic, but that a Western willingness to embrace homosexuality and gender fluidity seemed excessive to him.
“Traditional values are more stable and more important for millions of people than this liberal idea, which, in my opinion, is really ceasing to exist.”
When he was speaking of “western liberal democracy,” Putin was quite obviously referring to the general values that govern in the United States and the rest of the western world when it comes to the relationship between the state and the citizenry. Politically, it basically means some form of representative democracy that includes protections for the rights of minorities, the Rule of Law as represented by a judiciary independent from political control (although this varies in implementation depending on a nation’s legal system), the separation of church and state, and the ability of the people to change the political system through the ballot box as well as speaking out against the government without fear of repression. On a broader cultural level, it has also come to mean openness to different lifestyles and opinions and the separation of society from undue influence by potentially tyrannical governments and churches.
It’s not surprising that Putin would be opposed to western liberalism. Indeed, one can make a good argument that ever since he came to power after Boris Yeltsin resigned the Russian Presidency in 1999 that Putin has been at war with western liberalism. His comments over the years about the state of post-Soviet Russia make it clear that he believes that the introduction of those western values. which arguably began with Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika, is what led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire in Eastern Europe. As a result, he has spent the better part of the last two decades at war with that idea both by essentially eradicating it inside Russia itself and via the interference in western elections. Indeed, in the past, I’ve argued that his goal in interfering in the 2016 election in the United States, and in subsequent elections in Europe, was to create chaos in order to undermine the faith of the populations of those nations in its governing institutions. His latest comments are just another example of a war he’s been waging since he rose to power at the start of the 21st Century.
Asked to respond to the comments by the Russian President during the press conference he held after the end of the G-20 Summit, President Trump gave a response that can only be described as utterly bizarre:
When a reporter asked if the president agreed with Putin’s suggestion, in a recent newspaper interview, that “Western-style liberalism” was in decline, Trump had another thing in mind.
He criticized the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, which he said are “sad to look at” because they are “run by liberal people.”
With that, the president ended his session with the room full of journalists and headed to the airport.
From his response, it is clear that President Trump believed that President Putin was referring to liberalism in the context of the American political divide, and particularly to political liberalism arising from California and other such parts of the west coast where Democrats tend to dominate the political scene. Obviously, this is not what Putin meant and the fact that the President of the United States clearly doesn’t know what “liberal democracy” means is both disheartening and not surprising.
Given his affinity for dictators and the rather obvious contempt that he holds for America’s allies, by which I, of course, mean the major players in what can broadly be called “western liberal democracy,” it’s not at all surprising that the President has no idea what “liberal democracy” actually is or why the Russian President’s war against it is so pernicious. Indeed, based on his own contempt for the rule of law and Freedom Of The Press, something I’ve detailed here, here, here, here, and here, it’s fairly clear on which side he falls in the battle. So, not only do we have a President who doesn’t understand what “western liberal democracy” is, we have one who is actively assisting in helping to undermine to advance his own political interests.