Biden

Choosing Trump and Party Over Country

Choosing Trump and Party Over Country

                                    Robert A. Levine 9-12-22

Republican politicians and a large portion of the Republican Party know that Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election by millions of votes. The popular vote totals showed 81,200,000+ for Joe Biden and 74,200,000+ for Donald Trump. The Electoral College totals were 306 for Biden and 232 for Trump. Yet despite these overwhelming totals, Donald Trump claimed and still claims that he won the election and that it was stolen from him. Refusing to accept the will of the people in the election, he tried to have election officials change the vote totals in several states where his losses were relatively close. In Georgia, a criminal investigation is now going on regarding Trump’s attempts to overturn the election.

Given Trump’s propensity to lie and cheat, his actions and refusal to acknowledge his loss is not surprising. What is truly astonishing is the willingness of other Republicans to support Trump’s denial of his loss and spout the fiction that the election was stolen. These are supposedly intelligent men and women who hold high offices in the federal, state and local governments. Yet they are willing to bolster Trumps claims and provide them with credibility knowing that this will lead to more support from the Republican base that has accepted Trump’s lies all along. It also casts doubt on the reliability of America’s election system and of democracy itself.

The willingness of Republican elected officials to support Trump’s lies about a stolen election is a major threat to American democracy, convincing many Americans of the veracity of Trump’s claims. It has made numerous Americans question the legitimacy of Biden’s presidency and the various accomplishments of the current administration. It has made partisanship much more rabid and more difficult for Republicans and Democrats to work together at all levels of government.

Why have all of these knowledgeable Republicans who are aware of Biden’s victory refused to accept it as fact and continue to argue that the election was stolen. They surely realize the corrosive effects it has had on American democracy and ignore what it has done and is doing. The GOP politicians are supporting Trump’s claims because they want his backing and that of his base in their future runs for office. Not only do Republican officeholders and aspirants want his verbal backing, they are also hoping for financial aid from Trump and his wealthy acolytes. They know that they are lying for Trump’s benefit, that their lies increases partisanship and divisiveness between Americans, increases the possibility of riots and violence, and are detrimental to America, but they simply do not care. Their belief in Trump’s power and his ability to hurt their political aspirations outweighs their devotion to America and the Constitution. Trumps political supporters are willing to ignore the damage they are causing to American democracy to further their own political goals.

Some in Trump’s base can be excused for their allegiance to their leader and the acceptance of his lies because they are ignorant of the truth and do not know any better. But those Republicans who are educated and knowledgeable about politics, particularly politicians and business people, cannot be forgiven for their collusion with Trump and willingness to sacrifice the nation’s democracy for the furtherance of Trump’s, the Republicans’ and their own ambitions. Shame on them.

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What Does Putin Want?

What Does Putin Want?                                                                                                                              Robert A.  Levine

The answer seems simple. Putin has said several times that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the biggest catastrophe of the 20th century. As an old KGB officer, he would like to right what sees as this wrong and reconstitute Russia as a world power in the mold of the Soviet Union. Putin was angry when George H.W Bush said that the Soviet Union had lost the Cold War and was outraged when Obama declared that Russia was just a regional power.

Now Putin is trying to show the world that Russia is still a world power and that the United States and NATO cannot stop him from achieving his goals. He believes that Russia should have a sphere of influence that includes all the nations that surrounds it and that NATO troops should not be stationed in any of those countries, what Putin calls Russia’s ‘near abroad’. He also believes that Ukraine is part of mother Russia and does not want it to become a western democracy right on Russia’s doorstep.

However, while Putin has modernized Russia’s military to put it on a par with the U.S. and China, he does not have the industrial base or the economy to maintain his large army and fight wars. His economy is in the doldrums, the Russian people lacking many modern conveniences. His only exportable products are fossil fuels, oil and gas, which does give him a lever to use against European nations. But with the movement towards renewables, fossil fuels will only be of value to Russia for a few more years, or a decade at most. As energy from renewables goes up, fossil fuel exports will be going down.

Putin has not been preparing Russia for the day when fossil fuels will no longer bring in capital to Russia and will not be helpful as a bargaining point. He needs to diversify Russia’s economy and have high tech products that they can sell to other nations. And he has to stop spending so much of Russia’s funds on his military and subsidize other industries. He also has to tax the oligarchs who support him and distribute some of their wealth to the ordinary Russians. The quality of the average Russians life has to improve or there will be a breaking point in the future. People cannot live on the glory of military victories when they don’t have the conveniences of modern life. Social media and the internet allow them to see what the citizens of western nations have that they lack. And propaganda will just go so far.

Russia is a vast land and aside from fossil fuel, they have many different natural resources that have not yet been fully exploited. There is also plenty of land that can be utilized for agriculture. Putin should stop looking for military victories to sustain him in power and instead look inward to see how he could help Russians improve their quality of life. He should concentrate on new industries and welcome investors from other advanced countries to provide funds for Russia to achieve first world status in other realms besides military power. Of course, he would have to provide guarantees before wary westerners would consider investing. As a narcissistic dictator who does not brook opposition, it is questionable whether Putin would be willing to surrender military parity with the United States and put his money elsewhere in the Russian economy to generate consumer goods and high tech products.

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Understanding Putin and Russia

Understanding Putin and Russia                                                                                                                            Robert A. Levine

When the Soviet Union and Communism dissolved in 1989-90, Russian citizens were shell shocked. They had no concept of how democracy and capitalism actually worked when it appeared that these were Russia’s next steps. The Russians had been fed a steady diet of propaganda for over 70 years, demonizing liberal capitalist democracy, lauding Marxist economics, the Soviet empire and praising Russian exceptionalism and greatness. When parliamentary elections took place in December 1993, the populist and ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and his party were the winners with 22 percent of the vote. Russia’s Choice Party, whose goals were democratic and western oriented, avoiding populist promises that could not be fulfilled, received only 15 percent of the vote.

Without a background or education in democratic principles, Russians were politically illiterate and unprepared for the advent of democracy. Having also been inculcated with the idea that they were one of the world’s great powers and rulers of the Soviet Empire, Russians were unaccepting of a lesser role. President George H.W. Bush’s comment that America had won the Cold War also stuck in the craw of many Russian citizens to whom Russian power was important. It was as if America and the west had stolen their dignity and dishonored them.

In 1996, Boris Yeltsin was elected president of Russian against a communist opponent, Gennady Zyuganov, in a campaign controlled and directed by Russian oligarchs and media tycoons. Yeltsin was perceived as a weak leader whom the oligarchs could manipulate and exploit. And they were largely right. It was not a victory for liberal democracy or the Russian people, allowing the oligarchs to acquire previously state owned resources and properties at cut-rate prices, then using capitalist techniques to grow their wealth. Youthful reformers in the government who favored liberal democracy and western ideals were forced out of their jobs, tarnished by the media, money and prostitutes. And some like Boris Nemtsov, who was fighting for a liberal democracy, were assassinated by those afraid of his ideas and charisma.

The liberal media was also destroyed by the oligarchs, with western values derided and a nostalgia for Soviet times and a leading place in the world. The siege of Sarajevo in the Bosnian-Serbian war and the bombing of Serbia, a long-time ally of Russia sharing the Orthodox religion, also soured the Russian public on NATO, America and the west. Nationalist sentiment greatly increased just as Putin’s star began to rise. While Yeltsin was still president, he and the oligarchs supported Putin, a former KGB agent. TV and the media fawned over Putin, a young, sharp and dynamic man, energetic and healthy.  In August of 1999, Yeltsin appointed Putin as prime minister and backed Putin to succeed him as president when he resigned on New Year’s Eve 1999.

Subsequently, Putin consolidated his power while keeping the outer vestiges of democracy intact. With the price of oil rising, the Russian economy thrived and Putin was able to increase consumer goods, build up the military and satisfy most of the Russian population. He limited his presidency to two terms initially, making Dimitri Medvedev president while Putin became prime minister. But there was no question of who really held the reins of power. After Medvedev served four years, Putin was re-elect president again. In a referendum in 2020, Putin was elected as president until 2036 when he will be 83 years old. Thus he is essentially president for life.

There has been some opposition to Putin from a small coterie of liberals who do not want Russia run by a dictator for life. Recently, the opposition has been led by Alex Navalny, who was poisoned in Siberia, most likely by the FSB, and almost died. He is now back in Russia and was sent to prison. All the media outlets that criticize Putin have been shut down, and liberals and human rights supporters have been labeled as enemy agents, many of them also thrown in prison. Thus, Russia isn’t even a pseudo-democratic state at this point.

Under Putin’s guidance, Russia has been involved in multiple military ventures, to assuage the nationalists and restore the nation’s great power status, at least in Putin’s mind. There was the second Chechen war, the war with Georgia, Russian intervention in Syria, the annexation of the Crimea from Ukraine, the intervention in Khazachstan, and now the threat to invade Ukraine. Putin wants Russia to be recognized again as a great power and himself as a great leader. He wants to restore some of the dignity and honor that Russia lost when the Soviet Union imploded. Putin feels that he and Russia are disrespected by the west and wants to display his nation’s power, which will help him at home as well as abroad. He is the longest serving Russian leader since Stalin.                                                                                                www.robertlevinebooks.com                                                                                                                       Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon and Barnes and Noble