Why blame Putin? America was primed for someone like Trump
Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election was an assault on democracies everywhere, and it flat out disregarded the will of the American people. That said, there are certain factors that led to Donald Trump’s victory that cannot be blamed on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
For one, the Russian autocrat did not create our nation’s education crisis. America’s national and global rankings in STEM, the literary arts, and history have been steadily declining for decades. In Rochester, where I live, the city school district has a graduation rate of around 50 per cent. A survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Centre at the University of Pennsylvania found only a quarter of Americans can name all three branches of government, and nearly a third cannot name even a single one.
Trump’s base, as has been well documented, consists primarily of white, less-educated and lower-income voters. As a consequence of years of dismantling the public education system and watering down expectations and standards across the board, with or without Putin’s subterfuge, the US was primed for an intellectual implosion.
Nor did Putin create our nation’s manic preoccupation with violence. Trump’s campaign rhetoric was based on machismo, a “tough on crime” posture, anti-immigrant hate speech and xenophobic taunts aimed at “radical” Islam. His base laps this up. In fact, every time the president authorises military action, his poll numbers rise significantly.
Watch: Donald Trump claims he misspoke about Russia’s alleged election meddling
Putin cannot be blamed for America’s racism, disrespect towards women and tragic history of discrimination against minorities in general. Trump has been popular with his base because he is adept at speaking in code words and dog whistles. Ultimately, what his base gets from him, in return for their undying loyalty, is a promise to make the civil rights movement both politically and legally irrelevant.
None of this can be attributed to the geopolitical strategies of Mr Putin. His motives and actions will not alter the legacy of white male superiority that has infiltrated social life in this country.
As I see it, Putin will never be the cause of a US downfall. More shrewd and subtle, the former KGB operative is a man who simply takes advantage of America’s weaknesses – Mr Trump included – as he finds them.
George Cassidy Payne, Rochester, New York