I have spent almost no time over the last two-plus years on this blog talking about RussiaGate — the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign colluded with the Russian Government to help him get elected. Nor have I spent time talking about Robert Mueller — the former FBI Director put in charge to investigate the situation.
In October, 2017 I made my skepticism of the RussiaGate conspiracy obvious. Even then I kind of assumed it was an excuse for losing, or a deflection from reality. So I asked a bunch of questions:
1. Does [RussiaGate] change that Hillary Clinton and the DNC were caught cheating Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Primary?
2. Does it change that the Democrats are still fighting tooth and nail to protect the failing Obamacare, and denying Medicare For All to the will of the people?
3. Does it change that, since the election of Trump, the Democrats have done nothing meaningful to change [their] unpopular policies?
4. Does it change that, despite the fact that Hillary received over three million more votes, the Republicans won the electoral college in a landslide?
5. Does it change that the Democrats have moved even further right since Trump’s election, by virtue of allowing PAC money in the DNC?
6. Does it change that the DNC deliberately refused to fund Progressive candidates during special elections over the last year?
7. Does it change that, just last week, the DNC purged the only four Bernie supporters who were on the leadership council?
A few months later, and another few months deeper into not being able to prove collusion, I wrote a political prop bet blog and doubled down on how I felt like things would play out. As far as I can tell, it is the only time I have mentioned Robert Mueller by name on here. The first relevant prop bet asked when Donald Trump’s exit date would be, and I predicted it would be 2020 or later — implying Trump would not be impeached in 2018 or 2019. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said recently that impeachment “would not be worth it.”
I feel pretty smug that I spent so little time on the RussiaGate conspiracy, largely because it turned out to be a sham. Not only will there be no further indictments, but of the 34 Americans who were indicted, none were charged with conspiring with the Russian government. As I wrote in 2017, the charges against Trump’s associates all had to do with normal corruption, the same normal corruption that mega-rich associates of Presidents before him have been guilty of — albeit with not nearly as much fanfare.
I shouldn’t have to tell you how big of a win this is for Donald Trump, a joke of a President who has nothing to offer working class people in terms of policy. He runs around the country and calls Fake News on places like CNN and MSNBC, and establishment rags like The Washington Post and New York Times. Those outlets clutch their pearls at Trump’s dangerous and obscene attacks on the free press, but this Mueller Report nonsense they’ve been pushing since the 2016 election is exactly why Fake News lands with people when Trump says it. If anything he only has more credibility now that we know nothing came of the report.
As a glutton for self-abuse I watch every major news outlet, including Fox. Never do I watch it for actual substance — because how often do they really talk about climate change and working class issues? — but rather so I know what regular people are seeing. If they watch Fox, I have a pretty good idea that they will be more focused on culture wars than policy. If they watch CNN or MSNBC I have a pretty good idea that they will be more tied up in the Russia conspiracy than policy.
Either way… not a lot of policy. I criticize mainstream media mostly because they aren’t very good at their jobs. This is yet another lane where most of the time I feel like I’m on an island in everyday political discussions with my friends or coworkers, since Fox News viewers are generally convinced that CNN and MSNBC are “liberal,” and CNN and MSNBC viewers are generally convinced that Fox is “crazy.” I’ve found that neither group exhausts a lot of time understanding that corporations — and not fact-finders or truth-tellers — own the news. As such, the overwhelming majority of the issues discussed are framed as Left vs. Right, when in reality every issue is actually Rich vs. Everyone Else.
That’s why climate change isn’t talked about (because the fossil fuel industry pays for ads); that’s why banking regulation isn’t talked about (because big banks and predatory lenders pay for ads); that’s why Medicare For All is so heavily criticized (because the healthcare industry pays for ads). Everywhere you look, every major industry that is screwing over working people is paying top dollar to ensure that popular social policies don’t receive any daylight on the corporate news. And in no way is this a mistake.
Donald Trump says Fake News and everyone cheers. It’s shit like this that shows the President isn’t (for once) completely wrong:
I wasn’t against the narrative of Russian collusion because I am allergic to facts, or (like many conservative voters) because I didn’t want it to be true. My focus was always on elections, and on the Democrats winning in 2020. To me it didn’t make sense for the Dems to put all their eggs into the Russia angle — which is more or less what the last two and a half years have consisted of — since most ordinary people don’t give a fuck about Russia. With the price of housing steadily on the rise, and the cost of healthcare continually going up, working people living paycheck to paycheck are more concerned about surviving than anything else. Not hoping against hope that all of America’s problems began when Trump took office, and that a foreign power was the only reason he got there.
What the Democrats should have been doing this whole time was talking about policies. Rather than trying to make Donald Trump out to be some fascist unicorn we have never seen before, they would have been better served tying him to the Republican Party as a whole and saying they are all like this. They all want tax cuts for the rich, they all want to make healthcare less accessible and less affordable, and if they all had their way they’d completely privatize Social Security.
With that in mind, The Democratic Party should have gone in the opposite direction. They should have vocally gotten behind Medicare For All, raising the minimum wage, endorsing free public college, expanding Social Security benefits, and every other popular social program. If they had done that it would have shown a real difference between their Party and Trump’s, and would have put them in poll position to win the 2020 election in a landslide.
We now know what some of us suspected for a while, that Russia was (and still is) a dead-end issue. What’s perhaps worse: even if it was somehow proven that the Trump administration did collude, what meaningful difference would that have made in 2020? It isn’t like the Democrats have been pushing hard to go with (hack-proof) paper ballets, nor have they been making much noise (until Elizabeth Warren very recently) about eliminating the electoral college. If the powers that be truly thought there was a threat to America’s democracy, you would think they would have done something — anything — to safeguard against it.
But this is the same Party that tells us over and over how dangerous and unhinged Donald Trump is, yet on multiple occasions has voted to increase his military budget. And with the exception of a dozen or so Democrats in the House, everyone has gone along with Trump’s regime change in Venezuela. Again, you would think if the Democrats were genuine about the President being so unstable, they wouldn’t be helping give him a blank check for the military.
But this is me. This is what I write about. The Democrats and Republicans always can agree on cutting taxes on the rich, deregulating the banks, and making life harder on poor people. Kind of funny how that works, isn’t it? We are spoon-fed this image of the Dems being on the side of the working class, and of the Republican Party being the big bad wolf, but when it comes to voting both sides share an uncanny willingness to give absolute fucking handouts to the rich.
This is America: Socialism for the ultra wealthy, Capitalism for everyone else.
This failure of the Russia saga bearing any meaningful fruit only makes it more imperative that the Democrats put up a Progressive to oppose Trump in 2020. I fear anything short of that — if indeed a Kamala Harris or Beto O’Rourke or Joe Biden wins the nomination — spells doom for the Democrats and ensures another four years of Trump. It isn’t complicated business. We have already seen what happens when you run a centrist against him.
This is why my theory that establishment Democrats would rather see Trump win in 2020 than, let’s say, Bernie Sanders, feels spot on. Trump ran in 2016 as anti-establishment, but what we now know is he is one of the most establishment candidates the country has ever seen. His cabinet is filled with rich bankers and executives — much like Barack Obama before him — and his time governing (as with Obama) has only helped the well-to-do.
So who gives a shit either way if the Russia conspiracy was ever legit? Do you think the single mom struggling to pay rent in Los Angeles cares? Do you think auto workers in the Rust Belt who saw their jobs outsourced to third world countries care? Do you think the over 600,000 people a year who go bankrupt trying to pay medical bills care?
As some others have said, the Russia conspiracy is a completely privileged issue. It’s what you care about when you don’t have the existential threats of bankruptcy or losing your job, or wondering if you’ll have enough money to afford the rent or buy groceries. What the privileged — which constitutes virtually everyone you see on TV, or read in major newspapers — don’t seem to grasp is that so many Americans are living desperately right now. They don’t have the time for some bullshit gossip in Washington D.C. when the problems they face are direct and ever present.
The way for the Democrats to win in 2020 isn’t to say Trump is illegitimate (because of Russia). It isn’t to call his voters racists or sexists, or to pay lip service to helping working families. These tactics have been tried, and all they ever do is further entrench Trump loyalists. Fledgling attempts to induce people to vote against Trump won’t work; Democrats have to give them something to vote for.
The way to win is to put up an actual working class champion. Someone who can go on a debate stage and tell America that Donald Trump promised people better healthcare than the current plan, promised people that he wouldn’t be interventionist with foreign wars, promised people in the midwest that he would bring back their jobs, and didn’t deliver. Attacking him on unfulfilled campaign promises will have significantly more impact than attacking his personality.
Russia isn’t the answer to defeating Donald Trump, and it never was. It was a shot in the dark at best, and a nefarious distraction at worst. The reality is people around the country were hurting well before 2016, now, and will continue to until a politician comes along that will finally reject the influence of corporate money. (Trump supporters will tell me he isn’t beholden to big money, but I don’t really give a shit because everything he has been able to pass has only benefitted the rich.)
You aren’t going to see it much on the corporate news — on either side — but there are plenty of people out there exactly like me, who on the one hand can acknowledge that Russian collusion was bullshit, while on the other admit that Donald Trump is a pretty awful President who has done nothing to help workers. It isn’t a complicated position, but it also isn’t represented hardly anywhere.