Published on November 3rd, 2019 | by Zachary Shahan0
Republicans & Russia Face The Same Problem — And Are Thus Getting Desperate
November 3rd, 2019 by Zachary Shahan
The Republican Party has won the popular vote in a presidential election only one time since 1988. That’s more than 30 years (or 7 elections) with just one popular vote win, which went to George W. Bush, possibly due to an Osama bin Laden video tape that came out 4 days before the election. In 2000, Bush won the electoral college (well, maybe*) despite the fact that Gore got more than half a million more votes. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, but lost the electoral college vote (by fewer than 60,000 votes in key states).
The overarching point is clear: the majority of the US voting public prefers Democratic candidates and/or Democratic policies. Well, if you poll just on the policies, Democrats have far greater support than even the general election results indicate, since Democratic policy priorities are much more popular than Republican policy priorities, demonstrating that Democrats are not as good as their counterparts at getting people to vote based on their own policy preferences. Put in simpler words, Republicans are better at messaging and convince more voters to implicitly vote for policies they don’t want.
In actuality, Republican policies are so unpopular that Republicans do almost nothing in Congress even when they have full control of that branch of government plus the presidency. In the first half of Trump’s first term, when Republicans controlled the House of Representatives and the Senate, they tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but that was clearly such a horrible decision politically that they didn’t get it done. The only major legislation they passed in two years with full control of the US Congress and the White House was a major tax cut for very rich people and corporations. The argument was that the tax cuts would “trickle down” and help the rest of the country while boosting economic growth. However, Reagan’s trickle-down economics has long been shown to have been a sham, as has every repeat attempt at the same thing. Economists knew the Republican Party’s promises were not going to come true, and they haven’t, but Republicans in Congress and Donald Trump pushed through on misleading messaging (i.e., by lying) and got taxes reduced on millionaires and billionaires. In the end, yes, the tax cuts basically just benefited very rich people and put the United States in record-high debt.
Perhaps you’re starting to think, “Well, if Republican policies and Republicans are so unpopular, why are they in power?” Indeed, it doesn’t seem logical, but that gets to one of the core points of this article: the Republican Party retains power, to some extent, by cheating and lying. As I said above, their main policy goals are unpopular even with their own voters, so they don’t spend much time talking about specific policies. In fact, in the 2018 midterm elections, several Republican candidates claimed they supported exactly the opposite of what they supported on the topic of health care. They just lied to people. But lying is the simple and easy part. Republicans have also engaged in unconstitutional gerrymandering, extreme voter suppression (here’s a former Republican strategist writing about that), and even voter fraud (see this, this, or this for the most notable recent case). There are more methods and examples out there, but I think the point is clear: Republicans largely do not have the support of the people, so they cheat. Not in all cases, of course! Republicans still dominate the vote in rural states and regions. (You can see how well that’s turning out for American farmers who have lost billions of dollars of revenue a year thanks to Trump’s trade war.)
The Russia story is different, but similar. Long ago, Putin took over the “democratic process” and basically destroyed any importance of the will of the people. There is massive cheating in the political process by default, and critical, effective, investigative journalists are murdered when they become a nuisance. That is not the issue of focus here, as horrible as it is. The issue with Russia is that it is heavily dependent on the oil and gas industry. It is not just an oil-producing country; the majority of its economy is dependent on oil and gas.
It’s true. With a gas station that doubles as a liquor store.
— Malcolm Nance (@MalcolmNance) August 24, 2019
As our own Susan Kraemer pointed out after Trump’s election, links between Russia and Republicans, and Putin’s interference in the 2016 election, stem from the matter of oil & gas. Obama put sanctions on Russia (because of its invasion of Ukraine) that squeezed Russia where it hurt. Being such a one-trick pony (oil-dependent economy) and getting squeezed so hard for its attacks on Ukraine (which I presume have stopped only in recent months as Ukraine surrendered thanks in part to the USA under Trump no longer properly backing Ukraine), Russia was desperate enough to cheat in order to find some relief. Knowing that Hillary Clinton was an extremely strong Russia hawk and would not be easy on Putin and his oligarch buddies, Putin went for a Hail Mary and heavily interfered with the US election, reaching more than half of the US voting public with disinformation campaigns on social media! That was real fake news, and the public was just starting to learn the difference between fake news and real journalism when Trump co-opted the term and gaslit the hell out of the public. (Example: Facebook posts claiming the Pope endorsed Trump — when he very much did not — were fake news. Journalists digging up Trump’s dirty laundry and airing it for the world to see is not fake news.)
Rachel Maddow’s new book, Blowout, apparently covers these topics in depth. For some of us in the clean energy industry, though, the issue has been clear since 2016. The most striking portrayal of the connection between the Russians and Trump, or the Russians and the Republican Party in general, was the odd decision to make Rex Tillerson, the longtime CEO of ExxonMobil, Secretary of State. Who would have assumed the CEO of Exxon would ever be tapped for that role? Where did the idea come from? Tillerson and Trump had never even met, and didn’t have much in common at all. However, Tillerson had been “awarded” an Order of Friendship medal in 2013, receiving it directly from Russian President V. Putin himself, due to a $500 billion oil deal Exxon made with Russia, which sanctions put in place under Obama froze. Who better to run Trump USA’s international relations than Putin’s friend? Note that there is some reporting of how exactly Putin placed the request/order for Tillerson to get the Secretary of State position. It may be true (seems like the details are solid) or not, but there’s no clear explanation otherwise for why Tillerson was nominated for the position or where the idea came from otherwise. For more on this topic, read Rachel’s book and see these articles:
- ExxonMobil made illegal deals with Russia when secretary of State Rex Tillerson ran the company
- The biggest oil deal: a driving force behind the Trump election
- Did Putin help elect Trump to restore $500 billion Exxon oil deal killed by sanctions
- Exxon’s Sanctioned Russian Oil Deal Threatens Rex Tillerson As Trump’s Secretary Of State
- Why Putin Wants A Trump Kleptocracy
- Tillerson’s Answers About Exxon’s Lobbying Against Russian Sanctions Defy Logic
- Who Benefits If Russian Oil Sanctions End?
- How Russian Attacks On Democracy & The USA Relate To Cleantech
- Is Trump Putin’s Puppet? And If He Is, What’s That Got To Do With Cleantech?
- Tillerson’s Answers About Exxon’s Lobbying Against Russian Sanctions Defy Logic
If you prefer video format, here’s Maddow talking about her new book:
The surprising thing is simply that Tillerson ended up being strong on Russia for the USA’s benefit, the opposite of what you’d expect from his Exxon history. See: “Tillerson Refused to Do Another Russia Deal,” for example.
But the point is clear: Russia, which is actually not a very wealthy or economically stable country, has been losing power and is desperate to make more money on oil and gas. Putin and his oligarch buddies running the show will do basically anything for money and power, whether that be having critics murdered or interfering in US elections. They are desperate. Republicans have lost the support of the voting public, because their policy preferences have proven out of date, counterproductive, unpopular, and often simply a way to funnel more money to the super rich at the expense of everyone else. As such, Republicans are also desperate to retain or gain political power, resorting to all sorts of cheating and misinformation as a result. The Putin mafia and Republican Party were a match made in
heaven hell. It’s no surprise the connections now run so deep; seep into the NRA, Republican SuperPACs, and political campaigns; reach the head of the Senate (Mitch McConnell); and of course have tremendous sway over Donald Trump and his policies. What does Putin have over Trump? Who knows? Do we really want to know? Whether we know or not, the imperative is as clear as day in Puerto Rico — unprecedented political campaigning and civic activity are required in the coming year.
Oh yeah, and buy an electric car.
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- The entire Republican Party is becoming a Russian asset
- The GOP has become the Soviet party
- Donald Trump is running for president on some staggeringly unpopular ideas
- How did the Republican Party get so corrupt?
- The Michael Bennet problem
- The GOP Tax Cuts Didn’t Work
*From Wikipedia: “Ultimately, a media consortium — comprising The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Tribune Co. (parent of the Los Angeles Times), Associated Press, CNN, The Palm Beach Post and the St. Petersburg Times—hired NORC at the University of Chicago to examine 175,010 ballots that were collected from the entire state, not just the disputed counties that were recounted; these ballots contained undervotes (ballots with no machine-detected choice made for president) and overvotes (ballots with more than one choice marked). Their goal was to determine the reliability and accuracy of the systems used for the voting process. Based on the NORC review, the media group concluded that if the disputes over all the ballots in question had been resolved by applying statewide any of five standards that would have met Florida’s legal standard for recounts, the electoral result would have been reversed and Gore would have won by 60 to 171 votes.”
Top chart via Yale Program on Climate Change Communication
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