by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Here are two positions an intellectually honest person can simultaneously hold.
First, that Russian President Vladimir Putin is an authoritarian who, though no Stalin, still subverts human rights, and is generally antagonistic to the idealistic aims of the United States . When Republicans cozy up to this sort of person, as Donald Trump has done, they undermine the stated beliefs and values of conservatism.
Second, though there’s little doubt he wishes he could, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not “hack” the American election. In fact, there’s no evidence that the Russians had anything to do with Trump’s victory.
Now, I understand why so many on the Left want to force Republicans to choose between these two statements. They’d like to delegitimize the democratic validity of Trump’s presidency (in much the same way they did with George W. Bush) and smear those who don’t join them in this endeavor as unpatriotic Putin-defending lackeys. Considering their own past, and the president’s own accommodating attitude towards the Russians (and Cubans, Iranians, Fatah/Hamas, and other illiberal regimes) this seems an uphill battle, but it’s not unprecedented.
Many in the media, though, which has spent considerable time lamenting its deteriorating influence and the rise of “fake news,” also decided to start the new year internalizing a partisan-driven fantasy about Russians electing the president, giving us incessant coverage, deceptive headlines, and misleading stories. The number of times I’ve seen a reputable news organization use terms like “election hacking” is now incalculable. It is a lie. Every time.