The GOP & Putin
Or, as I sometimes desparingly post this, GOPutin. This is really a discussion of evolution, or rather resisting evolution, as it pertains to world events. Evolution is not just about we humans and our chimpanzee cousins, but social, technological, scientific, and institutional evolution; everything evolves whether we like it or not. Let's look at the world over the last seventy or so years.
We all go about our daily lives, mostly unaware of the changes that are occurring around us. New vaccines to prevent illness, advances in information technologies moving exponentially faster every few months, changes in our social structures and understanding of each other and how we think, changes in our political institutions, and changes in all forms of technology. We've unraveled the human genome and DNA, and medical research is on the verge of cures for many cancers and other diseases that kill and debilitate humans. All of this, and more is part of our evolution as a species.
During much of the early part of the 20th century, Russia was focused inward as it had its revolution. They offed the Czar, ending the Romanov dynasty. Lenin and the Bolsheviks took over and eventually became the Communist Party and Russia became the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or USSR. Lenin bit the big one in 1924 and a couple of years later, Stalin took over, killed a million or so people, and when WWII broke out, Stalin made a non-aggression pact with Hitler that fell through when Hitler invaded Russia. Russia switched sides and joined the Allies in the fight against the Nazi regime. Near the end of WWII, Churchill coined the phrase, "Iron Curtain" and the cold war was off and running with Russia engaging in expansionism with many of its neighbors, intent on establishing a buffer between the USSR and the West to prevent another invasion like what happened under Hitler. At the same time, they closed themselves off from much of the world as they focused on indoctrinating the populace with the communist approach to governing.
During the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, the West, and especially the U.S. engaged Russia with all sorts of military and economic maneuvers and weapons programs. Both Russia and the U.S. used proxies to fight little wars around the world. The poor little island of Cuba became a puppet in this war. Cozying up to Russia based on a common commitment to communism, the U.S. began punishing Cuba with embargoes that are still in place today while we trade with China and Viet Nam. Cuba suffered, and continues to suffer ridiculous economic hardships as the U.S. continues to hold a sixty-year-old grudge.
Both the U.S. and USSR spent trillions of dollars on an arms race that left us with a planet bristling with nuclear weapons, enough to destroy all life on the planet several times over. Eventually, the government of the USSR evolved, as did the U.S., and Gorbachev took charge. He began to press for better relationships with the rest of the world. We entered into peace talks with the goal of ending the cold war.
By 1991 and the fall of the USSR, it was made up of 15 republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, many of which had been swallowed up under the USSR domination of Central and Eastern Europe during the Cold War. After World War II, it formed the Warsaw Pact, a military alliance of European communist states meant to counter NATO. When the war ended, Soviet troops occupied several Central and Eastern European states, including the eastern part of Germany.
Putin was born on October 7, 1952, in the early years of the cold war. The USSR was all he knew and he personally moved up in the communist party, holding a number of influential positions, and in July 1998, Yeltsin appointed Putin director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), equivalent to our CIA. Putin has only known his country as the great USSR, and with its collapse in 1991, he had to have been outraged. On 31 December 1999, Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned and, according to the Constitution of Russia, Putin became Acting President of the Russian Federation. The rest is history, a sad chapter in that history.
Putin longs for and lives in the past, in what he sees as the greatness of the USSR as it ruled over its empire with an iron fist. Having to live in a modern world where people sit down and discuss issues and reach a compromise is foreign to him. He is literally a dinosaur living in the shadows of the old dictatorships in the USSR of the 1950s and 60s.
The GOP or at least the ultra-conservative or neo-con branch of the GOP bears similarities with Putin. Most of the GOP leadership is made up of people of Putin's generation. They, too, are a product of the cold war years. Many of the GOP from the South came through the strive and pain of breaking the back of attitudes leftover from slavery and our own Civil War. While the Black population was officially freed after the end of that war, the hard truth was that they were pushed aside and forced to live in a world where many could not buy a house, or go into a restaurant or soda shop unless it was in the Black part of town.
While the USSR was going through some hard times, we were doing the same. We were fighting for civil rights, women's rights, LBTQ rights, and against illegal wars like Viet Nam. We had cities on fire, cops shooting college students, and attacking people of color with batons and dogs. In many cases, the leadership of today's GOP is steeped in that part of our history. While most might not admit it, they are bitter about having lost so many battles against the left who were pushing for more freedom for everyone, not just a few elites. Most of the GOP supported the war in Viet Nam and the second invasion of Iraq. And, for those not quite old enough to have remembered the 1960s, they sat at the feet of their parents and listened to the vitriol against liberals who were opposing their conservative ideas at nearly every turn. This indoctrination into the conservative way of viewing the world took root and a large number of the children from the WWII generation.
Like Putin, these neo-cons long for the past when white folks and especially white men ran things and if need be, did so with an iron fist. Like Putin, they see the past through rose-colored glasses and if they have their way, women will lose the right to choose, and same-sex marriages will become illegal and punishable with draconian measures. They would ban books that they find objectionable based on either religious or cultural grounds. They would return the U.S. to the 1950s and repeal much of the progress we've made as a nation.