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What If There Was No Collusion?

Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair

Anyone watching CNN or MSNBC notes the anchors’ grim determination to bring down the president. They report that his personality is unstable, his cabinet is in deep disarray, his poll numbers slipping. His demise is surely inevitable. But how might this occur?

Let me count the ways. Or rather, the issues on which the media focuses.

The malignant narcissism in his statements and tweets; the mental health issue; the strange ways he hires and fires.

The adulterous affairs and hush money.

The multiple allegations of sexual assault.

Questionable business dealings of Trump, Don Jr., Jarod and Ivanka

Collusion with Russia during the election.

The last has been the main hope. The mainstream press has been salivating with desire that the Mueller probe will deliver the needed blow. That would probably be proof that Russians turned over illegally intercepted documents to the campaign, to help Trump.

But one has the sense that this will not happen. It’s merely a fantasy of Hillary shills.

Almost immediately after the election, lame duck President Obama, stunned by the Trump victory, declared that Russia had intervened, expelled Russian diplomats and imposed sanctions. His intelligence community expeditiously produced on Jan. 9 a (thoroughly unconvincing) report essentially asserting that Wikileaks had received the damning DNC emails revealing that Bernie had never had a chance and noting that Russia’s RT network had favored Trump over Hillary. It appears news directors instructed anchors to say “the entire U.S.intelligence community has established beyond a reasonable doubt that the Russians intervened in the elections.” But the basis of this allegation—that Russia had revealed to the U.S. electorate the nature of the system by providing authentic, relevant primary sources with very disturbing information—was ignored. They interfered.

Interference became immediate gospel truth. In May the Deputy Attorney General appointed Robert Mueller as special prosecutor to investigate the Russian charges, in particular charges of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Or some Russians. Any Russians. Or even Russian-Americans. Or supposedly pro-Russian Ukrainians.

But, as a recent SNL sketch so amusingly suggested, Mueller has found not collusion but obstruction (as in “obstruction of justice”).  Trump campaign officials lied to the FBI about some of their contacts and business activities. But their prosecutions will probably not destroy Trump. Meanwhile the House Intelligence Committee has concluded its investigation and the Republicans determined there is no evidence of collusion.

The main historical function of these investigations and the media treatment of them has been to revive and even intensify Cold War-era Russophobia. One of the worst features of this period has been the spectacle of liberal Democrats (and Bernie Sanders) all embracing the notion that Russia is an “adversary,” Putin a monster, and that Russia did something unconscionable during the U.S. elections (such as never performed elsewhere in the world by the U.S. itself). The point has been to say: “Why won’t Trump ever say anything bad about Putin?” as though the default mode is to damn the Russian leader.

(Note that Trump supporters are not hysterically anti-Russia. This may be the only good thing about them. They are not Goldwater Republicans. That would be Hillary Clinton.)

The point has been to unite people around an anti-Russia, anti-Putin line, and view “Russian ties” as inherently suspicious, the better to isolate and topple a president allegedly in a bromance with the Russian leader. It won’t and shouldn’t work.

Russia is an “adversary” only in that it opposes the expansion of NATO, especially to include Ukraine and Georgia. Most Americans know very little about NATO or the issues involved, so as to conclude why Russia and Washington are so at odds. Assaulted by relentless propaganda rivaling that on either side in the Cold War, people are vulnerable to the notion that a president who refuses to be adequately hostile is somehow in the other camp.

But again: it won’t and shouldn’t work. The worst possible thing would be the toppling of Trump due to alleged Russian ties, followed by a Pence administration committed to confrontation with Russia.

Of course Trump should be driven from power, as all oppressors should be driven from power. My preference would be a popular uprising producing revolutionary change. But that is unlikely near term. So what are the options?

The saner members of the cabinet remove him according to Art. 25 of the Constitution, due to mental instability. Or the Democrats sweep the next elections and have the strength to impeach him for some reason. In either case Pence succeeds him. That total reactionary clod. A bipartisan consensus on foreign policy influenced by Hillary Clinton’s hawkishness and neocon ties emerges. Bad. Very bad.

It is hard to find hope. The good things include the appropriate decline of U.S. prestige as a world power, and the enhancement of multilateralism; the appropriate drop in respect among the masses globally for the U.S.; the mass disillusionment of the people in the corrupt U.S. political process and corporate press; the radicalization of youth who become increasingly supportive of socialism. One role of Trump has been to elevate youth’s level of contempt for the whole system. One feels that whatever happens to him, they will somehow break from this Cold War mentality and endless sequence of imperialist wars.

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Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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