I have written before that conservative distrust of government has metastasized under Donald Trump’s influence into an aggressive distrust of the institutions of civic life. As a conservative who has worked in Republican administrations and for Republican members of Congress, this concerns me greatly.
The insurgent nativism and isolationism are a deep and growing danger that the party must confront and subdue.
Tucker Carlson, the most bombastic and unapologetic advocate and Russian propagandist, may be gone from prime time but will be back.
His views live on as gospel by Trump’s sizeable base.
This problem is most evident in U.S. support for Ukraine’s defense against an invasion which, we should take pains to emphasize, Russia is conducting under Vladimir Putin’s stated purpose of irredentist ethnocide – the destruction of Ukrainians as a separate people and their forcible incorporation into a Moscow superstate.
To counter Western support Russian propaganda has identified effective narratives which its English speaking, America-based sympathizers have zealously seized on. Claims such as: foreign governments just want to take advantage of the American taxpayer. Foreigners laugh at how easily manipulated we are. Foreign militaries contribute nothing to U.S. interests. The United States alone is paying for Ukraine’s defense.
“Globalist” has become the smear de jour applicable to anyone who acknowledges the reality of a world outside U.S. borders. The idea of a Republican leader like George W. Bush emphasizing Poland’s substantial support to U.S. military efforts in Iraq is unthinkable now. In fact, opponents of aid to Ukraine routinely argue that Kyiv has disqualified itself from U.S. support because just needing it means he is a “globalist.”
Or take for example the “bombshell” about U.S. military personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. U.S. embassy security is provided by the host nation on the outside and U.S. military personnel on the inside. A country in a hot war that maintains a U.S. Embassy is obviously going to have more security than one in, say, Ottawa.
Only one Republican, House Foreign Affairs Representative Michael McCaul, has stepped up to explain this (and he deserves credit for doing so). Unfortunately, the conversation on the right has been dominated by uninformed rhetorical bomb throwers. The presence of U.S. military at the embassy was immediately conflated with combat presence.
But the same voices who demand that there be a perfect accounting of U.S. aid to Ukraine also demand that no U.S. forces be there to inspect and report. Almost like the demand for total accountability is a smokescreen for a different agenda.
Or take the assertion that the U.S. alone is paying for Ukraine’s defense. The United States is providing money and material, but as a percentage of GDP U.S. financial support for Ukraine places America firmly in 8th place at 0.25%. First through third place are Latvia (1.01%), Estonia (0.95%), and Poland (0.60%), respectively.
Now, the U.S. has the world’s largest economy and even that small GDP percentage is a phenomenal amount of money (upwards of $75 billion). But opponents assert that only the U.S. is funding the war and Europe won’t pull its weight. You can argue that Europe should be spending more, but you cannot argue that 1% of GDP is an insignificant expense for any country.
Why has no Republican stood up to loudly refute the venomous lie that President Zelensky is trying to “abolish Christianity” in his country? The obvious antisemitic undertones aside (President Zelensky is a Jew), the propagandists and the ignorant are repeating this argument everywhere without any correction. When television pundits call Zelensky pathetic, where are the combat vets in Congress pointing out that plutocratic cowards don’t usually remain when their country is at risk of collapse?
Where is the Republican explaining that Russia practices caesaropapism, where the State controls the Church? The Russian Orthodox Church has served as a vehicle of Putin’s legitimacy in exchange for a privileged position. Fighters in Russia’s invasion are blessed by Russian Orthodox Priests that all of their sins will be forgiven because they are fighting in a holy war. Russian Orthodox priests embrace the caesaropapist blessing wherein the state’s goals are religious goals, too.
Russian Orthodox Churches in Ukraine are vehicles to preach a corrupted religious message wherein Ukraine is not a real country and betrayal of the country is a religious virtue. Ukraine has banned a Russian seditious information operation operating under a Russian state-controlled religious front.
This claim is particularly dangerous because conservatives increasingly see a U.S. Government hostile to religion in general. Many American conservatives are primed to believe the conspiracy theory that the U.S. Government sees an opportunity to abolish Christianity in a foreign country. “Win-win for the current administration” they probably think.
On the subject of the recent alleged leak of classified U.S. military information, there was an immediate declaration that the airman charged with the offense was a “whistleblower” whose arrest and prosecution are only because he is a white Christian who undermined the “Ukraine narrative” and interfered with corrupt warmongers who stood to gain money from the war. Remember, in this morality tale Ukraine is so uniquely corrupt that supporting it against Russian extermination is truly an act of greed, avarice, and corruption.
As a party, as a nation, and as the world’s sole superpower that we sacrificed to build, my party needs Republicans who know better to correct the record forcefully and repeatedly. Republicans who are still trusted by the base such as Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz; and those experienced with military service like Dan Crenshaw need to loudly bear these messages.
We cannot give up the pax americana to liars, Russian propagandists, and isolationists.
Anthony W. Holmes was special advisor to the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs from 2017-2021. He is a contributing editor at 19FortyFive.