Putinism and Donald Trump
I’ve been working my way through Jennifer Welsh’s The Return of History: Conflict, Migration, and Geopolitics in the Twenty-First Century. The title, of course, is a dig at the naivete that informed much of Francis Fukuyama’s triumphalist announcement of “the end of history” back in 1990. Welsh’s book, on the other hand, might be considered a further contribution to “chaos literature”, as we might call that — the literature on sudden reversals of fortune.
A while ago I remarked, in the context of the rise of regimes of the authoritarian right, that the man who seemingly stood to profit most from this was Vladimir Putin. Welsh seems to have come to much the same conclusion, noting with some irony that countries formerly under the thumb of the USSR, such as Poland or Hungary, now look to Putinism and Putin’s authoritarian nationalism of “illiberal democracy” as a model (Putin apparently calls it “sovereign democracy”, but that’s just another term for authoritarian nationalism).
It was while reading her description of what we might describe as “Putinism” that I was struck by how closely it resembled the Trump-Bannon agenda and prescription for the United States. That would account for the apparent chuminess and mutual admiration between Trump and Putin and between Putin and some members of Trump’s administration. Putin’s plans for the rebuilding of “Great Russia” seem to anticipate Trump’s own for “Great America”, including a big dose of restored Czarism. I would suggest that, if you want to know what Trump’s “vision” of America amounts to, that you look to Putinism and his plans for restoring “Great Russia”.
There’s a certain irony in all that — the apparent shifting of the political centre of gravity and dreams of “The New American Century” from Washington to Moscow and, perhaps, to “The Slavic Century” instead.
(And now, it’s reported today, Mr. Putin is thinking of making a “gift” of Ed Snowden to Donald Trump).
These ironic “twists of fate” and reversals of fortune in our times are certainly jaw-dropping. It’s also something tragicomic that in the name of “Patriotism” and “loyality” Trump’s supporters may just well be handing the keys to the kingdom to Vladimir Putin.
We are in the midst of all kinds of such reversals or twists, or what we might call “Cadmean Victories”. The sudden shock over how social media has become a force for disintegration and disinformation being another example. One might as well anticipate that the incipient “tech revolution” of artificial intelligence will be just another Cadmean Victory (which is just another way of talking about the karmic law of action and reaction, after all).
In any case, you might want to investigate “Putinism” and his plans for “Great Russia” for a clue as to what Trump (and Bannon) are prescribing for how to “Make America Great Again” as well.
It’s this process of enantiodromia — or reversal — that is, I think, why so many find the present “surreal”, but without their being able to put their finger on just why it appears so surreal.