No political ploy in modern memory gives sheer opportunism a bad name like the tiresome fanciful “Russiagate” scandal over alleged rigging of the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favour.
Trump is the crude blowhard gift that keeps on giving to his adversaries. It is utterly impossible for any opponent, no matter how cowardly, reactionary, or moronic, to look less appealing than this irrepressibly infantile President.
Hence, the Hillary Clinton wing of the Democrats, who concocted the Russiagate charge, and despite being so studiously out of touch with average Americans, portray themselves unblushingly today as champions of the people.
Supporters of Bernie Sanders, who still bridle at proven Democratic Party rigging of the primaries for Hillary, figure that the real purpose of the Russian meddling charge is to prevent a re-examination, and a rejection, of the party’s conservative Clintonite platform.
For anyone who paid even scant attention to politics since the 1950s, the contemporary scene is mind-boggling. The FBI, which fought tooth and nail against every social movement to improve ordinary lives and tried to hound Martin Luther King to his death, suddenly is acclaimed as a heroic defender of the Constitution, which historically it treated more as toilet paper than as a sacred document.
The FBI under J Edgar Hoover bugged and burglarized at will and does so again behind a facade of pliable rules under the Patriot Act of the Bush era. If anyone is in position to blackmail a President, it is the hilariously titled “intelligence community,” on which the Russiagate charges rely for tainted corroboration.
American secret police and spy agencies, which are neither a community nor very intelligent (where are the WMD?), consistently have violated legal constraints and civil rights, as Edward Snowden’s revelations confirmed, in order to absorb all the data they desire on citizens for their own purposes in the convenient name of national security.
An illegal and not unprecedented domestic COINTELPRO spying programme began under Lyndon Johnson in 1967 and expanded exponentially under Nixon. “The President had created a concerted effort to organize a secret police,” investigative journalist Tim Weiner notes.
“He was trying to synchronize the gears of the FBI, CIA, and the Army to create an all-pervasive intelligence machine that would watch citizens as if they were foreign spies.” This covert totalitarian venture was impeded, not derailed, by Congressional investigations in the mid-1970s. How do you really know, though, when the secret policeman has gone away?
The two million Yanks with security clearances frolic like medieval lords in a ‘higher’ sphere where they pry into fellow citizens’ lives with impunity, and lie about it when caught. James Clapper of the NSA flatly deceived Congress about his agency’s illicit domestic spying and, in a world without double standards, should be imprisoned or else holed up in exile, instead of Snowden.
Now, these self-serving savants are depicted in media as sincere democratic icons galloping to rescue the US from the clutches of dumb Trump and his Russian puppetmasters.
Never mind that the Russkis would have to elbow their way into a long queue of expert native election riggers ranging from the Republicans, who toiled successfully to disenfranchise millions of Americans, to the spy agencies, which have interfered in political systems around the world. What it all demonstrates is of course that the system works. So long as these entities are pointing fingers at alien others, no one is pointing fingers at them.
Two journalists who followed Hillary’s campaign published an insider account, entitled ‘Shattered,’ where they note that in the ebbing stages distraught campaign staff boiled down her tepid political message to Americans who have suffered the greatest upward shift in wealth in history while being forced to bail out bankers and brokers from their own financial mismanagement: to wit, “We can’t have nice things.”
If you want to know in five words what scuttled Hillary, there they are. She scolded the public that they could not afford a single payer health care system, which is far cheaper and more efficient than a ramshackle price-gouging privately insured system.
Only at the last minute did Hillary concede that indebted young Americans warranted educational assistance that their parents had taken for granted in their youth, but it came far too late to matter or to be believed.
The despair of Hilary’s staffers is that she, after pocketing staggering speakers’ fees, remained invincibly ignorant of the causes of her impending downfall.
Discarded working-class Americans, once the valued base of the Democratic Party, had only two places to turn to express their anger at a system that they experience daily as rigged; either to Bernie or, more confusedly, Trump during the primaries, and to Trump during the election.
Hillary endorsed the corporate policies that were curdling America into a high-tech version of Victorian England, where 1 per cent held 70 per cent of wealth.
Saunter through any affluent American suburb on a summer afternoon and all you will see on the streets are cheap labour Hispanics. The homeowners are too busy and moneyed to mow their own lawns, as their middle-class parents did.
When the British TV series Upstairs, Downstairs, examining the master-servant relationship, first screened in the 1970s it was as a curious relic of an unlamented bygone age.
Now it is a regressive social vision that the rich want to restore. Instead of “nice things” ~ good jobs, better social security, free education and healthcare for all ~ all the donor-based Democratic Party can offer is Russia-baiting. So long as they do Trump, in spite of himself, will flourish.
The writers are well-known commentators and authors of Parables of Permanent War and many other books.