I didn’t vote for Trump, but I always had a sneaking suspicion that he was going to win after he won the Republican primaries. In a way I understood what people liked about him, I just didn’t think those were good enough reasons to vote for him. What I couldn’t understand is his fascination and admiration for Vladmir Putin.
I recently finished Gaary Kasparov’s book “Winter is Coming,” which is about the rise of Putin after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The book is revealing, and is helping me to connect the dots between these two men.
Putin wasn’t the first post-Soviet Union president, that would be Boris Yeltsin, but he is the longest serving one. Yeltsin may have helped to usher in an age of democracy to the people of Russia, but the groomed successor Putin quickly began to snatch it away.
Reading through Kasparov’s book though I begann to see the similarities in each man’s characters, and the similarities between the two nations when electing these leaders. Although, Putin demeanor appears more stoic in nature than his American counterpart Donald Trump; both men positioned themselves as strongmen who sought to bring security to their nation.
Trump is still in the infancy of his presidency, so whether he brings security to the U.S. or not remains to be seen. However, in both elections there was a terrorist threat that loomed that both Russia and U.S. are/were sick of dealing with.
In the case of Russia it was Chechnya, a country that wants independence. After a horrific apartment and railroad bombings by Chechen terrorists people finally became fed up with the country and the people that lived there. Putin would win the election posing as the man capable of bringing an end to the terrorism. He was positioned by Yeltsin to take over, in exchange Yeltsin wouldn’t be prosecuted for the numerous corrupt acts he committed while serving as president.
For Trump, most U.S. citizens know that history. ISIS is our main concern. After eight years with democrats, the Obama administration hasn’t ended the War on Terrorism. Is it entirely his fault? I don’t know, the texts analyzing his presidency are still being written and compiled. However, the U.S. seems to move from one terrorist enemy to the next, for what feels like a never ending battle. Trump, positioned himself as the no nonsense sort of guy who will take out the enemy, bring jobs back to the country, and then move the U.S. into a state of isolationism.
There were/are very clear and targeted enemies, and although I can’t make the claim that Trump was the first to use the threat of terrorism to get the American people to tacitly agree to giving up individual freedoms. He is continuing on the tradition. Putin on the other hand used the presidency to seize power, and for a period of time at least appeared to be running a democracy, while stripping away the freedom of the Russian people to create an autocracy.
Some speculate Putin is the wealthiest man alive, and that he sees the entire country of Russia and its resources as his own. I can’t pretend to understand the psychology of the man, I don’t even know him. However, it is clear that Trump has a great deal of respect for him, and it is for that reason I believe Trump is so unwilling to say a bad word about the guy. Trump likes money, and I feel what he likes most about Putin is his power and wealth.
I suspect Trump became president not out of civic duty, but rather as a way to increase his wealth. He continues to run his companies despite the numerous conflict of interests it poses, and implements policy, reforms and elects people of questionable integrity to positions that seem to benefit him and the top one-percent. He condemns all who disagree, and is actively trying to subvert the media in a way that makes these transgressions seem less obvious. However, when it comes to the media, I feel like he is having a difficult time doing this.
I don’t know if Trump seeks to become an autocrat, but I think he clearly admires Putin for bending an entire country’s government to his will and furthering his own wealth. Trump preaches American exceptionalism, but seeks to erase anything that is exceptional about our country. He is sowing the seeds of destructions for agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and many others. These are basically organizations that can be an inconvenience to man who’s very wealth relies on real estate investments.
The EPA seems particularly awful, but the DOL may be even more egregious. By in large the market has spoken, people want greener energy, products and a cleaner environment. The EPA may seem pesky to a real estate developer, coal miner, or even an oil tycoon; but in the case of coal and oil these are things that most consumers don’t want to be reliant on any longer. Killing the EPA might slow down the green movement, but that ball is already rolling.
The DOL on the other hand protects the worker, and Trump employs people by the thousands to run his businesses. Giving the worker less rights, and protections is in his benefit. That means he can hire based on any sort of discriminatory practice, fire people as he sees fit, deny them certain compensatory benefits, pay them whatever wage he decides and refuse unemployment to workers. Whether, he does any of those things remains to be seen. However, having control of the DOL is of a huge benefit to him and his business.
I don’t think Trump could become an autocrat even if he tried. I don’t think the conditions are in place for such an event to occur in this country. In Russia, the citizens weren’t fully accustomed to life under a democracy. Yeltsin wasn’t a great leader by any stretch of the imagination. Most Russians had lived most of their lives under communist rule, so the very act of giving up power to Putin although in retrospect might seem bad, didn’t seem any different or worse than what they’d already experienced.
As Americans we’ve lived under varying times of increased and decreased freedoms, but we’ve always been a democracy since the country’s inception. Our American values have stayed strong for over two centuries, so I don’t think my countrymen would so easily give over total control to one man.
Trump so far looks to be seeking to make the country a plutocracy, and some would argue it already was, so the most I would be willing to predict is that he leaves office wealthier than when he started. Of course with the ongoing investigation with him and his cabinet connection to Russia the only thing he might leave in is a pair of handcuffs.