Saturday, February 25, 2017

Disturbing Numbers

It doesn't get any better, especially at the Conservative Political Action Conference, than when

Jason Charter, 22, and Ryan Clayton, 36, passed out roughly 1,000 red, white, and blue flags, each bearing a gold-emblazoned “TRUMP” in the center, to an auditorium full of attendees waiting for President Trump to address the conference. Audience members waved the pennants—and took pictures with them—until CPAC staffers realized the trick: They were Russian flags.

The stunt made waves on social media, as journalists covering CPAC noticed the scramble to confiscate the insignia.

A great prank indeed, but there is a long way before convincing the American public that Moscow may not have benign motives in geopolitical power politics. It's may be a long way, too, before convincing those Trumpists that Trump + Putin is a bad thing.

Business Insider reports

A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found 53% of Americans agreed Congress should investigate contact between Russia and President Donald Trump's inner circle believed to have happened before the election.

Only 25% of people who responded to the NBC/WSJ poll believed Congress should stay out of it, and 21% did not have an opinion, the poll found.

Only? I don't think "only."  One-quarter is a lot of people accepting the concept of "hear no evil, see no evil."

Partisan breakdown is curious. While only 9% of Democrats voted for Donald Trump, 20% of registered Democrats do not believe that Russian involvement should be investigated. It's probably less surprising that only 25% of Republicans support such an inquiry.

When voters were asked whether the President's relationship with the Russians was "too friendly," only 38% of voters agreed, 29% believing otherwise.  Given that many liberals (who predominate in the Democratic Party) traditionally have favored cordial relations with the Russian government, the 70% of Democrats who find Trump "too friendly" is actually a large number.

Consider, however, that Republicans have in the past won presidential elections and innumerable congressional elections on the strength of being "tough" on the Russians, including a few in the post-Soviet era.  Now, 7% of Trump voters believe the President of the United States, who has praised the ex-KGB agent in charge of the Kremlin, is "too friendly with Russia."

For those keeping count at home, that would be 93% of individuals who voted for Donald Trump thinking he is too friendly with an expansionist, rival power. It is highly likely that percentage would be eclipsed by that of Trump voters who believe Barack Obama was not born in the USA, or that the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks were an inside job, that dinosaurs roamed the earth only 9,000 years ago, or possibly even that the earth is flat. ("President Trump has said the earth is flat. Do you agree or not?")

It's not about Russia, as noted at 4:58 in the video above, but "about winning and about following the leader."  That should be discomforting both to Democrats alarmed about Russia and to them and others convinced that blind obedience to an impulsive authoritarian is dangerous. When so many people want to remain uninformed or believe that impulsive authoritarian has a realistic attitude toward the Russian government, the propaganda machine is more effective, and more threatening, than we've imagined.

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