Republicans will eventually take the position that Zelensky is a secret sex criminal who invented COVID
The initial US response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was marked by an unusual level of unanimity in public opinion.
According to an Economist/YouGov poll, Americans view Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky favorably by a margin of 60 to 17 and believe by a margin of 70 to 11 that Russian President Vladimir Putin is ordering the commission of war crimes. According to the Navigator Group, Putin has a “net favorability” rating of minus 79, even among Republicans.
How could this have happened, given that only two years ago the mainstream Republican position was that the Ukrainian government was corruptly involved in supporting the Biden family (or something like that) and accused Russia of stealing Hillary Clinton’s emails? And that until just two weeks ago, the right-wing media praised Putin for standing up for heterosexuality and free speech?
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We could speculate:
• Ordinary Republicans, especially older ones, may not have paid enough attention to the ins and outs of Trump’s misconduct and his right-wing intellectual rationalizations to realize that Russia was now supposed to be their side. Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, for example, apparently thinks the country’s government is still communist, as do 52% of Republicans in an Economist/YouGov poll that ended March 1. Another 18% said he was a socialist. (Forty-four percent of Democrats said “Communist” and 10% said “Socialist.” The correct answer, I guess, would be “authoritarian capitalist with significant input from government-backed organized crime figures”?)
• The right-wing “echo chamber” is such that many of its figures had in fact convinced themselves that the alleged Russian threat against Ukraine was concocted for some obscure reason and corrupted by the Biden administration and the liberal media, leaving them flat-footed and temporarily embarrassed when an invasion actually took place.
• There are a number of Republicans who still have some clout within the party, such as Karl Rove and Lindsey Graham, who emerged during the heady days of shipping American-made guns to anyone who promised to use them against the Soviets, up to and including the literal Osama bin Laden. They are aware that the Russian economic system is not communist, but they are still really excited that someone is trying to kill Russians.
• Ukraine is undoubtedly an outsider in this conflict, while Russia is undoubtedly the aggressor, and television reports, even on Fox, have highlighted Russian attacks on civilians.
But there are cracks in this structure. Mega-MAGA North Carolina Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn told donors over the weekend that “the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and incredibly evil and has pushed woke ideologies.” (I have no idea what he means by the “ideologies” part, nor have I been able to find out – my best guess is that Ukraine is presumed to be “woke” because that Putin criticized gender fluidity and “cancel culture” and the New GOP members assume that everyone is as driven by cultural rage as they are, rather than economic and security interests.) Tucker Carlson , meanwhile, spread a theory, previously circulated by a QAnon social media account and the Infowars conspiracy site, that the United States worked with Ukraine to develop biological weapons.
Some Republican leaders in Congress, probably for the reasons outlined above, have tried to keep these sorts of theories from gaining traction in their caucus. Will they continue to be successful? Let me answer this question with a series of other questions: have they succeeded in convincing their constituents not to elect people who say things on Facebook about how the Rothschild family could have started a forest fire in California using a space laser? Did they manage to convince their constituents to take the COVID vaccine? Have they convinced their constituents not to believe QAnon’s theories of Democratic pedophilia and cannibalism? Did they convince their voters not to believe that “Venezuela, Cuba and probably China” rigged Joe Biden’s election?
No, and in fact this last claim was made to the headquarters of the Republican National Committee. Past results don’t always predict future performance, but they often do, and in this case they predict that a significant number of Republican voters, media personalities and elected officials will decide they support the bombing of Ukraine because the Liberals do not want it. for. Once that decision is made, the consensus that Zelensky is the hero and Putin is the monster will sink into the same mush of conspiracy theories that swallows everything else.