The Washington Post's Aaron Blake has a new piece analyzing future Republican presidential primary also-ran Vivek Ramaswamy's proposal to cut off U.S. military aid to Ukraine and what it might mean for the Republican primaries at large. Ramaswamy's "peace" plan for Ukraine boils down to cutting off U.S. aid so that the country no longer has hope of regaining its lost territory, after which Ukraine will be forced to accept the Russian annexation of that territory, which means people like Vivek Ramaswamy don't have to be bothered with hearing about it anymore and can move on with their lives.
Ramaswamy is an unserious contender, a gadfly who will likely exist on the debate stage mainly as an excuse for the top contenders to take a few sips of water after trading newly invented insults, but advancing such proposals likely will encourage both seditionist Donald Trump and ambition-bot Ron DeSantis to express their anti-Ukraine views more fully. Blake undersells the extent to which both top contenders have dismissed Russia's invasion of Ukraine as something beneath U.S. interest. Although Republican primary contenders don't need Ramaswamy's encouragement to belittle Ukraine's war, it opens an opportunity to whine about how upstanding Republican taxpayers shouldn't be spending money to protect the world against Trump's best authoritarian friend.
Donald Trump was already impeached for withholding Ukraine aid once, after all, and for nothing more than a Nixonish ratf-cking operation. He's already implemented anti-Ukraine policies when he could, and while basting Putin with enough sycophantic praise to nearly drown the man in it. It was Trump's camp that pushed the Republican Party to rewrite its party platform to water down support for Ukraine during the 2016 presidential race, a move that almost certainly resulted from outright crookedness and Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort's lobbying work against Ukraine's government. We don't need to speculate on Trump's position; he has taken concrete steps to weaken Ukraine's government and boost Russian efforts against the country for more than six years now. In fact, during a Fox News' town hall' just days ago, Trump floated the idea of breaking up NATO, which must have been music to Putin's ears.
As for DeSantis, his policies are more prosaic: He just doesn't care. It is not in his electoral interests to care, and if later on it would move a few votes one way or the other, then he will decide what his position is according to what the polls say it should be. Until then, he remains laser-focused on attacking schoolchildren, teachers, and the Walt Disney Company.
Ramaswamy might be a vanity candidate, but his ideas for "peace" are noncontroversial among the Republican base and the hardest-right and most sedition-agnostic House Republicans: stop supporting Ukraine, give Putin what Putin can take, and be done with it. Whether the base adopted the position after Trump embraced Putin as his new best friend or whether the base simply decided organically that murderous dictators could be admirable if the murder were focused on the right people—that's largely irrelevant. The point now is that the Republicans, still willing to back Trump even after an attempt to overthrow the United States government, do want to make cozy with dictatorial thugs, or at least want to not spend money getting in their way.
Naturally, this means the Republican debates will be full of such sentiments. Candidates such as Chris Christie might well push back against it and can expect to be booed for it, given the nature of audiences who can score tickets to these things. We can expect other candidates like Mike Pence to slowly congeal like a bowl of cooling oatmeal when asked to pipe up with opinions of their own, but the Trump-DeSantis position of Russian conquests are none of our business is the default party position simply by virtue of their polling numbers.
What happens after that is the diciest part. NATO heads and other European leaders are already fretting that the Republican presidential campaigns will "shatter" already-brittle bipartisan support for Ukrainian aid, which could turn the tide of the war even if Trump or his mini-me come nowhere close to winning the Oval Office and enacting such reversals themselves.
Perhaps even dicier, the possibility that Russia's fortunes in Ukraine may come to depend entirely on whether or not Republicans can cut Ukraine loose from American aid. That could mean that Putin orders his government to pull out all the stops in conducting espionage and online social engineering efforts to boost Republican candidates and damage Democratic ones. The future of Crimea may well depend on Russian efforts to again bend a presidential election toward a Russian-friendly Republican; how many more resources might Putin bring to bear on such an effort now, with Russia's military forces being ground into a paste on a daily and hourly basis, compared to 2016?
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Countless progressive organizations seek to engage and mobilize voters, but coordinating those efforts is a mighty task. On this week's episode of "The Downballot," we're joined by Sara Schreiber, the executive director of America Votes, which works with hundreds of partners at the national and state level to deploy the most effective means of urging voters to the polls. Schreiber walks us through how coalitions of like-minded groups are formed and how the work of direct voter contact is divvied up between them. A special focus is on "blue surge" voters—those who, in the Trump era, joined the rolls for the first time—and why ensuring they continue to participate in the political process is the key to progressive victories.