One of the less well-reported stories of Russia's role in American public life is the relationship between Moscow and key players of movement conservatism – particularly among those of the Religious Right. Indeed, it may very well explain how the president may be maintaining his popularity among one of his core constituencies.
As recent as a decade ago if any objective political observer were to have warned about an admiration of Russian political motives by anyone on the American Right, the commentary would have been met with highly audible guffaws. Not anymore. This is not your father’s Russia.
Indeed, Russia is clearly on the path to becoming an authoritarian state tinged with Mussolini-style fascism.
President Putin has displayed a particular disdain for Western liberal democracy, evidenced by the way he has surrounded himself with, vehemently anti-liberal thinkers. Alexander Dugin immediately comes to mind. It is in Dugin’s writings and pronouncements that we begin to understand why many fringe conservatives; especially those of the Religious Right would admire Putin’s increasingly authoritarian agenda.
To understand the severity of Dugin’s teachings – and their possible allure to the most strident of the Religious Right -- just consider this passage to be found on Dugin’s website:
We need to return to the Being, to the Logos, to the foundamental- ontology (of Heidegger), to the Sacred, to the New Middle Ages - and thus to the Empire, religion, and the institutions of traditional society (hierarchy, cult, domination of spirit over matter and so on). All content of Modernity - is Satanism and degeneration. Nothing is worth, everything is to be cleansed off. The Modernity is absolutely wrong -- science, values, philosophy, art, society, modes, patterns, "truths", understanding of Being, time and space. All is dead with Modernity. So it should end. We are going to end it.
In the December 13, 2016 edition of New York magazine, Ed Kilgore identified some of Putin’s American Religious Right’s admirers as “Evangelical leader Franklin Graham, National Organization for Marriage leader Brian Brown and American Family Association spokesperson Bryan Fischer.” Continuing directly, Kilgore further observed, “In almost every case it has been his distinctive combination of homophobia and Islamophobia that has made Putin one of the Christian right’s favorite international figures.”
Paleo-conservative icon (and über-traditionalist Catholic) Patrick Buchanan went as far as to declare, “In the culture war for the future of mankind, Putin is planting Russia's flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity.”
A decade ago I began to write about Opus Dei Catholics. Many of the subjects I have written about were embedded within the neo-conservative movement. A constant theme among this group of political activists was a disdain for modernity. They opined about what they viewed was the breakdown of traditional marriage and increasing rights for those in the LGBT community. Their pronouncements often seem exclusionary and harsh. Still, there were no calls for violence. But what others and myself wrote about back then is pale in comparison to the poison that now emanates from Moscow. It is a crusade against modernity now jacked-up on steroids.
Consider this passage from a recent piece in Politico by Casey Michel:
Before 2014 Russia was largely seen as an importer for Christian fundamentalists, most especially from the U.S. But as the Kremlin dissolved diplomatic norms in 2014, Moscow began forging a new role for itself at the helm of the global Christian right.
And Moscow’s grip at the tiller of a globally resurgent right has only tightened since. Not only have Russian banks funded groups like France’s National Front, but Moscow has hosted international conferences on everything from neo-Nazi networking to domestic secessionists attempting to rupture the U.S. Meanwhile, American fundamentalists bent on unwinding minority protections in the U.S. have increasingly leaned on Russia for support—and for a model they’d bring to bear back home, from targeting LGBT communities to undoing abortion rights throughout the country.
As well as:
“In the same sense that Russia’s [anti-LGBT] laws came about in 2013, we’ve seen similar sorts of laws proposed in Tennessee, for example,” Cole Parke, an LGBT researcher with Political Research Associates, told me. “It’s difficult to say in a chicken-and-egg sort of way who’s inspiring whom, but there’s definitely a correlation between the two movements.”
Many pundits and ordinary folk are still amazed that Trump's base has stood by him despite mounting evidence that his campaign may have colluded with Moscow during the 2016 presidential election. And that is to say nothing of the president's refusal to criticize Putin for almost any transgression.
Or perhaps no one should be surprised.
First among the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid's five general axioms is this: Things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other. If equals are added to equals, the wholes (sums) are equal. If equals are subtracted from equals, the remainders (differences) are equal. This applies as well to politics.
When we consider the admiration that many Religious Right leaders have for the Russian president it may not be that difficult to understand a good portion of Trump’s continued support from his base -- especially those of the Conservative Christian rank-and-file. For these folks any collusion between Trump and Putin that may be eventually proven could very well not be a reason to impeach but to re-elect.