The obsession with the Russiagate scandals has become a massive distraction from the life-or-death problems we face, from the climate crisis and the new nuclear arms race to the declining living standards and life expectancies of the working class and the assaults on the political and social rights of all Americans.
Meanwhile, two dominant Russiagate narratives fight it out, about an alleged Russian role in the release of the DNC emails, a pro-Trump social media campaign by Russian actors, and Trump campaign officials who invited and welcomed Russian support. The Democratic narrative says the Russians won the 2016 election for Trump. The Republican narrative says Russiagate is a hoax, a witch hunt, and a Deep State coup attempt against Trump.
The reality of Russiagate is that many allegations on both sides remain more speculation than documented fact. We may never have definitive answers to many Russiagate allegations. One thing is clear: the Russiagate obsession is an intramural brawl between factions of the ruling elites.
Greens should not get caught up in this distraction. We should focus on campaigning for real solutions to the social and environmental problems we face.
The Democratic Narrative
The narrative coming mainly from Democrats and the liberal wing of the corporate media blames Russia for the election of Trump. It sometimes adds fact-free assertions that Green Party candidate Jill Stein was somehow part of this Russian plot. This narrative is a distraction from how the Democrats and the liberal corporate media themselves contributed to Trump’s election. They need to look in the mirror to see who did it.
The Democrats should have crushed Trump in a landslide. Trump was the least popular presidential candidate in history, with a 61% unfavorable rating on the eve of the election. But Clinton’s uninspiring, policy-free message left her with a 52% unfavorable rating, the second worst in history. Clinton offered no clear message to counteract her entrenched image as a corporate elitist or to expose the insincerity of Trump’s economic populism. It’s hard to beat something with nothing.
Nevertheless, Clinton did beat Trump by some 3 million popular votes. But the anti-democratic Electoral College threw the presidency to Trump. Russians didn’t do that. Jill Stein didn’t do it. Democrats let it happen—again! They also won the popular vote and lost the Electoral College vote in 2000. But they have never fought to abolish the Electoral College and elect the president by a ranked-choice national popular vote, as the Green Party has been demanding.
The corporate media gave Trump $5 billion in free media coverage during the 2016 campaign, while the Trump and Clinton campaigns spent about $1 billion and 1.4 billion, respectively. The Mueller indictment of 12 Russians who allegedly conducted a social media campaign to support Trump says they had a budget of $1.25 million a month toward the end of the campaign. Billions are a thousand times millions. But about all the corporate media can talk about now is Russiagate. Trump’s actual policies and actions are neglected.
The Republican Narrative
The other narrative comes mainly from Republicans and the conservative wing of the corporate media. It says the Russiagate is a hoax, the investigation is a witch hunt, and the reporting on it is “fake news.” It dismisses the Mueller report’s findings that the Russians tried to influence the election in favor of Trump through social media and the publishing of documents and that Trump tried to obstruct Mueller’s investigation. Their mantra is “Complete exoneration. No collusion. No obstruction.” Trump and his partisans assert that the real scandal is an attempted coup against Trump by a Deep State conspiracy.
Given their longstanding war hawk tradition of exaggerating Russian threats and supporting US meddling in foreign elections, the Republicans’ narrative is pure political opportunism. They know that in the real world both Russia and the US propagate disinformation and meddle in foreign elections.
A recent study of partisan electoral intervention by Russia and America found 36 Russian interventions and 81 American interventions from 1946 to 2000. It was Bill Clinton who intervened to help Boris Yeltsin’s successful re-election campaign in 1996 by securing an IMF loan for the bankrupt Russian state and sending in a bipartisan team of US campaign consultants. Ironically, three years later Yeltsin anointed Putin as his successor.
Greens should stay independent of these competing partisan narratives. Greens should focus on the social and environmental problems that the Russiagate obsession is distracting the corporate media and the public away from.
Greens must also resist the negative ramifications of the Russiagate obsession for the sake of peace and freedom. Russiagate is being used to justify an escalation of the new Cold War and nuclear arms race with Russia and China under the current bipartisan US military doctrine of economic and political dominance in Great Power Competition. We must also oppose the use of Russiagate as a pretext for government and Big Tech censorship of dissenting opinion on social media.
Whether or not the Democrats ever come around to impeaching Trump, he is only a symptom of an ultra-right that is growing worldwide by scapegoating immigrants, minorities, environmentalists, and peace activists for the growing economic inequality and insecurity structured into the capitalist economic system. The Democrats’ tepid reformism fails to speak to the anger so many people feel.
Voters are looking for a bold and positive agenda. We just saw that in the recent European Parliament elections. Green parties surged while the ultra-right polled lower than expected and the vote for the center-left and center-right parties collapsed. Campaigning for a Green New Deal of climate action, economic justice, human rights, and stronger democracy, the Greens’ positive program of hope gained support while the ultra-right’s negative program of fear based on racism, xenophobia, fact-free irrationalism, and authoritarianism under-performed. The center parties’ defense of the status quo pushed their angry voters to both the left and the right. Like the Democrats, instead of looking to their own shortcomings, European center parties are blaming the Russians for the Greens’ rise.
While the Republicans scapegoat immigrants and the Democrats scapegoat Russians and Greens, Green candidates up and down the ticket should focus their campaigns on the solutions where there is supermajority support, such as improved Medicare for all, taxing the wealthy for the public good, and protecting the people and the planet with a Green New Deal.
Greens must also lead the fight for peace policies against bipartisan military madness. Both corporate parties back ever-increasing military spending, ongoing wars in seven countries, and special operations in 149 countries. Most ominously, they both support the new nuclear arms race that is deploying small tactical nukes in conventional battlefields while the big strategic nukes remain on hair-trigger alert. This military policy is a recipe for global annihilation. Greens should demand 75% military spending cuts, the withdrawal of US military forces from foreign bases, unilaterally reducing US nukes to a minimum credible deterrent, and putting a top priority on negotiating complete nuclear disarmament. We need a radical shift in foreign and military policy to prioritize diplomacy, participation in the community of nations, and leading as a humanitarian superpower.
With all the talk about socialism among the new Democratic “socialists,” Greens should remind people that socialism is more than the social programs of New Deal liberalism. Socialism is economic democracy based on social ownership and democratic control of the major means of production. If ownership of the economy is not democratized, the concentrated economic power of the billionaire class will still translate into concentrated political power that can roll back social programs as well as peace and environmental policies. We need an Ecosocialist Green New Deal for sustainable production of a decent standard of living for all within ecological limits.
Green candidates and party members should push these kinds of positive solutions, not only in election campaigns, but also in the streets in partnership with popular movements. Mass movements are the base and energy for a mass party. Dynamic social movements are how we can build majority support and the popular power to win elections and push through an ecosocialist transformation.