Conservatives Must Reject Anti-Anti-Putinism

It didn’t take long for the anti-anti-Putin argument to jump from comments on my post to a response post all its own. For that, I am grateful.

My first experience in following a blog-like site was National Review’s The Corner, where much of the best posts were responses to earlier posts. These kinds of discussions, when done right, can move the debate forward and encourage learning all around. 

Of course, the response also included a bizarre attempt to redefine ideological verbiage to declare yours truly somewhere between an outsider and a non-person. Apparently, railing against the surrender of Afghanistan, opposing inflationary spending, and demanding government stops interfering in international trade just don’t count if one still insists on opposing “traditional” tyrants and trying to save the movement from itself.

No matter, this isn’t the first time someone has attempted to write those like me out of the conservative movement. It’s a hallmark of social conservatism that predated Trump, but has been updated as many of its adherents added anti-anti-Trumpism (and anti-anti-Putinism) to their political repertoire. 

That said, if you read the response post cited above, you’ll notice something interesting. For all of the bandwidth used, the case I made was barely challenged, or for that matter, rarely even mentioned. Rather, we witnessed another example of the predominant carbon fuel used in confirmation bias: a straw man. My actual arguments are largely ignored in favor of repeated references to Critical Race Theory.

My old party has a long and tortured history of looking the other way when white supremacy rears its ugly head. Unless, of course, it does so in my current party. While Democrats neither were nor are perfect in the realm of racial relations, the anti-anti-Trump/anti-anti-Putin crowd tends to have serious trouble noticing the beams in their fellows’ eyes.

By this I mean the sins of their political allies are forgotten and minimized, over and over again. In fact, they still manage to ignore one of the most recent and egregious examples of White Supremacy from the Democratic Party. That this kind of behavior validates the actual CRT more than any academic’s musing is apparently lost on them – although, to be fair, it was lost on me when I was a Republican, too.

More to the point, they risk leaving the reader to wonder if they are just pretending that Putin-backed White Supremacy doesn’t exist or quietly hoping it’s useful in battling “wokeism.” The anti-anti-Putinists pretend there is no middle ground between White Supremacy and the illiberal left (much like the illiberal left itself does). They just apparently rank these dangers … differently.

Meanwhile, even as they ignore the ties that bind white supremacy with Putin’s regime, the anti-anti-Putinists eagerly endorse his “traditionalism.” The insistent denials of racism (and the farther they are from Bearing Drift writers, the far less true those denials) are nowhere to be found when it comes to heterosexism.

Reversing my argument, the anti-anti-Putin crowd insists that Putin’s lunge to anti-LGBTQ-land doesn’t make them look bad, but rather him look good. In the ultimate irony, they actually validate my argument while attacking it. As I said before and am saying again, they’d be happy to support a foreign tyrant who would win their culture wars for them.

As an aside, I should note that both they and we share one weakness: personalization. For anti-anti-Trumpers, the idea to which they cling as that without Trump, everything can go back to normal. The naïveté here would be hard to believe if it weren’t right there in black and white.

Americans and Virginians whose vision isn’t fogged by tribalism know full well that the Republican Party’s problems are about more than just Donald Trump. It’s also his minions already quibbling over his legacy and support (Ted Cruz, JD Vance, Marjorie Taylor Green, Matt Gaetz, Josh Hawley, Tucker Carlson…). It’s the enablers who are so deep into anti-anti-Trumpism they absolve him for breaking the law on Ukraine funding and pretend he had nothing to do with January 6th.

On our side of this debate, this personalization has funneled much of the discussion about Trump and Putin onto the two men themselves, rather than including their regimes and enablers. Putinism is about more than just Putin; it is an increasingly coherent and backward ideology that uniquely (and likely by design) appeals to nostalgic Americans on the right. Thus does anti-anti-Trumpism dovetail with anti-anti-Putinism.  The more we play the men, the less we can play the ball.

In the meantime, my arguments remain unchanged. Vladimir Putin’s regime is a threat to the democratic world. He has exploited White Supremacy and bigotry against LGBTQ+ to recruit allies in that world. Those allies either willingly wish to advance racism in America or unwittingly enable it in order to win culture wars. For American democracy and American conservatism to survive and to remain vibrant, anti-anti-Trumpism and anti-anti-Putinism must be politically opposed and defeated at home and abroad.

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