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Policy, not paranoia, is the antidote to Trump

  • 26 March 2019


The Donald Trump era has proven important in two fundamental respects. Not only does it say much about the person elected to the White House; it says much about critics and proponents of alternative narratives who have mimicked his conspiratorial copy book. The Mueller investigation was meant to be the confirmation of every parochial instance of anti-Trumpism imaginable. Loathe the man, detest him and hope that some external force could be blamed for his coming to power.

The mechanism for doing so was the Russian connection. Accusers have been plentiful and noisy. Russian bots, for instance, supposedly turned the 2016 presidential elections. Russian trolls turned the tide in favour of Trump. 'Our democracy is in serious danger,' shrieked Thomas Friedman of the New York Times.

But importantly, the issue of Russia got muddled over the issue of collusion. Not only was the president being accused of having been assisted by Russian agents, layered over by lashes of WikiLeaks; he had purportedly colluded with them. Taking this logic further, he was even accused, in a fanciful story by Jonathan Chait for New York Magazine, as a Russian asset.

Special counsel Robert Mueller was duly charged with the Trump-Russian investigation. Democrats and anti-Trump figures placed their eggs in the report's basket, hoping that collusion claims with Russia might out.

This provided a ghoulish yet perfect distraction on domestic politics. It took attention off debates on refugees and borders. It also sidestepped discussion on crippling poverty and social reform. A disheartened Senator Bernie Sanders, along with Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, filmmaker Michael Moore and economist Darrick Hamilton, would note this phenomenon in March 2018.

'These are all shiny things to distract us,' claimed Moore. 'We should know about the West Virginia [teachers'] strike.' Warren insisted on revitalising the US union movement. Sanders warned about oligarchic corporatism. 'We need to have the kind of discussion that Congress has not had yet.'

Last Friday, Mueller's 'Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election' was submitted to the Justice Department. We were only treated to a summary in a letter to Congress from Attorney General William Barr. It noted expansive investigation of allegations that members of Trump's presidential campaign and those associated with it 'conspired with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election, or sought to obstruct the related federal investigations'. The report found no evidence that the Trump campaign and