February 5, 2024 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
On Ukraine war funding, are the Republicans in Russian pay?
Shared interest is probably the right answer.
In a sense, the United States has two presidents. One of them is the real one, Joe Biden, who is the leader of a real country that’s called America. The other is the fake one, Donald Trump, who is the leader of a fake country that I’m calling “Realamerica.” We should bear this sense in mind as we discuss new legislation, just released by the US Senate, that provides more military aid to Ukraine.
America, the real country, needs no explanation. Realamerica does. It is an imaginary “nation” inside a real nation, a confederacy of the mind and spirit, a place of ignorance and superstition, in which “real Americans” live according to “the laws of God,” not the laws of men, and they share the goal of ruling the real America in God’s name. If it cannot dominate through democratic and constitutional means, it reserves the right to abandon democracy and resort to violence. In the real America, treason is unthinkable. In Realamerica, however, it’s patriotic.
For a long time, Realamericans did rule in the name of God. From the founding until the late 20th century, political leaders “flattered and favored the rural majorities” to win their support, wrote historian Jason Opal. “American culture identified farm folk and small towns as the most authentic and virtuous parts of the nation — or, as President Andrew Jackson put it in 1837, ‘the bone and sinew of the country.’”
Let’s call it the Russo-Realamerican alliance. It’s a mutually beneficial alignment between the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the president of Realamerica, Donald Trump, against the real America and Joe Biden, as well as against democracy and the ruled-based international order.
Whatever Realamericans wanted, they generally got – until the social and political revolutions of the 1960s, by which time the United States has grown more urban, more educated and more diverse. After the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, respectively, the federal government stopped balancing the country on the backs of Black people, preventing Realamericans from dominating and controlling the real America by legal means. They have been angry about that since.
Opal said: “The heirs of Jefferson’s ‘chosen people’ lost their status as the most American of Americans. The new, diverse America enrages tens of millions of people who predominantly live in small towns and in the South and mostly identify as white, straight and Christian.”
Donald Trump is the president of “the chosen people” who live in this confederacy of the mind and spirit, a fake “nation” inside a real nation, where democratic politics and liberal values such as universal liberty are now seen less as ideals than as perversions of God’s will. And these chosen people believe that Donald Trump will return to the White House to rule the real America with as much fervor as they believe that Christ will return from heaven to rule the earth for a thousand years.
It’s due to their faith in “God’s plan” for this confederacy of the mind and spirit that “the chosen” see nothing wrong with the leader of their “country” forging ties with foreign powers that are hostile to the real America. After all, they are a numerical minority these days. They need all the help they can get. The enemy of their enemy is their friend.
The result is an alliance that has no name, but should. So let’s call it the Russo-Realamerican alliance. It’s a mutually beneficial alignment between the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the president of Realamerica, Donald Trump, against the real America and Joe Biden, as well as against democracy and the ruled-based international order.
In exchange for Putin’s help in getting elected again, by polluting the public square (misinformation about the Israel-Hamas war, for instance) and by working closely with his chief propagandists (Tucker Carlson visited the Kremlin, for instance), Trump promises to hand over Ukraine when he becomes president, or to look the other way while Russian tanks roll over it and perhaps the rest of the NATO alliance.
The Russo-Realamerica alliance has been in existence since at least 2016, when the Trump campaign removed from the GOP’s policy plank a commitment to protecting Ukraine’s then-fledgling democracy. The alliance was also evident in Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukraine’s president in 2019. He wanted Volodymyr Zelensky’s help in smearing Biden before the 2020 election in exchange for the release of military aid. Zelensky refused and Trump was later impeached. (The Kremlin’s sabotage of Hillary Clinton’s campaign is obviously further evidence.)
The newest expression of the Russo-Realamerican alliance comes in the form of opposition by House Republicans to the newest Senate bill, a bipartisan package of laws that links the funding of Ukraine’s war against Russian invaders with border reforms and other changes to immigration law. Though the package meets many, if not most, of the GOP’s demands on “border security,” House Speaker Mike Johnson has said that it’s “dead on arrival.” Many observers have noted that the House GOP leadership is refusing to fix a problem that they accuse the president of refusing to fix. Some have also noted that “this whole weird aid tussle in the House was really about stopping aid to Ukraine.”
That’s according to The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum, a highly respected and widely-read writer on American foreign policy and international affairs. She went on to say that “unexpectedly, the Senate is close to a border compromise – and so now Johnson/MAGA change the game again. Why? Are they being paid? Ideological preference for Putin?”
Do the Republicans prefer Putin? Is he paying them? Hard questions that demand answers, but shared interest is probably the right one.
The confederacy of the mind and spirit – what some political scientists might call a “subnation” – has more in common politically and culturally with Russia than it does with the real nation in which it resides. Its inhabitants believe they are sovereign in all but name. They believe Trump is their legitimate president. That Trump has forged ties with Putin against the real America — that he and some other Republicans might even be in Russian pay — isn’t treasonous. It’s patriotic.
But only by acknowledging this confederacy can you see that.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.