It’s not just a point of irony that feelings about Russia have flipped along party lines. Once upon a 20th-century, no one loved Russia more than the American left, who viewed the Soviet project (prior to Solzhenitsyn’s revelations) as a model of progress, worthy of praise and emulation. The right, back then, looked on the godless communists with intense suspicion, if not outright contempt.
Now, it seems the tables have turned. Despite nations like Israel and Saudi Arabia interfering far more consistently and aggressively in elections — recent and historical — the American Left has been downright histrionic about the possibility of Russian intervention in the 2016 elections. The charge, it seems, is that some propagandist (with a Russian IP address… therefore Russian?) posted a meme or three, which may have changed some people’s minds on who to vote for.
I understate for humor, but not by much. Apparently, free speech interferes with Democracy when it crosses international borders… but only certain borders.
Meanwhile, the American Right, which passed its histrionic stage back in the 80’s, no longer sees Russia as an enemy (certain NeoCons predictably notwithstanding). They are a strategic competitor, but otherwise a fellow-traveler, perhaps even an ally. Most sane right-wingers don’t go so far as to think of Russia as a “friend,” but Russia seems to at least be up-front about their self-concern and occasional thuggish tactics. The Saudis and Israelis (let alone the EU!) seem far more insidious in their machinations.
So one obvious point about the political flip on Russian opinion is that Russia is not what it once was. Where an atheistic communist regime once stood, a Russian Orthodox and nationalist country has taken its place. As far as ideology is concerned, conflating these two distinct political states by calling them both “Russia” misses half the picture.
The other half of the picture is that America has changed as well.
I read an article a few years back from one of the NeoReaction bloggers (I have looked and looked, but cannot find it*) which asserted that essentially, there were only three countries in the world: China, Russia, and “the international community.” The author made this assertion after studiously researching where all of each country’s respective leaders were educated — “leadership” here referring to top administrators, cabinet-members, law-makers, etc, and not exclusively to presidents and prime-ministers. It turned out that with the exceptions of China and Russia, all of the major industrialized nations had the majority of their leadership educated in the Ivy League.
Now this may sound like an expression of American influence, or perhaps just high-quality education in the states, but neither of these explanations make sense. First, the interests of the Ivy League do not seem to align with the interests of the United States. In fact, many of the values and policies advanced through the Ivy League downright hurt America and its people and its culture. Second, the Ivy League does not keep its curriculum and courses secret. In fact, much of it is available online for free — virtually all of it if you’re willing to pay. The value in actually going to the schools, then, is not so much the knowledge as it is the connections with other future international leaders and heads of states. They all went to the same schools together, and are now on the same team together, and most of the United States is not exactly on the same team as them, despite the schools being inside the country (we might include Oxford and Cambridge as honorary exemptions from this American hegemony).
In short, America is being — perhaps already has been — overtaken by a parasitic sub-nation, complete with its own ideology, institutions, and governing body. Like most other industrialized countries, America’s brain has been infected. The educational trends show that the governing bodies of most countries are not on the same team as the people they ostensibly govern.
Russia and China are both interesting exceptions. Most of their leaders are educated in their own universities. The Neo-Reactionary blogger noted that one of China’s major law-makers had been educated in… North Korea! Diversity in knowledge, but within China’s geo-political sphere of power. No fraternizing there with the enemy: the international community.
For the American left, which has long had internationalist inclinations, leaving behind America to become the international community is a good thing. Electoral shenanigans originating in Germany, or Canada, or Britain, or Turkey (etc) are slightly irritating, but not really a problem, because those countries are inside “the Cathedral” — the neoreactionary label for the metastasized liberal-egalitarian ideology and the international interests it represents. They too are a part of the international community.
But Russia and China are not. They represent nationalist holdouts against the UN Borg. Their own versions of nationalism are, of course, different than the American kind. But still, it is only natural for right-wing American nationalists to look at Russia with a bit of camaraderie and a touch of envy.
In short, the left’s obsession with Russia has very little to do with the 2016 election per se (although I have no doubt that many uncritical and dutiful party-line towers believe wholeheartedly that Israel and Saudi Arabia’s vagaries into our electoral process are nothing compared to Russia’s vicious memes). Instead, it has everything to do with end-goals and alliances in pursuit of distinct and opposing visions of the future. Will we be one, single, hegemonic global power? Or will we be many (diverse!) nation-states with local autonomy?
Free-trade is certainly better lubed in the former scenario, making it more lucrative for the bankers and bureaucrats at the cross-roads. But for most people, I doubt those bankers’ and bureaucrats’ benefit are worth the cultural loss which would be logistically required to achieve that vision. Losing your language and your God is a tall order to give the world’s masses, and if they realized the trade-off, many would go to war against the international community with divine hatred in their hearts.
*Update: Referenced article is here: https://www.socialmatter.net/2016/03/22/the-american-colonial-office/