cwbeijer@gmail.com / About / Archive / Other media
Russiagate isn't about foreign influence. The attacks on Ilhan Omar are proof. - 3/5/19
If the ongoing political attack on Rep. Ilhan Omar proves one thing, it's that Islamophobia is alive and well in the United States - and at the highest levels of power. If it proves two things, it's that the Democratic Party is absolutely incapable of acting as a competent opposition party. And if it proves three things, it's that Democratic concerns over the influence of foreign governments are an absolute farce.

From the very start, most of the US left recognized Russiagate for what it is: an opportunistic crusade fueled by a legitimate desire to defeat Trump, a cynical drive to displace blame for Clinton's failure, and a dangerous subtext of Russophobic xenophobia. Over the past year, however, a new approach has emerged: leftists who argue that we can rehabilitate Russiagate into a principled, across-the-board critique of foreign influence. Ryan Cooper, for example, writes:
Russiagate...[is] a much better fit for conservatives and cruise missile liberals who want to punish Putin on nationalist grounds. But that is not a necessary conclusion...the main objective ought to be securing American institutions — purging them of the corruption that allows someone like Putin to waltz in and get what he wants. The American government should be responsible to the American people.
Ryan's argument echoes that of David Klion:
This is the context in which Russian interference should be understood: not as an unprecedented attack on US institutions, but as an especially dramatic example of how those institutions have been made vulnerable to manipulation by foreign governments and financial interests.
Both authors acknowledge at least some of the failings of the Russiagate discourse to date - but both also insist that we can somehow take it back and use it as a vehicle for a broader campaign against foreign influence.

The attacks on Rep. Omar, plainly fomented by lobbying groups like AIPAC and shamelessly abetted by nearly the entire Democratic establishment, should put that plan to bed once and for all. The Democratic Party clearly sees no inconsistency in its relationship with Russia and its relationship with Israel, and the reason is obvious: no one in power actually cares about the influence of foreign governments. Democrats are openly villifying the very suggestion of "dual allegiance" to another nation. They do not make a political connection between Russian influence and Israeli influence; they don't even make a conceptual connection between the two. This is not a rational discourse. We are not going to logically corner the Israeli government's allies into abandoning their politics by pointing to Vladimir Putin, and it's absurd to even try.

Leftists absolutely should be concerned about government meddling in foreign democracies, but we clearly aren't advancing that fight by letting Russiagate co-opt it. If you want to take on the blob, take on Israel - a lobby so powerful that you can get censured by acknowledging its very existence. Take on Saudi Arabia. Better yet, take on the United States, which is engaged in plenty of meddling of its own.