A Desire for Stability at Home
Could an unhinged Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine motivate some Republicans to seek peace and greater unity with their counterparts across the aisle?
I’m glad to see the unusual unity among American elected officials in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Twelve days in, that unity seems to be growing. Even vocal admirers of Vladimir Putin (with one notable exception) have largely figured out they will be on the wrong side of history if they continue to cheerlead for the Russian president and his accelerating butchery.
By most accounts, President Joe Biden’s new budget request for $10 billion in aid for Ukraine is likely to get strong bipartisan support. This includes $4.8 billion to cover everything from military weapons supplies, deployment of US troops to NATO countries, increased intelligence and cybersecurity support, as well as another $4.25 billion for economic and humanitarian assistance for Ukrainians, including refugees who have already escaped the country.
This shared impulse was on display throughout the early part of Biden’s State of the Union last week. “Freedom will always triumph over tyranny,” Biden asserted, and Republicans joined Democrats in a standing ovation.
Of course, this necessary unity provides a vivid contrast with the failure to grasp the danger of an untethered sociopath in our own country. It raises anew the question of how to get more Americans to understand the risk of not stopping an autocratic bully before his intensifying grievances, instinct for retribution and unchecked power motivate him to incite more violence.
It’s not a profound insight to say that self-knowledge is harder to achieve than the ability to perceive and know what others are doing. No matter how often we look in the mirror, we can never see what’s really going on without the cloud of misperceptions, insecurities, doubts and other delusions, good or bad.
But the remarkable unanimity now toward Ukraine demonstrates our capacity to comprehend when a line has been crossed and humanity must come together to act. Even as our leaders continue to negotiate responses and possible solutions with allies to stop Putin’s deadly aggression, there’s little doubt there’s a collective understanding that something must be done. Amid the heart-wrenching atrocities, this is a reason for hope.
It would be naïve to assume this unified US response offers a reason for confidence that unity among Democrats and Republicans over the rising threat of autocracy and anti-democratic political violence is now on the horizon. But I’m reluctant to concede that this is a hopeless cause.
Perhaps I should. Perhaps, more cynical observers will assert, we must assume that Republicans have decided their only path to get and keep power requires permanently rejecting democratic values, including denying equal access to voting and minimizing the criminal consequences of the January 6 insurrection. Yes, there are some or even many Republicans, now rejecting Putin and supporting Ukraine, who primarily see political advantage as gas prices continue to rise in the weeks and months ahead as a result of the war.
But sometimes historical events can dislodge what seemed stuck and unchangeable. Maybe this is one of those moments, when the visible reality of having let the murderous thug of Moscow go unchecked—or, worse, encouraged—causes actual conservatives to seek greater stability at home and even rethink their choices of the previous five years.
Consider this from the former Vice President, he of the once-adoring gaze toward the boss who never had a harsh word for Putin and weeks ago called him a genius. “Ask yourself,” Mike Pence said in a speech Friday before GOP donors, “where would our friends in Eastern Europe be today if they were not in NATO? Where would Russian tanks be today if NATO had not expanded the borders of freedom? There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin.”
Maybe, just maybe, it’s possible that there will be sufficient fatigue toward Russia’s war on foreign soil to motivate efforts to keep the peace at home. Maybe, just maybe, a few more Republicans will decide they want to give peace a chance with their fellow Americans, rather than continue to egg on violent extremists.
Yes, maybe I’m a dreamer. But, as Mr. Lennon said many years ago, I’m not the only one.
A few closing notes:
As conversation increases about banning Russian oil and gas, consider this:
If you haven’t seen this video from a Russian prisoner of war, it’s worth your time:
And finally, there’s this for a moment’s reprieve. I can’t explain the role of the bear in this workout program—or count how many times it’s made me laugh.
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