Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Is Donald Trump America's Boris Yeltsin?

Some three weeks before Election Day, with polls essentially tied due to the margin of error,  the "Russia Card" has become a major campaign issue, with Hillary Clinton accusing Donald Trump of having Kremlin support -- both overt and covert. 

Clinton raised specter of Russian influence on Trump's campaign in the first debate, when she declared: 

"I was so shocked when Donald publicly invited Putin to hack into Americans. That is just unacceptable."

She went on to suggest Trump had business ties to Russia, then returned to the issue in the second debate:  

"...our intelligence community just came out and said in the last few days that the Kremlin, meaning Putin and the Russian government, are directing the attacks, the hacking on American accounts to influence our election. And WikiLeaks is part of that, as are other sites where the Russians hack information, we don’t even know if it’s accurate information, and then they put it out. We have never in the history of our country been in a situation where an adversary, a foreign power, is working so hard to influence the outcome of the election. And believe me, they’re not doing it to get me elected. They’re doing it to try to influence the election for Donald Trump."

Recent reports of attacks on Wikileaks have raised the specter of an escalation of "cyber-warfare" between Russia and the United States in the closing weeks of the Presidential campaign, as well as the possibility of more dangerous military confrontations in the Middle East and Europe.

It is likely that Russians would prefer a President Trump to a President Clinton. However, it is more than likely that Russian support for Trump is not based on personal business connections between Putin and Trump, but rather based upon rational calculations of their national interest. 

A precedent may be found in American influence in Russian elections of the 1990s, when Clinton administration support for reformer Boris Yeltsin may have proven decisive in his victory over the Communist Party in the 1993 Constitutional Crisis. At that time, armed factions fought pitched battles in the center of Moscow, circumstances which make our current election season look like a church picnic. Hundreds, if not thousands, were killed in Yeltsin's military assault to re-take the Russian "White House," then in the hands of his Communist opponents. Without American aid, Yeltsin may very well have been overthrown.

So, while we may not remember, it is likely Russia is taking a page from America's playbook by backing a maverick reformer in a stiff confrontation with an entrenched political establishment.

In addition, there are some obvious personal parallels between Yeltsin and Trump.

First, both are successful construction executives: Yeltsin was trained as a civil engineer in Sverdlovsk, and oversaw "crash construction" of multiple high-rise apartment complexes; Trump took over his father's company and erected his own high-rise buildings.

Second, both are considered "crude" and provincial personalities: Yeltsin was "Siberian" and known for his love of drink; while Trump came from Queens and is known for his love of the ladies.

Third, both rose through the establishment they eventually came to challenge: Yeltsin had been a Communist Party official and governor; Trump had been a big Democratic donor who even invited Hillary Clinton to his wedding. Both subsequently soured on the "insiders" and became "traitors to their class."

Fourth, both are strong anti-Communists: Yeltsin confronted the Communist Party in the 1991 coup attempt and again in the 1993 Constitutional crisis; Trump's lawyer was McCarthy sidekick Roy Cohn and he has continually attacked "Political Correctness."

No wonder that a Russian President picked by Boris Yeltsin himself would throw his support to an anti-Communist, crude, provincial, construction tycoon taking on an entrenched establishment, over a competing candidate backed by the Communist Party.

For, although little reported in the US, no doubt the Russian President is well aware that John Bachtell, national chair of Communist Party, USA endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. He declared that "Trump is a danger to the whole world..." and so Communists must work with the Democratic Party for a Clinton victory, because: "Any substantive change in domestic and foreign policy begins by blocking Trump from the presidency and breaking the GOP majorities in Congress."

So, in this year's US Presidential election, Vladimir Putin is backing the anti-Communist in the race by supporting Donald Trump--just as Bill Clinton did in the 1990s, when he supported Boris Yeltsin in Russia. Turnabout is fair play, indeed.

Of course, we now know that history was on his side, because Yeltsin won, and Putin is in Moscow.

However, whether Donald Trump is on the right side of history, is yet to be determined...