The irony is that if anyone is exhibiting a “Soviet-style” mind-set, it’s not the Democrats. It’s the party whose supreme leader claims he is a “stable genius,” that he knows more about every subject than any expert (e.g., “I know more about ISIS than the generals do”), and that in his “great and unmatched wisdom,” he can do no wrong. This is all too reminiscent of the way that Soviet propaganda deified Joseph Stalin as a “genius,” “our best collective farm worker,” “our shockworker,” the “beloved” and wise “Father of Nations.”
Soviet apparatchiks once competed to sing the praises of the party leader. Now with polls showing that roughly half of the country favors the president’s impeachment and removal, retired Army colonel Douglas Macgregor proclaimed on Fox News: “Donald Trump plays chess in multiple dimensions simultaneously. He has now checkmated all of his potential opponents, his competitors.” Trump’s own press secretary swatted aside recent criticism from former chief of staff John F. Kelly, saying, “I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great president.”
At meetings of the Supreme Soviet, party leaders knew they had to show lockstep loyalty — or else. For some reason I was reminded of this when a reporter asked House Republican leaders: “Will you all go on record and say that the president did nothing inappropriate?” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) immediately led fellow Republicans in a robotic chant of “yes” despite overwhelming evidence that the president used military aid to try to extort Ukraine into helping his reelection campaign.
But then the Republican attitude toward facts is as cavalier as the Soviets’. Just as Soviets were once fed the party line from Pravda, so now Republicans get it from Fox News. Thus Republicans purport to believe Trump’s farcical claim that his conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — in which Trump demanded an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and of matters supposedly related to the 2016 campaign hacking — was “perfect.” They see nothing amiss when Trump tweets that the “Impeachment Hoax is hurting our Stock Market” and the very next day boasts “Stock Market up BIG!” Anything that the supreme leader says, no matter how nonsensical or contradictory, must be true; anything that casts him in a negative light, no matter how accurate and well-documented, must be false.
Stalin purged former allies known as the Old Bolsheviks in the 1930s because he saw them as a threat to his personal rule. Trump takes delight in maligning old Republicans, claiming that the late Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) wasn’t a war hero because he was captured, and that Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) is a “pompous ass” who is “playing right into the hands of the Do Nothing Democrats.” Trump’s purge has been all too successful, as seen from the House GOP unanimously voting against impeachment proceedings. Trump has even appropriated the very terms that Stalin employed for his foes by calling them “human scum” and the “enemy of the people.”
To justify the elimination of party rivals, Stalin posited elaborate and implausible conspiracy theories in which the accused were said to be plotting with his exiled rival, Leon Trotsky, and various foreign states to murder him and break up the Soviet Union. Trump and his supporters argue that everything bad that happens to him is the result of a fantastical and incomprehensible “deep state” plot orchestrated by demon figures such as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, former CIA director John Brennan and investor George Soros. Trump recently endorsed a work of fiction called “The Plot Against the President,” which argues that the FBI investigation of Trump campaign ties with Russia was “a slow-moving coup” and “the biggest political scandal in U.S. history.”
Why would the FBI frame Trump but keep its investigation secret until after the election? Who can say? The workings of the deep state are as mysterious, comrade, as those of the “Anti-Soviet Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites.”
No wonder Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who emigrated to the United States as a child from the Soviet Union, felt compelled to speak out about the quid pro quo that Trump demanded from Ukraine. His family, like mine, is all too familiar with where a political cult of personality can lead. We’ve seen Soviet-style tactics before — and not in the Democrats’ pursuit of a constitutional process of impeachment.