Vladimir Putin’s Useful Idiots

As Biden’s push to defend democracy is seen by many as too little too late, the twenty first century’s John Birchers continue to deny that the United States was ever intended to be a democracy. They parrot the talking points of earlier demagogues while exhibiting no depth of knowledge and little interest in developing any. They say the word democracy doesn’t appear anywhere in the U.S. Constitution, even though the first three words of the Preamble clearly define it.

Excessively prominent, mammon serving evangelicals, continue to hijack pulpits once used to glorify the Way, the Truth, and the Life. They instead use them to promote numerous backroads to Hell, a reckless indifference to the Truth, and a perpetual orgy of darkness and death. On January the 13th in 2022, the Republican National Committee publicly announced it may prohibit future GOP presidential nominees from participating in official general election debates. Their scheme, to compel the most uninformed consent of the governed, is intended to bring government of, by, and for the people to an end.

Corrupting the election process, under the banner of Election Integrity, is the inevitable consequence of dark money politics. The foreign potentates, that exploit the so-called free speech rights of American corporations, gained that advantage through the Supreme Court’s sociopathic notion of corporate personhood. Autocrats have been granted the license they use for distorting our national dialogue. When every debauched value proposition is packaged for simpleton consumption, our only option for going forward is to stop acting like simpletons.

In 1765, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote six books. The last in the series contained a sentence that has gracefully transcended the intervening centuries and is commonly translated as: “I remembered the last resort of a great princess who, when told that the peasants had no bread, replied: “Then let them eat cake.”

Whenever a controlling interest in a corporation is held by outside investors, the corporation is no longer composed of people associating for a common purpose and acting corporately. It becomes systematically dumbed down. The employees suffer tamped down wages and hollowed out benefits packages at the behest of despots, the likes of which have been handling slaves for thousands of years. And now they complain about people’s reluctance to again participate in an economy replete with dead-end jobs. The Great Resignation may just represent a glimmer of new hope on the horizon. As people reduce their dependence on those industries with a history of exploitation, the implications for democracy are slowly coming into view. 

In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev promoted glasnost (“openness”) and perestroika (“restructuring”) in an attempt to overcome the Soviet Union’s economic stagnation and stunted growth. These initiatives promised the “utmost respect for the individual citizen and favorable consideration for protecting one’s personal dignity.” By creating a dependable and effective mechanism for accelerating economic and social progress, Gorbachev hoped to encourage initiative and creative endeavor.

Gorbachov gained authority to create joint-stock companies out of state enterprises. The shares became available on stock exchanges. As privatization became a primary goal of the new Russian Federation, vouchers were circulated equally throughout the general population between 1992 and 1994. The wide distribution, which included minors, had a participation rate of 98%. It started as an equal distribution of national wealth, based upon the conversion of state-owned enterprises to promote share-holder stakes that would be held, enjoyed, and controlled by Russian citizens.

Self-centered forces wasted no time in turning that benevolent vision into a variety of schemes to exploit the poor. What started as a largely equal distribution of national wealth became concentrated within the ranks of management as the starving masses relinquished whatever they may have held of any value, including personal shares, settling for fire-sale prices just so they could buy foodstuffs. When they did scrape up a little cash, they faced the bleak reality of purchasing power that was dramatically reduced.

Vladimir Putin commanded the FSB, a successor to the KGB, as Director. He was later appointed as Prime Minister and uniquely positioned to benefit personally from the rise of the oligarchs. Because he had organized the transfer of the assets from the former Soviet Union and Communist Party to the Russian Federation, he knew where the real value was. As a former Lieutenant Colonel of the KGB, he also knew where the bodies were buried.

As the gamesmanship over vouchers and loans for shares played out, one such grabber, an oil oligarch, ran afoul of Putin and was put on trial. Putin arranged for the Defendant to be seated in a cage at the center of the courtroom. According to the prevailing legend, one by one the other oligarchs came to Putin and asked: “How do we stay out of cages?” Putin’s answer: “Fifty percent.”

For Putin, working “useful idiots” like Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump is child’s play. For us, the challenge is to recapture the wisdom of the American colonists. Edmond Burke once described them as “able to sniff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.” Can we regain that ability while mustering the courage to confront Putinesque prevaricators?

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