"It is rare that we praise Donald Trump, but meeting with both Kim Jung Un and Vladimir Putin was the right thing to do. If our goal is to build peace, then calm talks, rather than threats and military escalation, are always the better path to take."
CodePink Statement, June 17, 2018. (Emphasis in the original.)
Thus read CodePink’s remarkable and courageous statement in the wake of the Helsinki Summit. To link the word "praise" with President Trump is to invite ostracism in progressive circles – even when nuclear Armageddon is the issue. But CodePink succumbed neither to Trump Derangement Syndrome nor to the related disorder Russophobia.
Does CodePink’s statement portend the dissipation of these twin maladies? Unfortunately not. CodePink appears to remain the exception, not the rule.
To understand this, let’s turn to an "Open Letter" in The Nation on July 11, just before the Helsinki Summit, signed by a variety of individuals and appearing under the names of five organizations: RootsAction, Just Foreign Policy, World Beyond War, Progressive Democrats of America and Peace Action – a cross section of the progressive peace movement. Let’s note at the outset that some of the Letter’s signatories have done admirable work in combating Russophobia.
The title of the Open Letter is "Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security." "Secure Elections" comes first, a device for once again reminding us of the discredited conspiracy theory of "collusion" in 2016. The opening sentence reads: "Many Americans remain deeply concerned about reports of Russian interference with the 2016 election." And fully half the Open Letter deals with this issue.
This, the first half of the Open Letter, has drawn fire in an essay by Truthdig’s Robert Scheer "When Resistance Becomes Capitulation." Scheer finds the letter "an inadequate response to the jingoistic blather of the Democratic Party, and of course the GOP leadership."
Writes Scheer, "But how can the signers of The Nation statement in good conscience issue a warning about this turn of events that omits any reference to the overwhelming intrusive power of the greatest empire the world has ever experienced—our own."
Only late in the second half of the Letter (in the final sentence of the penultimate paragraph) is mention at long last made of the danger of nuclear holocaust, certainly the most important issue facing Russia and the US – and the world. This unseemly postponement reflects the strategy of the embittered Democratic Party Elite, to wit, draw attention away from the urgency of the Summit to the question of electoral interference.
Most astonishingly there is no mention of the Helsinki Summit even though the then imminent Summit clearly occasioned the Letter. Absence of mention precludes so much as a smidgen of support. And the Open Letter came at a time when an all-out effort was being made to stop the Summit and when support for it was badly needed.
It is clear why the Open Letter not take a stand clearly in favor of the Summit. The Summit was Trump’s work. This is Trump Derangement Syndrome and partisan hackery at its worst. It demonstrates that one of the greatest challenges to the peace movement is to get beyond this malady and make an objective assessment of the individual policies of Trump. Opposition to some policies should not mean an opposition to all.
It is not too late for the signatories of the Open Letter to act. The battle over Helsinki rages on. A good first step would be for The Nation to put out a document forthwith supporting the Summit. It may help generate needed support among Democrats and others for the unfolding process of Détente.
Finally let’s consider the relative severity of the two disorders, Trump Derangement Syndrome and Russophobia. The latter manifests itself primarily in what is now known as Russiagate. Debunking Russiagate and the ravings of the mainstream media thereon has become standard fare in a handful of progressive outlets. And that is to the good. But the more stubborn, mulish, unyielding obstacle to Détente with Russia is Trump Derangement Syndrome, because it stands in the way of supporting whatever moves our President makes for "getting along" with Russia, no matter their merit. Critiques of Trump Derangement Syndrome are sorely lacking on the Left – and badly needed.
Unfortunately, The Nation’s Open Letter is too heavily influenced by the sentiments of those who put hatred of Trump – and Putin – above hatred of major war, desire for Détente or fear of nuclear holocaust. Who are they? Given the interest of the Democratic Party Establishment in nourishing Trump Derangement Syndrome and Russophobia, it is not hard to imagine their identity when it comes to influencing progressives. Let’s not allow them to impose on us a mindset that precludes peace and Détente among the major powers.
John V. Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.