He’s a dangerous egomaniac who doesn’t listen to anybody. There’s not much there even when he’s all there, and now there’s reason to believe that he’s not.
No, I’m not talking about Donald Trump, but rather his old boss Vladimir Putin. And yet, maybe no one has done more to revive liberal democracy than the Russian president. Look at what’s happened since Putin started his war on Ukraine.
First, NATO, which had been fraying, has now been united and reenergized by Putin’s aggression. They’ve been reminded of why they exist: to fight off authoritarian bullies like this. Far from discouraging further NATO expansion, when this is all over, other nations, like Sweden and Finland who have never seen the need to join might find reason to reconsider. And don’t forget that NATO is essentially a military alliance set up to defend liberal democracy — even if some of its members, like Poland, strain the definition. A stronger NATO is good for democracy and liberal values.
Second, it turns out that democracy and the human need for free speech are stronger even in Russia than Putin had counted on. Russians are protesting and speaking openly about their opposition to the war. Brave Russian journalists continue to report accurately in contrast to Putin’s state-run media. At last count, Putin had jailed more than 3,000 of his opponents or opponents of his war, but they just keep coming. It’s too early to allow ourselves to hope that this might bring Putin down, but it has certainly weakened him.
Third, almost overnight, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has transformed himself into Winston Churchill. “I need ammunition, not a ride,” isn’t the kind of thing you usually see on a statue, but some day you might. He’s an unlikely hero, which makes it all the more inspiring. If a former comedian and a man of whom not much was expected can do this, why can’t any of us rise to the challenge? And he’s risking death to defend his country and democracy. For those of us who have taken our freedoms for granted, this should be an inspiration and a wake-up call.
Fourth, Trump, Mike Pompeo, Fox News and the American hard-right all look ridiculous. Well, even more so. Their fawning over Putin has backfired. Putin isn’t shrewd and strong; he’s stupid and unhinged, much like them. Yeah, I know. For his strongest supporters, it doesn’t seem to matter what Trump does, and Fox will spin this any way they want for their gullible audience. But the next election could be decided by suburban Republican-leaning voters who find Trump and his ilk embarrassing. This can’t be helping Republicans right now.
On every front, Putin and Trump (they’re the same kind of guy) are getting the opposite of what they intended. Putin/Trump is the very embodiment of the bully, the coward, the fool and the enemy of freedom. Putin/Trump is on the run right now due to its own mind-boggling miscalculation borne of its own hubris.
Thanks, Vladimir. We needed that.
And on another matter… it’s trivial in comparison to what’s going on in the world right now, but MLB now seems certain to delay Opening Day. Baseball has been losing fans steadily for decades and this will just continue the trend. But one good thing might come out of it. As Urban Milwaukee’s Bruce Murphy reports, the Brewers are gearing up to hit the taxpayers for another round of spending on their stadium. I’ve always thought that it was outrageous when billionaire team owners demand taxpayer subsidies for their own capital investments. The longer the lock out continues the harder it gets for the Brewers’ owners to convince taxpayers to pay their bills for them.