The manchurian candidate

If you were to read the interpretation put forth by the main stars-and-stripes media outlets from November 8th until today, you would walk away with a strong conviction that Donald Trump was the ultimate Manchurian Candidate. Such an interpretation is, for the time being, off target.

By now, it’s clear that there is, at the very least, a singularly cosy rapport between what was then the Trump campaign –  and what is now the Trump Cabinet – and Russia. Mr. Paul Manafort, who took on the role of Chairman of the Campaign in June, comes to mind. Mr. Manafort was a close advisor, among other things, to Russian friendly-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and a lobbyist for the Russian government.

Mr. Michael Flynn, a national security advisor, had repeated contacts with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador to the United States when President Obama announced sanctions against Russia. Mr. Flynn, oblivious that the FBI taps into the phones of the Russian delegation to the United States, allegedly discussed such sanctions with the Ambassador.

This could represent a potential infringement of the Law, as no private citizen can conduct foreign policy.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also had conversations with Mr. Kislyak in 2016. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was, before acting as such, the CEO of energy giant ExxonMobil, a company which has multiple investments and connections with Russia.

At this point, two things need to take place. First, President Trump needs to release his tax returns. There is just no way around it. It doesn’t take a humongous deal of imagination to envisage that Russia has something on the President. We don’t exactly know what that is, but it is plausible to surmise that is something related to President Trump’s business dealings in Russia and with the Russians. The only way to shed light on this matter is to take a look at the President’s tax returns. Possibly, given the situation, President Trump might actually benefit from lifting the veil as he could say, if indeed the tax returns were to reveal nothing, in his usual fashion, “See? I told you there was nothing to worry about. Fake news. Sad.”. Until the disclosure takes place, the frenzy will perdure.

Second, there must be an independent investigation into any possible coordination/collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

We already know that Russia tried to influence the election. This investigation should look into a possible coordination between the Trump camp and Russia in doing so.

In other words, did Russia go at it alone or were they organizing with the Trump campaign? Should this investigation reveal that any sort of these activities took place, then it’s impeachment talk. Even if the investigation produced evidence of such collusion, this alone would not ultimately prove that President Trump won because of Russian support: it would prove that the Trump campaign committed something illegal, not that this collusion had such an influence in the election to change its outcome.

Taking this next step would depend very much not on the closeness of the relationship, but on how effective the relationship was in influencing the election. Until we’ll have real evidence, we’ll have to presume that Donald Trump was not recruited by the Russian government to run for the Presidency, that he did not receive support of any kind from Russian officials and the influence machine was not powerful enough to affect the ultimate outcome. This leads us to voiding the interpretation I mentioned in the first few rows and scrambling for a different one. How did a reality TV star ended up winning the most improbable race for the White House in the last century?

President Trump was able to seem receptive to what Arlie Hochschild calls in her book Strangers In Their Own Land the “anger and the mourning” of the American people. Trump seemed to care about the anger that “the forgotten men” feel, wrathful with their government’s corruption and with a President who they felt was not “theirs”. Trump seemed to care about the mourning that “the forgotten men” feel in States like Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, which were once the core of the American economy and are now studded with cities in disrepair.

President Trump won the elections because the Democrats decided to shovel down the people’s throat the most establishment candidate possible in an era where people would happily blow Washington up. The Democrats have abandoned the working class by whose side, from FDR to LBJ, they used to stand. “The Party of The People” turned into “The Party of the Few”.

But President Trump did not win. The Democrats lost. And Russia has nothing to do with that.

If the Russian Connection has any relevance, then, for what we know at the moment, it is not because it explains the election results, but because it could explain from where certain (foreign) policy positions will come. As for that Election thing, keep calm and ask the Democrats.

Marco Canal
Aspirante economista, lettore, amante dei dibattiti intellettuali e gin&tonic, alpinista, film il pane, viaggio il vino e i Pink Floyd come religione. Pecca di insaziabile curiosità, battuta facile, smodata ambizione e decisione. Alea iacta est.

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