Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Russia Is the Dividing Line for Republicans

Ronald Reagan never said it literally, but surely he must have many times thought: "The only good Russian is a dead Russian." Russia was the Evil Empire and it was an article of faith at that time that every Republican hated Russia. How times have changed. Now many Republicans are pro-Russia, something Reagan would have regarded as an unforgivable sin. But some Republicans are anti-Russia, so Russia is an issue that is causing a deep schism among the Republicans in Congress. So far, it hasn't mattered, but it is never a good sign for a party to be deeply divided on a major issue.

Donald Trump is the main supporter of Russia. Nobody really knows why. Two theories are: (1) Russian President Vladimir Putin has kompromat on him and is effectively blackmailing Trump or (2) Trump is sucking up to Putin to get permission to build Trump Tower Moscow, which would be the tallest building in Europe (possibly with the entire top floor being a penthouse given to Putin as a gift). Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is scared witless of Trump and parrots whatever he says. He is also doing his level best to block all aid to Ukraine to demonstrate his obedience to Trump. What Johnson really thinks is a mystery.

On the other hand, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley is constantly warning that the U.S. needs to aggressively confront autocrats and dictators like Putin. Mitch McConnell, who's still Minority Leader for another 6 months, is also old school and hates Putin and Russia. Many Republican senators are with McConnell, although some of them are scared to say it out loud. Former representative Liz Cheney is with McConnell and not shy about talking about it, loudly saying that de facto, Johnson supports Putin.

A bipartisan group of representatives have put together a compromise plan that provides aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, but also beefs up security on the Mexican border, something Johnson has said he wants. Now he has it but hasn't brought it to a vote. One of the authors of the plan, Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY), one of the Biden 17 whose D+3 district covers northern Westchester County and all of Putnam and Rockland Counties, said: "Vladimir Putin is a vile thug and dictator and he needs to be held accountable for his conduct, for his actions. He is not our friend. He is not our ally, and his conduct in Ukraine and in his own country is indefensible." These are not words Trump wants to hear from a fellow Republican.

Haley may drop out in a few weeks, but Lawler is running for reelection. He and various other Republicans are going to be supporting a policy that directly opposes what Trump wants. Will Trump support their primary opponents? He might, but the result might be to convert House races with an incumbent Republican into open-seat races, which are much easier for the Democrats to flip. While foreign policy is rarely the key issue in an election unless the U.S. is involved in a shooting war somewhere, Trump's support for Russia and many other Republicans' hatred of Putin could endanger some Republicans in suburban districts like Lawler's and thus threaten the Republicans' House majority. (V)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates