A commenter responded with dismay to my post about how the story of Russian influence in the US election was being treated as a fact by supporters of the Democratic party despite the thinness of the evidence being presented, writing:
So having just watched Trump win the election using blatant lie after blatant lie left-wingers get a story dropped in their laps which could be used to attack and delegitimize his entire presidency and what do they do with it? Waste their time fretting over whether or not the allegations are true.
God I hate my side sometimes.
I can understand the frustration that the commenter feels and it is an interesting argument. When one faces an opponent for whom the truth does not seem to matter in the least, should one be willing to abandon truth too if one has the chance to discredit him? I think that the line here divides between strong partisans of the two parties and those who think that even in the worst of times, truth does matter and one should not abandon the normal standards of evidence.
There is no question that for Trump and for many of his supporters, any lie in the service of getting him elected was justifiable. But should those who oppose Trump respond in kind? To do so is to take a road similar to the one that took us into the Iraq war where we were asked to overlook the lack of any credible evidence that Saddam Hussein presented any imminent threat to the US. The fact that he was an ‘evil doer’ was supposed to be enough. Although delegitimizing a Trump presidency using an unsubstantiated Russian government hacking story may not seem to have the same level of seriousness, Norman Solomon disagrees. He describes the eagerness with which some Democratic partisans have seized on this issue and writes that it carries with it its own dangers.
Such eagerness to share undocumented spin as absolute fact has led many progressive groups to go with knee-jerk reactions. Bent on gaining a propaganda advantage over Trump, those reactions are helping to stampede this country toward a modern form of McCarthyism — as well as brinkmanship with Russia that could lead to a cataclysmic military conflict.
Zeal to blame Russia for a bad election outcome has spread like contagion among countless self-described progressives, understandably appalled by the imminent Trump presidency. But those who think they’re riding a helpful tiger could find themselves devoured later on.
If civil liberties instead of repression and diplomacy instead of war are progressive values, then all too many progressives — eager to tar Trump as a Kremlin product — have been undermining those values.
Of all the good reasons to “delegitimate” Trump, alleged Kremlin intervention in the election should rank quite low. Trump’s evils are huge, with a very incomplete list including vast greed, pathological lying, contempt for facts, enthusiasm for oligarchy, bigotry, environmental destruction, racism, misogyny, economic injustice, voter suppression and rampant conflicts of interest.
While echoing the anti-Russia themes belted out by Democratic Party officials and loyalists, the chorus on the left may think it’s merely grabbing the low-hanging political fruit of this historical moment. But the fruit is already turning rancid, and apt to become poisonous. It won’t be the first time in recent decades when liberals and others thought they were being clever and politically adroit as they aided and abetted the suppression of principles found in the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments, while helping to gear up the machinery of war.
Let’s face it: Some of the fierceness of media attacks on Trump, such as from de facto neoconservative liberal-tinged entities like the Washington Post, is propelled by rage that his stance toward Russia lacks the neocon qualities that a Hillary Clinton presidency offered.
Like Solomon and so many others, I am appalled by the prospect of the damage that a Trump presidency can wreak on the country and the world. But apart from my personal distaste at abandoning a policy of providing credible evidence when making serious charges, I think that putting so much effort into following a trail that might lead to a dead end can backfire, because one can be manipulated to lose all credibility.