America’s reality TV autocrat was a homegrown creation.
As the investigation into the Capitol riots continues, Russia looms large in many people’s minds—and there are even claims that Russians were directly involved on the ground. That’s not surprising, and not just because the investigation into former President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia dominated headlines for so long.
However, the problem with trying to pin the events of Jan. 6 on Russia, or of trying to frame Trump’s actions as directed by Russians, is that it can lead Americans away from introspection about their own system’s failings, and towards blaming a larger-than-life foreign other that isn’t actually as powerful as some may think.
Obviously, Russian intelligence played a role in the 2016 election through the DNC hack, as Robert Mueller concluded. But the truth is, electing a narcissistic reality TV star with a penchant for stiffing people was, ultimately, about as American as it gets. The same goes for Trump’s performative unabashed racism. In a country with a history of racial division as deep as America’s, is it really a surprise that a man who courted the white supremacist vote could get as far as Trump did?
To be sure, the Trump clan has long resembled assorted post-Soviet dictators and their hangers-on. The aggressive tackiness, the legal nihilism, the naked corruption, the moblike mentality that replaced diplomacy with well-publicized one-upmanship—the similarities were striking.