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How Democrats and Progressives Undermined the Potential of the Biden-Putin Summit

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Vice President Joe Biden greets Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Vice President Joe Biden greets Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org), Author: (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann))
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No matter what happens at Wednesday's summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva, a grim reality is that Democratic Party leaders have already hobbled its potential to move the world away from the worsening dangers of nuclear war. After nearly five years of straining to depict Donald Trump as some kind of Russian agent -- a depiction that squandered vast quantities of messaging without electoral benefits -- most Democrats in Congress are now locked into a modern Cold War mentality that endangers human survival.

In the new light of atomic weaponry, Albert Einstein warned against "the outmoded concept of narrow nationalisms." But the concept is flourishing as both parties strive to outdo each other in vilifying Russia as a locus of evil. Rather than coming to terms with the imperative for de'tente between the two countries that brandish more than 90 percent of the world's nuclear warheads, the Democratic leadership at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue has been heightening the bilateral tensions that increase the chances of thermonuclear holocaust.

President Biden has excelled at gratuitous and dangerous rhetoric about Russia. As this spring began, he declared on national television that President Putin is "a killer" -- and boasted that he told the Russian leader that he has "no soul" while visiting the Kremlin in 2011. It was a repeat of a boast that Biden could not resist publicly making while he was vice president in 2014 and again while out of office in 2017. Such bombast conveys a distinct lack of interest in genuine diplomacy needed to avert nuclear war.

Meanwhile, what about self-described progressives who see themselves as a counterweight to the Democratic Party establishment? For the most part, they remained silent if not actively portraying Russia as a mortal enemy of the United States. Even renowned antiwar voices in Congress were not immune to party-driven jingoism.

Never mind that the structurally malign forces of corporate America -- and the numerous right-wing billionaires heavily invested in ongoing assaults on democracy -- appreciated the focus on Russia instead of on their own oligarchic power. And never mind that, throughout the Trump years, the protracted anti-Russia frenzy was often a diversion away from attention to the numerous specific threats to electoral democracy in the United States.

Two years ago, when the Voting Rights Alliance drew up a list of "61 Forms of Voter Suppression," not one of those forms had anything to do with Russia.

Capacities to educate, agitate and organize against the profuse forms of voter suppression were hampered by the likes of MSNBC star Rachel Maddow, whose extreme fixation on Russian evils would have been merely farcical if not so damaging. Year after year, she virtually ignored a wide range of catastrophic U.S. government policies while largely devoting her widely watched program to stoking hostility toward Russia. Maddow became a favorite of many progressives who viewed her show as a fount of wisdom.

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Norman Solomon is cofounder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and is currently a coordinator of the relaunched Bernie Delegates Network. (more...)
 

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