Donald Trump held a rally in Lewis Center, Ohio, on Saturday, his third rally of the week, according to The Washington Post, and 22nd rally since his inauguration on January 20, 2017 — a rate of more than one rally every four weeks. At the Ohio rally, Trump reheated his regular attack against the ongoing investigation into his 2016 campaign’s collusion with Russia as “a Democrat-inspired witch hunt!”
But what captured the attention of Trump-watchers on the social media platform Twitter was not Trump’s own comments about Russia, but a photograph of two Trump supporters, middle-aged men, one sporting a trademark red “Make America Great Again” cap — and both clad in T-shirts bearing an unusual slogan: “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.” The photo was also posted on the internet forum Democratic Underground.
The shirts appeared to be the latest example of the Republican party’s recently discovered adoration for the Russian state under Vladimir Putin. As Brookings Institute Fellow James Kirchick wrote in Politico last year, “Russia has been targeting the American right since at least 2013, the year Putin enacted a law targeting pro-gay rights organizing and delivered a state-of-the-nation address extolling Russia’s ‘traditional values’ and assailing the West’s ‘genderless and infertile’ liberalism.” That same year, a Kremlin-linked think tank released a paper declaring Putin, “World Conservativism’s New Leader.”
Annnnd they’re finally being completely honest: They’re not Americans anymore. pic.twitter.com/ab0zpScFQK
— Charles Gaba (@charles_gaba) August 5, 2018
The photo, which was retweeted numerous times, was taken by Jeremy Pelzer for Cleveland.com.
Last month, as The New York Times reported, federal prosecutors brought charges against a 29-year-old Russian woman, Maria Butina, accusing her of infiltrating the National Rifle Association as part of a Russian intelligence operation to promote Putin’s agenda through the gun rights group — and other American conservative groups as well.
As New York Magazine reported, in an analysis of Putin’s relationship to Trump and the conservative movement, “Vladimir Putin has cultivated a mix of overt and covert influence with a wide array of right-wing politicians throughout the West…. There is the openly shared ideology of white nationalism, with its belief that Christian Europe should ally with Russia against the common terrorist foe.”
The “Rather Be A Russian” shirt sported by the Trump supporters in Sunday’s viral photo appears to fit into the ongoing reported pattern of Putin’s cultivation of Trump and the American far right, as former world chess champion and outspoken Putin foe Garry Kasparov noted.
I’m sure Putin would be happy to have them. Gullible consumers of nationalist propaganda are always welcome in Putin’s Russia. https://t.co/nM5yXpB4ZJ
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) August 5, 2018
The unstated part of this sentiment is “at least Russians are white”: https://t.co/VSmi9qjYTm
— Leah McElrath (@leahmcelrath) August 5, 2018
Trump's base is ready to renounce U.S. citizenship to own the libs.https://t.co/drcCipIDWy
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) August 5, 2018
Not all conservatives got on board with the new love of Russia, however, as the American Enterprise Institute’s Norman Ornstein made clear.
The level of cowardly surrender by Trumpists is just pathetic. It may start at the mass level with t-shirt slogans like “I’d rather be Russian than Democrat.” But worse is Republicans in Congress. Not a peep from Ways and Means as Trump usurps the fundamental power of the purse.
— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) August 5, 2018
As did National Review Online editor Jonah Goldberg.
What I love is this stuff is supposed to a sign of a healthy new nationalism. “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat” is a very weird form of “nationalism.” https://t.co/TGzORgAUgX
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) August 5, 2018
Others, like former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, were simply disgusted by the Trump supporters in their Russia shirts.
Republicans, your failure to stand up to Trump’s disinformation campaign caused this. The end result would make Putin proud—Americans proudly choosing Russia over their fellow Americans. https://t.co/O6O4OUdqE9
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) August 5, 2018
The only ones more ignorant than Trump are the ones who voted for him. Look at the shirts that says I would rather be Russian then a Democrat. Do they not realize the Democrats as well as Republicans are Americans ? pic.twitter.com/lBOVlwDDS6
— Amici Journal (@amici09) August 5, 2018
And this is the state of the Republican Party because the Republican base is against sharing power with non-white people. They LITERALLY would rather be allied with a foreign hostile power. https://t.co/qHMVSSlBQs
— HawaiiDelilah (@HawaiiDelilah) August 5, 2018
This about sums up the Republican party right now. pic.twitter.com/Kh1G3QocZD
— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) August 5, 2018
The photo went viral on the same day that, as The Inquisitr reported, Trump himself admitted for the first time that his son Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, with a group of Russians including a Kremlin-linked lawyer was set up expressly for the purposes of obtaining information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.