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."