Trump effect: Republican support for Russia has doubled

Mr. Art of the Deal, President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote READ: Liz Cheney's speech on the House floor Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on 'crusade to undermine our democracy' MORE made a career of selling off real estate. But the biggest deal he ever made was selling out his country in Helsinki. Trump’s fulsome praise of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin before and during the Helsinki summit must have had Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan spinning in their graves.


For those of you who are too young to remember the Cold War, McCarthy was a redbaiting GOP Senator from Wisconsin who saw Russian communists under every bed. McCarthy begat Nixon who made his made his way up from Congress to the White House on an anti-Soviet crusade. Then came Mr. Evil Empire himself, Ronald Reagan.


These Republicans made political hay for a generation with accusations that just about every Democrat was a dupe of the USSR or worse. The classic example was the famous “Bear in the Woods” ad from Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign. Some say (read Democrats) the bear (read Soviet Union) is tame. Others (read Republicans) think the bear is vicious. 

McCarthy, Nixon and Reagan are all gone but the Evil Empire chugs on under a new name and new management. The names have changed but the terror remains the same. The dictatorship formerly known as the Soviet Union has become the Russian Federation and the strongman is Putin who was the head of the secret police, the dreaded KGB before his ascension to total power.

President George W. Bush famously looked into Putin’s eyes and saw the Russian leader’s soul. Bush must have had better than 20/20 vision because most people didn’t even think the Russian strongman had one.

Times have changed and so have Republican attitudes toward Russia.

The GOP is no longer the party of Ronald Reagan. The Grand Old Party is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization. NBC News just released a survey that illustrates the transition. Only 10 percent of Republican partisans saw Russia as the greatest immediate threat to the United States. Nearly Five times as many Democrats (47 percent) saw Russia as the biggest threat to American national security. 

The results of a recent Gallup Poll make the same point. Since 2014, the percentage of Republicans who consider Russia an ally has almost doubled from 22 percent to 40 percent. Democrats still have no illusions about Russian intentions since there are few Democrats now (28 percent) or four years ago (25 percent) who believe the Russians are our buddies.

The crossover point according to Gallup when more Republicans thought Russia was friend rather than foe came in March 2015. I don’t think it was a coincidence that was about the time Trump became a star on the GOP presidential stage and started his campaign to make his BFF, Vlad, a saint. 

The differences between Democrats and Republicans on Russia are striking. Trump has given new meaning to the phrase “Red State.” A Pew Research Center survey showed the proportion of Republicans who thought favorably of Putin had more than doubled (11 percent to 27 percent) between 2015 and 2017. 

A Pew Poll conducted earlier this year asked Americans whether they thought Russia’s power and influence were a major threat to the United States. Close to two-thirds of the Democrats (63 percent) said the Federation was a major threat. Like sheep going to slaughter only two-fifths of the Republican partisans felt the same way. 

A year from now, I predict Trump will declare that South Korea is an enemy of the U.S. and the focal point of all evil in East Asia. A subsequent Gallup poll will record that a large number of Republicans believe the communist regime in the North is our ally. If you think that’s far-fetched, just remember how quickly Trump recast Russia as our friend.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. (There is no relation to former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon). He is also a senior adviser to, and editor of, the blog at MyTiller.com, a social media network for politics. Contact him at brad@bannoncr.com