the national interest

Vladimir Putin, Constitutional Conservative

Vladimir Putin, strong leader. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Conservatives have a deep and completely principled belief, stemming entirely from abstract constitutional premises and not at all from partisanship or substantive opposition to his policies, that Barack Obama has governed like a dictator. Everything he does is vaguely unconstitutional, from the laws he passes through both chambers of Congress to his enforcement of laws that existed beforehand. Their cause is liberty itself and the preservation of the checks and balances crafted by our hallowed founders.

Also, many of them like Vladimir Putin. “I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country,” Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence tells CNN. “And that’s going to change the day that Donald Trump becomes president.”

Putin is a bit of an odd role model for constitutional conservatives, given the way he tends to maintain his grip on power through murder, and so on. And it is not that his Republican admirers like some of his policies despite his unfortunate authoritarianism, the way countries often have to do business with unpleasant regimes. It is precisely Putin’s authoritarianism they admire. Putin “has strong control” over Russia, coos Trump, which is indisputably true. “He’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader,” adds Trump. Trump’s idea of a leader is somebody who can crush and intimidate the opposition. And most Republicans’ idea of a leader is Trump.

Vladimir Putin, Constitutional Conservative