Monday, December 26, 2016

Why Is Putin Very Popular In Russia Despite Bad Economy?

Bill Clinton famously said that "It is the economy stupid" to describe his successful political campaign.  The economy was bad and he was going to fix it.  That was a winning message and it is typically important to the popularity of political leaders.  That is not the case in Russia.  Vladimir Putin's popularity has reached levels that would make any political leader jealous.  The great majority of Russians approve of his performance despite slow economic growth and cuts in government spending on social programs.  Putin's popularity is based upon his performance as a geopolitical leader.  Russians approve of his adventures in Crimea and Ukraine as well as other things that he done to elevate Russia's role in an evolving new political order.  National pride is a powerful force and Putin has managed it very well.  His success is also based upon his control of the information that is available to the public.  If he were unable to control the Internet like other western leaders he would be less able to keep his supporters happy with a diet of national pride.  As someone once said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels".  George Bush exploited the wave of patriotism that followed the 9/11 attack in New York to justify his invasion of Iraq.  The media supported him initially, but eventually turned on him when no weapons of mass destruction were found and his popular support eroded along with his poor performance in Iraq and the resulting upheaval in the Mid East.  His popularity plummeted because he could not control the news.  Donald Trump will continue to attack the established media in order to implement his very dangerous agenda which requires him to be less subject to the checks and balances in our democracy.   He understands that autocrats depend upon the control of information.  Real journalism is the enemy of autocracy.

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