Just like haters are gonna hate, apologists are gonna apologize.
Well, not really. As we know, the term “apologist” refers to people who rationalize and excuse reprehensible behavior. For example, if you were a spineless toady for a scatterbrained bigot but you still support him because you both dislike “woke” people, then you would be an apologist. In such cases, there is no actual apologizing taking place.
It’s just as well, because Republicans believe that saying you’re sorry is a sign of weakness. So when it comes to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many conservatives have launched into apologist mode to justify dropping bombs on children.
And that’s why we have some conservatives doubling down on their affection for despotism, praising Putin and denigrating Zelenskyy. We even have GOP-approved candidates loudly proclaiming that they have more in common with Putin’s version of Christianity than with Biden’s Catholicism, which makes me wonder if I slept through that Sunday school class where the nuns explained how Jesus poisoned all his enemies.
Still, we must give the zealots credit for honesty. These right-wingers love authoritarians and don’t care what you think about it.
However, other conservatives are not so bold. Even for people who are fine with tear-gassing nonviolent protesters and screaming “Build the wall!” at little kids, the ice-cold malevolence on display in Ukraine might be a bit much. And let’s be honest: Putin is a Bond villain come to life. Many Republicans are horrified at the guy’s eagerness to decimate entire cities.
As such, some conservatives have back-peddled on their pro-Putin cheerleading and now “recognize that they have been caught on the wrong side of history.” It’s just not cool to laud a homicidal dictator, evidenced by the fact that over three-quarters of Americans oppose the Russian invasion, with over two-thirds stating that Putin is a war criminal.
So all those people changing their Facebook profiles to the Ukrainian flag? Yeah, that’s not just liberals, and Republicans have noticed.
But this is a problem for the GOP. How can they explain that right up until the invasion, the leader of the Republican Party, their de facto messiah, lauded Putin in a continuation of his years-long ass-kissing of the tyrant? How can they sidestep the fact that just last month, Republicans viewed this modern-day Ivan the Terrible more favorably than they did Democrats?
Like all things conservative, it’s simple.
Most Republicans have escaped the ethical conundrum by embracing their well-established tactic of denying everything they ever said. Republicans routinely do this whenever it becomes irrefutable that they were horribly, terribly wrong. The ploy has provided the GOP with cover for dozens of botched decisions and vile actions over the decades.
Yes, Republicans support lunatics, pass abhorrent laws, and instigate a culture war—or even an actual war—and then pretend none of it ever happened (or better yet, blame liberals) when mainstream America at last says it’s had enough conservative insanity.
As such, you now have Republicans claiming that they never—never never never—extolled Putin or coddled his tyrannical behavior or blew kisses at his murderous ideals.
So the white supremacist who insisted that Putin wasn’t such a bad guy? Hey, that must have been some other xenophobe in a bowtie who is in constant rotation on Russia’s state-run propaganda television.
As the war lumbers along and the atrocities become more atrocious, conservatives will insist that they knew all along that this Putin guy was bad news. Republicans will deny their groveling hero worship of a power-hungry mass murderer.
However, the reality is that for conservatives, Putin represents “an attack on the secular social norms and civil rights embraced by democracies, [and] Republicans have increasingly openly admired his declared stand for ‘traditional values’ and implicit white supremacy.”
They have loved him until now, when it has become inconvenient.
And all the denial in the world won’t change that essential truth.
Featured image: Russian President Vladimir Putin (World Economic Forum/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)