E.M. Forster once said of long novels that “when read, [they] are usually overpraised, because the reader wishes to convince others and himself that he has not wasted his time.” This delusion is the great sin of the American liberal, and the book in question is the Mueller report. Attorney general William Barr summarized the investigation’s principal conclusions to Congress on March 24, concluding that “[t]he special counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.” Naturally, so-called “resistance” liberals were quick to latch onto a small qualifier to the statement from the report, which Barr attributes as a direct quote from Mueller: “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Even with the principal investigation concluded, and a reasonably successful yield of thirty-four guilty pleas or indictments produced, no massive presidency-ending revelation by Mueller has brought the Trump administration to its knees. The “establishment left” seems incapable of accepting that.
Of course, this does not mean that the incredibly corrupt Trump organization – helmed by the Great Crook himself – is exonerated as U.S. President Donald Trump so brazenly claimed upon the release of the report. It simply means that liberals put too much emphasis on one of the few crimes for which he is not guilty. There was nothing preventing Russiagate adherents from focusing on Trump’s well-documented and easily traceable campaign finance violations, or the likely possibility that he committed literally hundreds of millions of dollars of tax fraud, but neither carry the same implication that Russian interference would; namely, that the results of the 2016 election were in some way fabricated. If this were the case, the Democrats would not have to address that wages of goods-producing workers have been stagnant since the mid-1970s (even despite rising productivity), or that white supremacist ideology has escalated sharply for years, or that union membership and influence has been on the decline at least since the Reagan era. To put it briefly, the results being the consequence of foreign influence was the only means by which establishment liberals can be assured that they did nothing wrong and that the virtues of neoliberal free-market thinking could be secure. Perhaps the most unsung tragedy of this massive national embarrassment is that we are now hindered in pursuing Trump’s actual documentable crimes, with any further inquiry easily refuted by simply recalling this past “exoneration.”
The enduring criticism that the Democrats will have to answer in 2020 is not the efficacy of the investigation in rooting out illegal activity (bank and securities fraud, making false statements to the FBI, and failure to report foreign assets, among other questionable pursuits) so much as these grandiloquent hallucinations about clandestine foreign operatives deciding our elections. Russiagate was a narrative bolstered by the media, establishment Democrats, and the wider “resistance” as a means of circumventing a more impractical, and far more bleak, reality – that the American people would rather take their chances with a complete charlatan, an inveterate, babbling dupe and criminal completely bereft of anything resembling a moral compass, than sustain the neoliberal Third Way politics of the modern Democratic Party. At the end of the day, this is what Russiagate fanatics refuse to believe; we were deceived not by some nefarious council of foreign enemies, but by our own failure to anticipate the issues plaguing the populace, and the seedy con-men waiting in the shadows to offer an alternative.