I’ve seen variations on this question raised in traditional and social media. At the mass level, the easy answer is partisanship. So long as Pres. Trump associates’ contacts with Russia are under investigation, Trump will be inclined to dismiss said investigation and his supporters will follow.
At the elite level, I think there’s more at work.
More traditional foreign policy conservatives may be the faction that feels most alienated by Trump’s nomination, election, and administration — even more so than fiscal conservatives, which is saying a lot. Trump’s success was in significant part a rebuke of Dubya-era foreign policy, at both a mass and elite level, coming from people whose disposition (stated or otherwise) may range from the alt-right to paleocons to libertarians to Jacksonians. And it could be argued that foreign policy conservatives also may be the faction with the least attachment to the GOP, which makes it easier for them to lash out rhetorically.
From the point of view of many Trump supporters — rightly or not — checking Russia simply ranks pretty low on their list of political priorities. Moreover, many of them may consider Pres. Bush looking into Putin’s heart, or Pres. Obama’s ill-fated “reset” and figure Trump was simply being more honest about America’s attitude toward Russia than capital-N Neocons were. And they may wonder why some conservative critics are still freaking out after Trump’s first-year record of adding to sanctions imposed by Obama in 2014-16 (including Magnitsky Act sanctions), seizing Russian diplomatic property, opening arms sales to to Ukraine, and LNG and Patriot sales to Poland.
Mind you, if you get further into the weeds on those issues, or look at what Trump’s policy (if any) is in Syria, I think the Trump supporters’ p.o.v. is debatable. The thing is that there is very little debate about it within the conservative commentariat, let alone the GOP.
Some of Trump’s loudest critics on foreign policy focus on his intemperate tweets and comments, and his trying-to-look-guilty-of-collusion behavior regarding Russia and the Trump-Russia probe and — while those things are troubling — it echoes the “How could you?” response so many had to Trump’s comments and behavior all through the campaign. It should have become apparent long ago that “How could you?” is not really an argument, let alone one that moves Trump supporters.
Trump’s critics might get further focusing on their specific, substantive disputes with Trump’s foreign policies than joining the establishment left’s fixation with an investigation that so far has yet to implicate anyone in direct collusion with the Russians during the 2016 campaign (though Junior, Jared, and Manafort went to a meeting where top-secret Russian dirt on Clinton was supposed to be on offer). If such direct evidence emerges, the critics will be well-positioned politically. If it does not, they will have wasted a lot of time that could have been used trying to persuade their fellow conservatives or Republicans they are correct, instead of rhetorically taking their ball and going home.
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