Trump and Putin

Almost half of American voters – 48 percent – believe Donald Trump colluded with the government of Russia to win the presidency of the United States. That is the finding of our latest CNN poll conducted by SSRS. I want you to take a moment and let that sink in, because even in the weird world of modern politics it is stunning.

Russia has been America’s number one, quintessential, champion antagonist for almost as long as any living American can recall; the real-life Ivan Drago to America’s Rocky Balboa; a country dead set against U.S. ideas about democracy, freedom, personal accomplishment, religion and more.

For generations, each nation has bristled with missiles – ready at a moment’s notice to rain hell down upon the other’s cities, towns, and citizens with the indiscriminate power only nuclear weapons can pack, incinerating businesses, homes, schools, churches, and more. The two countries have used the premise of mutually assured destruction to create the most powerful military forces ever known on this planet. As a child, I lived on an Air Force base in South Dakota where B-52 bombers shook the earth, and missile silos dotted the land – all because of the Russian threat.

The two countries have spied upon each other with satellites, airplanes, submarines, state-of-the-art computer networks, and old-fashioned shoe leather spooks. We have warred in trade, space exploration, third-party conflicts, international sports, and even over chessboards.

Sure, there has been diplomacy. Gifts and visits have been traded, and of course the enmity of the past does not have to define the future. But make no mistake: at this point, Russia and the United States remain diametrically opposed to each other in many significant – even existential – ways. President Trump has insisted from the start that he had no secret deals with Russians who intelligence forces say were hacking into computers, targeting Hillary Clinton, and whipping up negativity against her. And this latest poll says about 42 percent of voters believe him.

But more voters do not. And considering Russia’s role in America’s history, again – the mere idea of such a thing is stunning.