For two years, the Trump administration has operated from beneath a storm cloud. Allegations of collusion with a foreign government in order to secure the presidency are perhaps the most egregious crimes a president has been accused of in the modern era, making for a unique opportunity for media outlets keen to capitalize on the rising divisions within the nation’s populous.
And then, just like that, it was over. After all the hype, the accusations, the “insider” reports that seemed to spell the president’s doom, special counsel Robert Mueller’s report ended with a fizzle, rather than a bang. He found no evidence President Trump or his campaign staff colluded with the Russian efforts to see Trump elected, and while he did leave the obstruction charges without a conclusion, many Americans now can’t help but see the president’s aggressive tweeting and exasperated comments as the behavior of an innocent man who was being accused of treason. The president may not have the most polished demeanor, but it’s safe to say most of us would fray a bit at the ends as every aspect of our lives was under very public investigation for two years over suspicions of a crime you didn’t commit.
“(T)he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” — Attorney General William Barr
The cultural implications of Trump’s innocence will be far-reaching. In the United States and indeed all over the world, Trump’s name prompts references to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the man behind the influence campaign that sought to benefit from Trump’s election efforts and one of the world’s few remaining political boogeymen. Putin’s aggressive behavior and emphasis on “doomsday weapons” make him a villain through the lens of American foreign policy, but America’s embattled president has demonstrated a friendliness toward him that has left many uncomfortable. Some previously attributed this warm regard to the possibility the two were “in cahoots,” but now it seems clear Trump just recognizes Putin wanted him elected, and as such, sees an opportunity for friendly discussion.
Domestically, the liberals who long championed the idea of Russian collusion now find themselves facing a very different threat heading into the 2020 election. Throughout much of Trump’s presidency, Democrats have been able to subtlety (or not so subtlety) hint at the president’s alleged ties to the Russian government as a means to discredit his positions on anything ranging from border security to tariffs. Now, many will be faced with having to debate Trump’s initiatives head-on.
While the Democratic Party struggles to find its footing regarding complex issues like third trimester abortion, antisemitism within the party, the troubled economics associated with the Green New Deal, and the party’s shift toward socialism, Trump’s position is now stronger than ever. He’s not just a vindicated man. Now he’s got proof to back up his claims the left was after him all along.
No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2019
While President Trump remains a divisive figure who will likely not garner much support from the left as a result of being cleared of any collusion, the way in which the left-leaning media engages with Trump is going to have to shift. The possibility the president was working with a foreign government made it easier to discredit otherwise important issues like orbital defense or border security. In both cases, an argument can be made that the president’s approach to addressing these concerns may not be the most cost-effective one, but no longer can the media suggest he’s pursuing these efforts as a means to distract the public away from his dirty Russian secrets.
The Russian collusion narrative may have been an effective way to combat President Trump’s politics for the first half of this term, but now Democrats will have to face a rebounding Trump with a great deal of momentum just in time for the next election cycle to kick off. It may have seemed unlikely up to this point, but it now appears whoever wins the Democratic primary may be walking into an election that sees them as the underdog.