Then again, this growing Putin admiration among conservatives probably reflects two dynamics. The first, one we’ve seen on numerous fronts in this election, is the corrosive effect this Republican nominee has on the principles and long-held beliefs of conservatives, in general.
Rationalizing your nominees’ inconsistencies isn’t unique. It’s conventional behavior from partisans in every election in every political party. What makes 2016 different is, 1) Conservatives outside find themselves outside their comfort zone, sometimes taking positions that contradict 40 years of philosophical positioning. 2) Trump’s stances don’t oscillate, they thrust in unknowable directions all the time — oftentimes more than once a day. Keeping up can make a partisan look more like a shady apparatchik.
The second, far more concerning aspect of this trend is that Putin-love likely reflects a genuine (once-latent) shift among Republican voters. There’s a lot of talk about how “elites” and the ruling class have led the nation to a candidate like Trump. It seems to me that in many ways, Trump’s fans pine for their own muscular ruling class.
Well, if you’re a fan of an unaccountable plutocrats, you’ll love Putin’s Russia.