But broadly, Republican elected officials and the think tanks that advise them are staunchly pro-Ukraine; conservative talkers (especially on TV and social media) are varying degrees of anti-Ukraine. Russia-Ukraine is becoming a trial of strength, not only between Putin and NATO, but between different parts of the conservative world. Over the past half-dozen years, such intra-conservative disputes have usually ended in abject defeat for Republican elected officials. In New York magazine this week, for example, Jonathan Chait details the long, slow yielding of Republican politicians to anti-vax delusions.
Yet some signs show that with Ukraine and Putin, the conservative entertainment complex may have overstepped. A new poll by the Pew Research Center finds that large majorities of Americans view Russia as an enemy or a competitor. Large majorities regard the Russian buildup against Ukraine as a threat to U.S. interests. Even more interesting, Pew finds—for once—no significant partisan disagreement between Republicans and Democrats over the Russia-Ukraine issue. Conservative talkers don’t always win their battles against Republican elected officials, who successfully prevented Trump from appointing underqualified personal loyalists to the Federal Reserve Board, for example.
Trump, who in the past was always ready to speak warmly of Putin, may sense that neither the American public nor the majority of his own party is with the Fox News universe on aiding Ukraine. He released a vague statement limited to bragging nonspecifically that the crisis at the Ukraine-Russia border would not be happening if he were still president, edging away from his anti-Ukraine media allies. Florida Governor Ron Desantis, a would-be Trump successor, has made no statement on the Russia-Ukraine issue at all.