Russia didn’t help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. O.K., it did help him, but the campaign itself wasn’t involved. O.K., the campaign had a lot of Russian contacts and knowingly received information from the Russians, but that was perfectly fine.
If you’ve been trying to follow the Republican response to revelations about what happened in 2016, you may be a bit confused. We’re not even talking about an ever-shifting party line; new excuses keep emerging, but old excuses are never abandoned. On one side, we have Rudy Giuliani saying that “there’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.” On the other side, we have Jared Kushner denying that Russia did anything beyond taking out “a couple of Facebook ads.”
It’s all very strange. Or, more accurately, it can seem very strange if you still think of the G.O.P. as a normal political party, one that adopts policy positions and then defends those positions in more or less good faith.
But if you have been following Republican arguments over the years, you know that the party’s response to evidence of Russian intervention in 2016 is standard operating procedure. On issue after issue, what you see are multiple levels of denial combined with a refusal ever to give up an argument no matter how completely it has been discredited.
I first encountered this style of argument a long time ago, over the issue of rising inequality. By the early 1990s it was already obvious that growth in the United States economy was becoming ever more skewed, with huge gains for a small minority at the top but