It’s fair to ask, why bother with the pretense of democracy?
Dictatorships are obsessed with the superficial trappings of
legitimacy and democracy, both as distraction and to sully the
meaning of these terms. And after decades of liquidating the
opposition and crushing all dissent, a despot might even enjoy
thinking that he’s as popular as the worthless polls, elections
and state media say he is.
These sham votes aren’t only to provide Putin with cover in
Russia, where civil society barely exists, but to give foreign
leaders the pretext of treating Putin like an equal instead of
confronting him like the autocrat he is. It also allows foreign
media to continue calling him “president,” putting him on par with
the leaders of free countries. As with every tyrant before him,
Putin thrives partly due to the cowardice of those who could deter
him but choose not to.
These aren’t just semantics. It would be awkward, even outrageous,
to make deals with dictator Putin, to trust him, or to speak
fondly of him the way President Donald Trump does. The title feeds
the hypocrisy, and so the myth of Putin the elected, Putin the
popular, must be perpetuated.
Part of the de-Trumping of America should be to stop treating Putin as an elected official.