Putin bases his legitimacy on high approval ratings. To counter the Russian people’s sense that they have no say in how they are governed, Kremlin propagandists must sell the story that Western democracies have it worse. Downtrodden Americans, they say, face poverty, hunger, racial and ethnic discrimination, unemployment, and they are governed by corrupt, inept, greedy, dysfunctional, and feuding politicians who sell out to the highest bidder on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley. This brings us to how the ballyhooed Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election has given Putin a gift that keeps on giving—a paralyzed federal government, incapable of compromise, in which a significant portion of the governing class questions the legitimacy of a new president.
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