One research technique our firm employs is focus groups. A small group of people gather to discuss an issue, candidate, or product. We look for common language or terms people use to describe a person or product. On our trip to Central and Eastern Europe, we were in a number of countries that were behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.
During the Cold War Americans heard about the "bad" Soviets. I talked to some people who actually lived during the Soviet occupation of their countries. Most were kids during this time and were coming of age when the Soviet Union collapsed. They all talked about shortages of food, clothes, and fuel. The word that was continually repeated, however, was hopelessness. They felt things would never be better. Their parents seemed always to be sad and often frightened.
I recalled in Dante's Inferno, the sign over Hell reads, "Abandon all Hope Ye Who Enter Here." When a regime can take away hope, there is nothing left for people.
Which brings me to politics today. The Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, was part of this oppressive regime. He was a KGB officer (the Soviet version of the CIA) in East Germany. He was one of the people in charge of terrorizing the population.
Whether you think the Trump-Russian connection is "high treason" or "a witch hunt", America cannot lose sight that Putin is trouble, wishes us nothing but ill will, and came from the Soviet system that knew how to take away a peoples' hope. While we are focused on Muslims and have spent more than a decade trying to nation build in Afghanistan and Iraq, Putin is EMPIRE building. I heard a historian from the Woodrow Wilson Institute observe, "Russia has never been a country. It has always been an empire." We need to recognize Putin is probably our biggest threat and treat him as such.
Historical Note from one of our Participants: While Americans were living "Happy Days", it was not that way in Hungary.
In 1956, the Hungarians attempted to revolt against the Soviets. One man who lived through the years said that Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America radio kept encouraging them to revolt. The voices of the West promised to help if there was a revolution. It turns out those were empty promises and the Russian military crushed the revolution. Afterwards, 750,000 Hungarians were sent to labor camps in Siberia. The selection of those taken seemed almost random. It was a terrorist tactic to make sure no one thought about another revolt. Only 30,000 of those people ever returned. Most were both physically and psychologically broken, and died within a few years. Terrorism has a lot of different faces.