“We are well past the time for any political niceties or benefits of the doubt. We need an independent and thorough investigation of Russia’s meddling in our democracy and its ties to the President and his allies,” wrote veteran CBS newsman Dan Rather on March 2. “We don’t know what we don’t know.”

Bigger than Watergate? Much bigger. The largest scandal in our lifetime has unfolded and it involves the man who promised to “Make America Great Again,” President Donald J. Trump, along with most of his regime.

Senator Susan Collins, a key member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, broke ranks early with GOP committee colleagues to join five Democrats and Independent Angus King in calling for an investigation. The committee has subpoena powers.

Who is Trump serving? Who is Bannon fronting for? Which Republicans have proven to serve truth and country over their party platform of dismantling civil government, social welfare, entitlements, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and environmental protections? Which Republicans aren’t serving corporate interests and big money? Has unbridled capitalism and “free market” ideology replaced civic democracy?

Are rogue players to be found in the Pentagon, the Intelligence community, the FBI? How wide will the net be cast by an independent prosecutor?

One target that needs reaching is Steve Bannon. He is the ideologue of the Trump movement that enlisted groups already disaffected from, when not antagonistic to, government. Trump isn’t savvy enough to coordinate a political movement; Bannon and higher operatives did it for him.

Surrounding political players saw opportunities for themselves in supporting the movement. These were players motivated by profit, not ideology.

The program was one in which conservatives would win Congress and install a compliant, inexperienced but mentally unbalanced president ready to sign off on any of their long-delayed demolition plans. The wealthy and corporations would gain tax reductions. Antisocial right-wingers saw a means to remove the safety nets. Big Oil, Pharma, and other mega-multinationals would be deregulated. Taxes would be drastically reduced for corporations and the wealth sector.

The Pentagon would receive huge budget increases. The military-industrial complex would get fatter contracts. Exxon could gain a share in Rosneft. Markets would peak again and again. Bankers would enjoy increased revenue from government-issued bonds for building infrastructure.

And maybe Trump, only a deal-maker and psychically impaired by extreme NPD, would facilitate bigger profits for himself through his now presidential trade name. But he might be indebted to bankers up to his neck too; especially to bankers like Deutsche Bank, who is being prosecuted for money laundering. And where does Russia fit? What does Russia want?

Despite its alleged aggressive intentions to extend its reach into the Baltic and any former Soviet space, Russia wants an end to sanctions that are starving its economy. But Western money wants a piece of Russia too.

Secondly, Russia wants NATO off its western borders and for the Kiev government to desist in fighting eastern Ukrainians (as they view it).

What did and does Trump know about foreign relations? Next to nothing. He knows only real estate, self-promotion, global money flows and how to conduct profit-enriching schemes here and in foreign countries. Yet, he proposed in his campaign at least two goals set by Russia: ending sanctions and reducing NATO forces. For sure, he did not conceptualize these goals himself.

The instruments of mass communication supplemented by message-targeting by analytics made it possible to convince almost half of the electorate on November 8 to vote against their own self-interest and promote into power the very people who can threaten their civil and religious rights, financial security, democratic institutions, and every social gain won for them since the turn of the last century.

A European called ideologue Steve Bannon “a Lenin” because he engineered a proletariat revolution, which he did. But in electing Trump, the same disenfranchised, poor, unemployed and angry displaced workers that would have comprised Lenin’s Bolsheviks or Mao’s peasants didn’t vote against the Czar or economic elements that were actually oppressing them; they voted into power the Czar, the oligarchs and Wall Street. The methods of revolution were used to generate a popular revolt but produce an inverted outcome.

Is it fair to call Trump regime members with ties to Russia a Fifth Column? Why not? But isn’t it also fair to call “free market” ideologues by a similar moniker if democracy and its institutions — a system that balances the rights of private and public, profit and welfare — is displaced by oligarchy, corporatism, authoritarianism, or worse?

Should Trump be gone tomorrow, the war against a corporatist and authoritarian state must continue — because Democracy must survive.

Michael T. Bucci, Damariscotta