Last Friday I blogged about the possible response by the Trump party after he loses the election. My post was, of course, pure fantasy, a scary dystopian hallucination of societal breakdown and violence. Over the weekend, however, just such a scenario has been increasingly considered by many others.
I Googled “trump election civil war” and got 15 million hits! The very first is typical. It appeared in the [British] paper, The Guardian, on Saturday, and was headlined “Life after Trump: Republicans brace for betrayal and civil war after 2016,” and if it went a little overboard with references to Adolf Hitler and the bunker, it captured well the sense of “siege” that is quickly racing through Trump’s increasingly angry and distraught supporters as they sniff defeat.
The online publication, Economy & Markets, headlined its article, “If Trump Loses, Expect Civil War.” This publication is, admittedly, a madcap heap of rightwing conspiracy theory, but it’s important because it represents the angry, uneducated white male perspective that fuels the Trump movement, and that will constitute its spearhead if in fact there is violence. It predicts “a wave of civil unrest” and expects “a large part of the southeast, southwest and Rockies [to] secede from the country,” just as my post last week presciently did.
Similarly, one of the worst, most vulgar rightwing talk radio hosts in the country, Michael Savage, predicted (in fact, basically encouraged) the Trumpsters to begin loading their guns now. “If Hillary is elected,” he told his listeners, “the country devolves into civil war.”
One of Trump’s top advisors is Roger Stone, a longtime Republican bagman who founded [in 2008] an anti-Hillary Clinton group called Citizens United Not Timid (whose acronym was a deliberate misogynistic insult to Ms. Clinton). Stone has been traveling the country warning of a “bloodbath” following a Clinton victory, and he showed his cards on the justification Republicans will use for violence: “widespread voter fraud,” which has been a consistent bugaboo in the minds of the paranoid right wing despite the fact that “voter fraud” is non-existent in the U.S. The independent publication, The Hill, which reports on the U.S. Congress, quoted a Trump supporter at a Trump rally in New Mexico: “If Hillary Clinton wins the election…there is going to be a civil war…”.
Finally, perhaps the most alarming, there’s the Republican Sheriff of Milwaukee, David Clarke, a Trump surrogate, who told a Trump crowd on Saturday that if Trump loses, “it’s pitchforks and torches time.”
A Sheriff, mind you!!!
I could go on and on citing the worst of those Google hits, but you get the idea. Clearly, I’m not the only one entertaining thoughts (or fears) of chaos when Hillary Clinton wins (and she will; I think we all know that, except for the most delusional among us). So the Big Question becomes: What or who is to stop such an alarming development?
Two possibilities. First, diehard Trumpettes have three weeks to get used to the fact that they’re going to lose, and badly. Three weeks is a long time. They could use it to reflect on how they got to where they are now; reflection can lead to a renewed sense of perspective, which is precisely what the Republican Party has been lacking. The Christians who count themselves among Trump’s fans could do what they claim they do so well: pray. They could ask their God for enlightenment, for peace, for balance and calm, and perhaps their God will bestow upon them those very qualities, all of which are antithetical to the massive anger and rage it would take to fuel an armed uprising.
Beyond Trump’s supporters, there remains a shrinking core of adults within the Republican Party: people like the Bush family, John Kasich, John McCain, Mitt Romney. Granted, these are the very Republicans who have been chased out of the party, chiefly by the insulter-in-chief, Trump; they’ve been vilified and effectively purged from Republican ranks…for now. If bad things do start happening after the election, if not before, these are the politicians who will have to stand publicly and aver their allegiance to law and order, their willingness to compromise with President Hillary Clinton, and declare their absolute opposition to the worst of the evangelical-tea party cabal that wants to take their losing cause to the streets. They will have to do so with no ands, ifs or buts…no distracting disparaging of Hillary Clinton…just a forceful j’accuse! against the tea party and its evangelical enablers.
Unfortunately, these Republicans I named—the Bushes, Kasich, Romney, McCain–are totally out of favor among rightwing radicals, who will not listen to them, and would in any case accuse them of treason were they to say anything remotely critical of the Trump movement. Then who else is left to talk to the radical right and get them to calm down, to put away their guns and work within the system?
Well, it’s not going to be the current Republican leadership in the Congress: McConnell, Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, all of whom have proven that they’re craven midgets who lack the cojones to stand up to the crazies in their party. Nor is it going to be the diminishing crowd of intimate advisors surrounding the beleaguered Trump—people like Giuliani, who has finally emerged from years of out-of-power white male resentment into full-fledged fascism. Nor the hapless Chris Christie, who still hopes, in his fantastical heart-of-hearts, to be in some never-to-happen Trump Cabinet (but has far more of a chance to land in jail for perjury concerning Bridgegate). The sad fact is there are no top Republicans in a position to stop the impending mess, because they abandoned their moral moorings (and their credibility) long ago.
The Republican clergy. Yes, that’s right, the Christian pastors, and especially the evangelicals. They appear to be the only ones who retain any credibility among that crowd. Although they’re the exact ones who have been among those most responsible for whipping up this insane fury against Hillary, against Obama, against Democrats, in the first place, they could ironically prove to be the peacemakers. Nixon, the arch anti-Communist, went to Red China, met with Mao, and changed the course of history. Likewise these evangelical preachers could be the first to talk to their flocks and tell them that they cannot shed blood—God will not allow it—they will go to Hell if they fire upon their brothers and sisters. (It’s “render unto Caesar” time, Christians!)
That would be a huge stretch for these preachers. They’ve not been known for courage, or truthfulness—quite the opposite. But the rubber is hitting the road, my friends, and it may be time for rightwing clergy to throw the balm of common sense onto the incendiarism they helped spark. If, that is, they have any hope for saving their own souls.
TOMORROW: Why is Wikileaks going after Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump? An analysis
Following his landslide loss in the election, Trump threatened to take his self-declared “movement” to the streets—a threat taken in earnest by his die-hard supporters, who warned of “revolution” and “civil war” were he to go down to defeat.
Which, of course, he did. Hillary Clinton garnered 391 electoral votes to Trump’s 147, and won the popular vote by 54.5%. The networks declared Clinton the winner early in the evening: NBC was first (at 5:27 p.m. eastern time), followed by CNN and CBS moments later. ABC was the outlier; the Disney-owned company did not declare for Hillary until 6:12 p.m.
At 5:46 p.m., Trump took to his usual media platform, Twitter, to declare that the election had been “rigged” and the result “stolen.” He urged his supporters to “let Crooked Hillary and her friends in the elite media know they can’t get away with this disgusting theft of your freedom!”
The first large pro-Trump demonstrations were reported in Atlanta, Georgia, whose 16 electoral votes went to Clinton by the narrow margin of 1.2%. Protestors, almost all of them white, massed on Peachtree Street. Police estimated the crowd size initially at 2,500, but it grew quickly, and by midnight, at least 25,000 demonstrators had blocked streets and highways, setting fires and smashing store windows. The downtown headquarters of Hillary Clinton for President were burned to the ground.
Protests across the country quickly multiplied, with the following cities reporting huge demonstrations by 2 a.m. Wednesday: Pittsburgh PA, Lawrence KS, Dallas TX, Frankfurt KY, Tallahassee FL, Cheyenne WY, Lincoln NE, Tulsa OK, Tucson AZ, Sacramento CA and dozens of others. Governors in 17 states called out their National Guards. The first casualties were reported in Council Bluffs, IA, where seven demonstrators and three policemen were killed in gunshot exchanges. By dawn on the day following Election Day, large parts of 142 American cities were in flames, and the death toll had risen to 360.
Throughout the night’s chaos, Trump kept up a steady barrage of tweets, some 176 by dawn. Here is a typical one, issued at 3.42 a.m.:
UNBELIEVABLE SUPPORT FROM ALL OVER AMERICA! DON’T LET HILLARY STEAL THIS! MARCH! SEIZE POWER!
By 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Trump had set up his own media headquarters at Trump Tower, where he broadcast continually on Twitter and Facebook. By then he had shed the dark suit and tie he usually wears for a military uniform. At 9:42 he announced the formation of a “Provisional American Government” (P.A.G.) because, he said, “Our existing government has failed, and proven it cannot defend the rights of the American people against the usurpations of power by Crooked Hillary Clinton and her aiders and abetters in both the Democrat and Republican parties.” Moments later, Trump announced he had appointed former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani to be “Minister of Defense” for the new government.
At a 10:15 a.m. press conference, Giuliani, wearing military-style garb similar to Trump’s, announced that the new Provisional Government was immediately beginning to draft men and women between the ages of 18 and 45 years “to form the backbone of a National Militia to ensure that Donald J. Trump is recognized as President of the United States of America.” Giuliani urged volunteers for the Militia to “gather up your guns and firearms and report to Trump Enlistment Centers” that had been set up overnight in dozens of cities and towns. By 5 p.m. that day, some two hundred thousand “Militiamen” had been inducted. Each swore an oath “to our sacred honor, to our country, and to President Trump.”
Meanwhile, Barack Obama—still the sitting President—addressed the American people in a broadcast at noon Wednesday that was covered by all the major television and radio media. He pronounced “a state of national emergency to protect domestic tranquility and the rule of law” and said that future demonstrations, if violent, would be met by “irresistible force.” The first major confrontation following his pronouncement occurred in Helena, Montana, where some 6,000 Trump supporters, most of them in western gear and carrying firearms, overwhelmed local police. Montana Governor Steve Bullock, asked by the Obama Justice Department to mobilize the state’s National Guard, refused. In turn, Obama, acting on a request from his Attorney-General, Loretta Lynch, ordered U.S. troops from Fort Missoula and Fort William Henry Harrison, two military installations in Montana, to Helena. By 3 p.m. the U.S. troops had fully engaged with the demonstrators, now joined by the Montana National Guard, which threw its support to the Trump camp. Full-scale fighting between the two sides erupted.
By nightfall, that scenario was played out in 34 States and 511 cities. At one point, CNN estimated that upwards of 200,000 individuals were actively “at war with each other,” with pro-Hillary Clinton protestors now taking up their own arms to combat pro-Trump activists. The death toll, CNN estimated, was “in the low thousands, and rising.”
At 1:15 a.m. on the Thursday following Election Day, Obama renewed his declaration of National Emergency and announced a 5 p.m.-9 a.m. curfew “in all areas of the country where active fighting is occurring.” Fighting continued throughout the next five days, with a defiant Trump leading his side’s efforts. Around noon on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in, tweeting that “Donald Trump apparently won the U.S. election but is having his victory stolen by the enemies of democracy.” Putin ordered Russian’s military forces to their highest alert level in 27 years. Troop concentrations were reported in eastern Silberia, opposite the Alaskan coast, and on Russian’s borders in Eastern Europe. Russia recalled its ambassador to the U.S. “for consultations.”
Exactly when the first dirty bomb went off in the U.S. has been difficult to ascertain, as multiple ones exploded more or less simultaneously in 30 cities on Thursday afternoon. ISIS immediately took credit. From his headquarters, Trump tweeted about “Hillary/Ryan/Obama dirty bombs! Disgusting! Jail her!” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sent 1,200 National Guard troops to seize Trump Tower and “remove Mr. Trump by any necessary means,” but by then, the luxury apartment building was being protected by some 20,000 Trump supporters, and the National Guard was unable to get through. Some 400 died in the ensuing battle.
As of today (Dec. 9), the situation has not been clarified. Fighting and killing have diminished, to some extent, but the animosity between pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces seems likely to grow. Meanwhile, just this morning, the Governors of Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Indiana and Nebraska released a joint proclamation, stating they are “in active discussions pursuant to a formal withdrawal from the United States of America, to join forces with the Provisional American Government under President Trump.” Where things go from here is anyone’s guess.
An evangelical preacher and a conservative billionaire walk into a bar…
It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but there’s no punch line, really, just a sort of nostril-pinching stench to the whole affair. The preacher would be Dr. James Dobson, founder of “Focus on the Family,” who said that gay marriage signals “the fall of western civilization,” who called Obama “one of the worst presidents in American history,” a “tyrant…reckless and defiant,” who said that women who suffer from domestic violence from their male spouses “deliberately bait [their] husbands until they hit her,” who caused a university professor to be fired for teaching evolution, who sided with Jerry Falwell that the issue of global warming “is a tool of Satan being used to distract churches”—–this same Dobson now claims to know personally that Trump “recently [has] come to accept a relationship with Christ and [is] now a baby Christian.”
Trump as born-again Christian? Look, anything is possible. Perhaps Saint Donald really did have a road-to-the-White-House moment, falling to to his knees, renouncing the rampant sexual rage that has fueled him all his life, and accepting Jesus into his heart. Perhaps—or maybe he simply realized that pretending to be a Christian was his only conceivable chance.
Do you believe him? Even if it’s true, is that really a recommendation to vote for him—or a reason not to? Personally, I think Trump is the most devious and manipulative candidate I’ve ever seen in American politics, including Richard Nixon. He will say anything, no matter how ridiculous, no matter how easily disproved, in order to gain the slightest advantage in this election. He has no core beliefs, no diehard principles, except to advance the cause of Donald J. Trump—which cause apparently includes the right to grab a pretty girl’s pussy.
In truth, the rock-solid evangelical wall of support for Trump isn’t as firm as it was just a week ago, before the “pussy” video was released. Yesterday there were scattered reports of defections by evangelicals from the Trump campaign. The editorial director of the major Christian publication, Christianity Today, even conceded that Christian “enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus Christ is Lord. They see that some of us are so self-interested, and so self-protective, that we will ally ourselves with someone who violates all that is sacred to us…”.
Count me in as one of those doubtful neighbors! It is patently clear that Trump is the antithesis of everything that evangelicals claim to believe in. It’s also patently clear that this hypocrisy doesn’t bother most of them in the least. Why not? Their “deep aversion to Hillary Clinton” is stronger than their aversion to Trump’s character. Well, to begin to fathom this, you might re-read my blog from yesterday, but really, there is no fathoming, no logical or rational understanding, to explain how allegedly God-fearing Christians can vote for a man so obviously devoid of moral character. There is, however, late-breaking evidence that evangelical women finally are seeing Trump’s true character and are “waking up” to the horror of his “locker room banter.”
We can only hope that increasing numbers of such evangelical women will whisper into their husbands’ ears that Trump really is a truly awful human being, and that even if they—the husbands—are inclined to support him, the wives are asking for a big favor this one time: please, honey, don’t.
Women are preferring Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by huge, unprecedented margins, while men prefer Trump, although by margins far less, according to data collected by fivethirtyeight.com.
|CBS News||Clinton +18||Trump +11|
|CNN||Clinton +14||Trump +4|
|Fairleigh Dickinson||Clinton +24||Trump +7|
|Fox News||Clinton +10||Trump +7|
|Google Consumer Surveys||Clinton +13||Trump +3|
|Ipsos/Reuters||Clinton +9||Clinton +5|
|Morning Consult||Clinton +6||Clinton +4|
|PRRI/The Atlantic||Clinton +33||Trump +11|
|Quinnipiac University||Clinton +20||Trump +12|
|Rasmussen Reports||Clinton +11||Clinton +2|
|USC Dornsife/LA Times||Clinton +9||Trump +14|
|YouGov||Clinton +15||Trump +2|
|Average||Clinton +15||Trump +5|
Why women are turning against Trump is pretty obvious, and it’s not only because Hillary stands to become the first woman ever to be elected (or even nominated) to be President of the United States, the ultimate smashing of the glass ceiling. It’s also because Trump is a moral, sexist pig, and just about every woman has had experience with that dreadful sort of man.
I’m not a woman, and it took me a while to understand what too many of them go through with respect to groping, leering, lecherous assholes. Decades ago, when I was a young, oblivious man, I was a short-order cook at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Brattleboro, Vermont. Several of my female friends were waitresses. As we lived in the same town twenty miles away, we used to carpool. One night, after work, I cleaned up the kitchen and went out to the restaurant area where the women were getting ready to leave. One of my friends, Wendy, seemed upset. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me that a customer, a young man, had given her a really hard time. “When I asked him ‘What’ll it be?’, he said, ‘You, baby.’”
Well, I didn’t quite get why that was so upsetting, and I said so. That’s when all three of my lady friends gave me a lecture I never forgot about unwelcome sexual approaches towards them by men. We had a thirty-minute car ride back home, and on it, they poured out all of their buried angst, anger, frustration and grief.
I never forgot that. I think we men probably can’t fathom what it’s like—most of us, anyhow. We can try to be empathic, but it’s hard. But when women listen to Trump doing his vile thing on that infamous tape, they get it, bigtime. Trump is every pig who ever insulted them, groped them, said nasty things about them. He is every man who objectified them, saw them as nothing but pieces of meat, nice legs and great tits and awesome asses and grabable pussies. Women know, through long experience, about that kind of man, that if he’s that way with women, then he’s probably an asshole in other aspects of his life. And that is why so many of them have turned against Trump.
But questions remain. Why are there still millions of women who love Trump and will vote for him? Here, I’m no longer sure. Maybe they feel like his personal behavior, reprehensible though it may be, has nothing to do with what a President Trump would accomplish, were he to be elected. Maybe some percentage of them suffers from internalized misogyny, a form of self-hatred that can be difficult to discern within oneself. And, of course, there’s a particularly bitchy form of hatred for Hillary that comes from women. I can’t begin to fathom that one, but I know it’s out there.
But how about those men who will vote for Trump over Hillary? Here we have a trove of psychological complexity. Some of them will vote for Trump simply because he’s male, and they—being of the same moral character as Trump, talking about women the same way—identify with him. Certainly, many of these Trump men strongly support him because they loathe Hillary Clinton, which is a form of mental lllness in itself. Some of them respond to Trump’s vaguely-defined “authoritarianism” by which he portrays himself as strong and decisive. These are characteristics men like to think they, themselves, possess, and they like that kind of perceived strength in their leaders. Never mind that Trump’s “solutions”—to immigration, to ISIS and terrorism, to America’s complicated role in the world, to just about any issue you can name—are vague to the point of non-existent. Never mind that he would probably be a disaster with our allies. Men who would vote for Trump don’t analyze issues, they respond emotionally—and many of them are really still thirteen years old, psychologically, and want to do naughty things their parents forbade. Voting for Trump is the ultimate naughty thing they can do.
At any rate, we don’t know how this election is going to turn out. The polls are irrational: Fivethirtyeight.com gives Hillary an 83.5% chance of winning now, but just two months ago, she and Trump were neck to neck, and even a month ago, just before the first debate, he was closing in on her. So who knows? Something might happen: Hillary’s health, some email revelation, an asteroid strike on Chappaqua. I don’t think so, but you never know.
Still, I suspect Hillary will win (you probably do, too), and when she does, it will be the women of America who will have elected her. As for those men—look, I like men, I am a man, I identify with men, I like to drink in bars, I like going to ball games, I like gyms and lockerrooms, I curse and swear like a sailor. I “get” the guy thing…to a point. Where I break ranks with my gender is when they’re so stupid, so willfully ignorant and irrational, that they think with their peckers instead of with their brains. And that’s how Trump males roll.
Political parties in America are remarkably hardy. They have proven themselves to be adaptable to the most far-ranging circumstances. The Republican Party has gone through many crises since its founding (in 1854). It has enjoyed periods of near-monopolistic control (1860-1912) and periods when it seemed like an endangered species (1932-1952). The party has swung from far right to moderate and back again, depending on the exigencies of the moment. Currently, it’s undergoing what David Gergen calls “a civil war” between its rightwing extemists and more “moderate” traditionalists. Democrats are enjoying this particular battle—I certainly am!—but before we break out the champagne we should keep in mind that this GOP is wily and will likely regroup after Trump’s defeat.
My younger readers might not understand how the Republicans got into their current predicament, so let me tell you about the last 45 years. When Richard Nixon ran for re-election in 1972, he realized he had no hope of winning the Black vote, which is essential to capturing the big cities of America. Therefore he developed “the southern strategy,” a thinly-disguised appeal to racism below the Mason-Dixon line. It worked; the Solid South, formerly Democratic, turned Republican, and remains that way.
The appeal to whites, particularly white males, continued throughout the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. The latter was not an especially conservative Republican, although he had to play nice with evangelicals (whom he disliked personally) and anti-abortion types (with whom he and his wife, Barbara, disagreed). Around this time—the late 1980s and early 1990s—the Republican Party made a fateful decision: it cast its political lot with evangelicals, to put together the coalition that elected George W. Bush twice. But in so doing, it empowered the fringe Christian right, who actually raised to power insane men such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Mike Huckabee.
These people, the most extreme rightwingers, were emboldened enough during Bill Clinton’s presidency to impeach him. Fortunately, the American people—even many Republicans—realized that the right had vastly overreached. They continued to support Clinton by great majorities, which is why the Senate eventually failed to convict him. But the rightwingers had proven their power; they were just getting started. For the last twenty years, they’ve been busy little bees, taking over state houses and state legislatures; and their consistent message has been one of hatred against Democrats—a hatred that went on steroids with the election of our first Black President, Barack Obama.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the biggest problem with the Republican Party is that it doesn’t have the courage to stand up to the evangelicals. Many if not most clear-thinking Republicans believe that evangelicals are nuts. Donald Trump, for example, knows that the world was not created 6,000 years ago. He knows that Adam and Eve didn’t play with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden, and that the Grand Canyon was not created by Noah’s flood. He knows that the world with all its marvels wasn’t made in six days, and that science is the best way to explain and understand the universe. In his private moments (and perhaps a tape recording will surface), he, like most wealthy New Yorkers, thinks that evangelicals are redneck rubes he would never invite to his and Melania’s parties.
And make no mistake, it has been evangelicals who have driven the Republican Party off the cliff. They’re ignorant, yes, and stubborn as mules, and they celebrate their own lack of education. But they vote, and have provided the tipping point in electing Republicans for several decades now, so they have to be courted. People like Donald Trump have to pretend to respect them. But this merely emboldens the evangelicals even more: it makes them think they’re more powerful and numerous than they really are. That, in turn, causes them to raise the stakes: no on abortion, no on gay rights (despite what the Supreme Court says), no on a separation of church and state, no on taxes for billionaires, no on science, no on climate change, no on diplomacy—no on the very things that, if enacted into law, would actually benefit them and their families. It’s been a question on the Left for years: how come these Republicans vote against their own interests and the interests of their parents and children?
The answer is simple. Their thinking process is so messed up, by the superstitions and malice of their religion, that they’re no longer capable of sane decision-making. That’s a terrible thing to accuse them of, I know. I have evangelicals in my family. They are wonderful people—they’d give you the shirt off their back. They give to charity, they generally are good parents, they are loyal patriots who love their country, they are law-abiding citizens. Let’s give them their due.
But when it comes to intellectual clarity, they are a most diseased demographic. Their rejection of science indicates something seriously wrong with their frontal lobes. This is not a disease caused by germs or viruses or accidents; it is a self-inflicted mental sickness. But humans have free will. Nobody can force somebody else to be rational.
There’s probably a rock-solid 20%-25% of the American public that’s evangelical and isn’t about to change. What the Republican Party has to do, if it wants to live, is clean house, and the first thing to get thrown out must be evangelicals. This will cause an uproar, for sure, especially in the reddest of the red-state Bible belt: Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, etc. The preachers will go insane and so will their pet congressmen. Limbaugh will be foaming at the mouth, and fox “news” will go on a rampage, especially the Vaticanistas like Hannity and O’Reilly. David Gergen’s “civil war” might just erupt for real and manifest itself in riots. But it has to be done. These evangelicals are a cancer on the Republican Party, as they are on the country, and as with any cancer, the only way to help the patient survive is to excise it.
In Freudian psychoanalysis, there’s a defense mechanism, called reaction formation, “in which emotions and impulses which are anxiety-producing or perceived to be unacceptable are mastered by exaggeration (hypertrophy) of the directly opposing tendency.” (Wikipedia) One example of reaction formation is Stockholm Syndrome: when a hostage develops intense, positive feelings for his or her captor/s. Another is when closeted homosexuals bash gays; Roy Cohn was a classic example, but so have been any number of outed Republican politicians, such as Larry “Wide Stance” Craig, the disgraced, homophobic former Republican Senator from Idaho, who was caught soliciting in a men’s room.
Reaction formation is something politicians sometimes do when they’re afraid they’re on the losing side of an election and they want/need to distract attention from their losing positions and perhaps convince themselves they’re doing okay. Such was the case in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, where the op-ed page could be used in a Psych 101 class, so filled was it with different kinds of reaction formations. But first, a little background.
Nate Silver’s highly respected fivethirtyeight.com website has had Hillary Clinton on a real roll lately. Since the first Presidential debate, her chances of getting elected have soared, from 54.8% to 78.8% as I write (Thursday afternoon). This is clearly scary for Republicans. It is information that is “anxiety-producing or perceived to be unacceptable” for them, and therefore must be hidden by “the directly opposing tendency,” which is to rachet up their attacks on Democrats. The psychological hope, I suppose, is that WSJ readers (who tend to be conservatives) will be reassured that the Republican Party is sticking it to Democrats—even as that Republican Party is headed towards near-certain doom in the election.
So what do we find on the op-ed page? A deplorable basket of stuff that’s really phony, even for the Wall Street Journal. Fasten your seatbelts and get ready for a bumpy ride!
Aleppo is Obama’s Sarajevo, by Daniel Henninger. A desperate smear of the President by a dreadfully partisan columnist. Henninger is actually trying to pin the Syrian war on Obama, which nobody believes except for red state ignoramuses and neocons. This is in line with Trump’s love-fest for Putin. Henninger will never admit that George W. Bush caused the Syrian war to happen when he criminally invaded Iraq and caused chaos across the Middle East.
The FBI Treated Clinton With Kid Gloves, by Noel Francisco and James Burnham. To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, “Enough with the frigging emails already!” Nobody cares. That manufactured scandal’s shelf life ended weeks ago, but here’s the Wall Street Journal, desperately reaction-formationing this smear. Sad, really sad. The atmosphere in the Journal’s editorial room must be near suicidal.
ObamaCare’s Meltdown Has Arrived, by Andrew Ogles and Luke Hilgemann. The paper could have published this two years ago, one year ago, six months ago, three months ago—wait a minute, they did! Republicans have consistently lied about ObamaCare’s success in insuring tens of millions of Americans. This “meltdown” myth is so transparently fake, you have to wonder why the Journal felt yet another attack on the Affordable Care Act is needed at this time. But then, that’s the essence of reaction formation: the actual choice of behavior doesn’t matter. What counts is coming up with something, anything to deflect the pain of something as “anxiety-producing and unacceptable” as Trump’s crash in the polls.
And here, in a way, is my favorite, from the ever-dependable Karl Rove:
Trump Sorely Needs a Debate Win. Ole Karl must have had a really bad day if this is the best he could come up with. My little dog, Gus, could have told me that!
See the pattern? The Wall Street Journal is panicking. The center is not holding. Republicans see the handwriting on the wall—the disaster they have foisted upon themselves—and the only thing they can do about it is bury their heads in the sand and come up with ludicrous avoidance behaviors to mask the pain. Unfortunately, as Freud himself warned, reaction formation solves nothing. It merely pushes the anxiety down deeper, where it can manifest itself in truly harmful ways.