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The Domestic Abuse Cycle: A Framework for Our Politics and a Path Forward, Part Eight

Posted in Politics & Media

Republican Abuse

In Part One I introduced my premise: GOP uses tactics against Democrats that mirror the behaviors of domestic abusers, creating a warped environment. I gave examples of these tactics in Part Two and in Part Three I described the ineffective response by Democrats. In Part Four I talked about how the media amplifies rather than evaluates GOP abuses, and how Democrats need to recognize this dynamic. In Part Five I covered how Democrats can move from a defensive to an offensive position by reintroducing to the public what decent standards of political behavior should be. In Parts Six and Seven I proposed additional tactics Democrats can use to counter GOP abuse, including inevitable Republican pushback. As I noted, Republicans will vandalize any message Democrats offer, so Democrats need to focus as much, if not more, on learning how to aggressively respond to the inevitable vandalism, instead of fruitlessly trying to fashion a message that will somehow avoid or preclude the vandalism. Today: my conclusion.

The disastrous Trump presidency can accelerate the destruction of our democracy OR be the wake-up call that finally convinces Democrats to directly confront and conquer GOP abuse.

There's been a good deal of agonizing and analysis about how the party should move forward but most of it comes from inside the abuse environment. Battered women are often literally locked inside their homes as their batterer seeks to control their movements and prevent contact with outsiders who might infect her with thoughts of escape. Inside the house, the victim focuses on pleasing the batterer and avoiding words or deeds that might trigger a violent response. Her world gets smaller, her options fewer and her sense of personal agency plummets. That is where Democrats have been driven.

Here's a thought experiment: think about the saga of Merrick Garland and Neil Gorsuch. Look at it from inside the abuse environment (in which Republicans can unleash all the abuse tools in their arsenal unopposed), then look at it from outside the abuse environment (in which Republican abuse tactics are identified and aggressively countered.)

We need to break the locks, bust the windows and free ourselves or we'll be trapped in endless cycles of defensive coping.

Note: Jimmy Kimmel offers a good example of someone operating outside the abuse environment in one of his monologue about the Graham-Cassidy bill. Basically he said Cassidy had come on his show and lied, and now that Kimmel was calling him out for lying, Cassidy wanted a chance to appear again and make his case and Kimmel said “no”. Cassidy had lied the first time, why should he be invited to lie again? Or to try to clean-up his message? No do-overs for sitting Senators who lie to the public on Jimmy Kimmel's show.


I've offered suggestions as a starting point — they are by no means exhaustive or the best we can do. But I would argue the foundation of any strategy must be a comprehensive grasp of, and rejection of, Republican Abuse Politics. It is the only way we can go on the offensive and chart our own course instead of forever reacting, dancing to the GOP's tune.

Stay the Course

Democratic leaders will need time to reorient themselves, and the latitude to make errors as they experiment with tackling longstanding abuse norms. There will be a learning curve. There will be pushback, from Republicans, from the media, and even from some Democrats who themselves will need to make adjustments. And there are always contrarians and pessimists who are wedded to failure — they have nothing to offer except their cynicism. But there are also people nationwide who are ready to applaud and support strong leadership from the Democratic side. Now is the time.

Americans: The Battered Children

So long as the Republican party continues its abuses unchecked, Americans suffer. Indeed, the world suffers.

Republican leaders feel they owe representation only to rich donors and Republican voters (many of whom they are actively harming). They don’t represent Democrats or Independents or citizens who don’t or can’t vote, like children. They exhibit little sense of responsibility towards the rest of the world. They don’t seem to care about the health of our republic. They put party before country.

President Obama reportedly learned about Russian interference activities prior to the 2016 election. Mitch McConnell threatened to use the issue as a partisan weapon — if President Obama went public with the information McConnell would accuse him of trying to help Hillary Clinton win. McConnell (indeed, the GOP) seemingly don't care about Russian interference in our elections, past or future.

The Republican Party has become malignant.

Donald Trump's election ushered in a dark period in America. On November 9th, 2016 I awoke feeling all that was good about my country was at risk. Republicans have made many Americans afraid. Afraid. Like the battered children of battered women, we now live in varying degrees of fear. Dread is our constant companion as we wait, braced, for the next outrage.

At present we are focused on sheer survival as a functioning democracy. But it's critical Democrats look beyond the Trump presidency. Trump’s departure — however or whenever it occurs — will be such a relief I fear people will rejoice, relax, and fall back into old patterns. Currently we recall the Obama administration with depressed nostalgia. Even the Bush administration has a sheen nowadays, so horrifying is the Trump administration in comparison. But during both administrations GOP abuse was endemic and it brought us to this point of crisis. To recapture and sustain political health in America we have to break the abuse cycle once and for all.

********* Here is a pdf of the entire piece — take a copy to your nearest Democratic Office Holder, staffer, consultant, activist! GOP-Abuse-Framework-full
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