In Part One I set up the premise that the GOP uses tactics against Democrats that mirror the behaviors and outcomes of domestic abusers, conditioning us to accept a world in which they are held responsible for nothing while Democrats are held responsible for everything, including malicious acts performed against them. I discussed dishonesty, the foundational tactic Republicans use to overcome their primary problem which is that their preferred policies, when described honestly and accurately, are unpopular with majorities of Americans. Today I'll run through the rest of their basic toolbox. Please note: the examples I offer barely scratch the surface as the material is, sadly, so plentiful.
Demonization: Members of the GOP/rightwing-machine continuously vilify, malign, denigrate and slur Democrats and anyone considered part of the left. They don’t speak in terms of policy disagreements or philosophical differences, they aggressively assert people on the left hate America, are libtards, coddle terrorists, are lazy moochers, are unemployed losers, are violent and criminally inclined, etc. Such speech has profoundly negative consequences, especially when used consistently and publicly over long periods. This is how “liberal” became a dirty word. Republicans demonize Democrats to weaken democratic appeal to the public and keep Democrats on the defensive.
Disrespect and Dehumanization: Elizabeth Warren is interrupted and silenced when speaking on the floor of the Senate. Kamala Harris is interrupted and silenced when questioning witnesses at committee hearings. Throughout the Republican universe dehumanizing racist, sexist, anti-immigrant and anti-LBGTQ invective and behavior is tolerated and even encouraged. Much of the Republican platform is geared toward limiting the rights of women, people of color, non-Christian, and non-straight Americans. Republican's automatically respect only white, male Christians — all others are offered provisional respect at best, and often none at all. Donald Trump's support of overt white supremacists helped publicize the more covert support of many GOP leaders and functionaries. Republicans disrespect and dehumanize Democrats to make policies that harm Democratic constituencies more palatable to other Republicans.
Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a collection of manipulative tricks used to enable one person to define the reality of another while contradicting the other’s own feelings and experiences. Gaslighters attack and then deny attacking; they assign absurd and malicious motivations for harmless or well-intended actions. Gaslighters tell you what you’re feeling but their assessments are deliberately false. Similarly, Republicans continually accuse Democrats of supporting positions and activities for offensive and ridiculous reasons. According to Republicans, Democrats support Planned Parenthood because they enjoy dismembering live babies (remember the doctored anti-PP video.) Democrats clamber over homeless veterans to help Syrian refugees. Democrats want to ban Christianity because they hate God. Republicans gaslight to keep Democrats on the defensive and prevent honest political debate.
Investigations: Republicans love to convene investigations. First they make an accusation, then they begin investigating it. This means their quarries, Democrats, will have to lawyer-up and spend time and money defending themselves. It is a form of harassment they use because they can. Ken Starr spent millions investigating the Clintons and his result? Monica Lewinsky. (Remember ACORN? Fast-forward to the Benghazi investigations — all of them, all concluding the same thing: no criminal or professional misconduct, no intent to mislead. Even now, while Republicans excuse Donald Trump’s possible crimes, some threaten to reopen investigations featuring President Obama or Hillary Clinton. Why? Because such investigations distract from harm being done by Republicans in real time. Because accusations tarnish the accused, even when the accused is found innocent. Republicans use investigations to harass and defame Democrats.
Voter Suppression: In states, redistricting, gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics keep Republicans in office in the face of voter dissatisfaction. Federally, the GOP wants to defund the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Currently Jeff Sessions' Department of Justice is backing voter purges in states. Simultaneously Kris Kobach has been invited, through the thoroughly dishonest Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, to take his Kansas-based voter suppression efforts nationwide. Republicans use their positional-powers to forcibly maintain control.
Opposition Suppression: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the Republican controlled legislature overturned laws and rules that limited their powers. North Carolina Republican legislators have made several attempts to disempower Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. Republicans have passed laws limiting protest activity. Congressional Republicans bar Democrats from their Town Halls. Republicans use positional-powers to quell legitimate opposition.
Intimidation and Violence: Republican leaders and media figures have uttered threats against Democrats and Democratic constituents. They consort with groups who threaten and attack Democrats. Hate crimes have shot up since Trump’s election. Newly minted Congressman Gianforte attacked a reporter. Democrats involved in resistance actions are threatened online. In Iowa, a Democratic challenger to Rep. Steve King dropped out due to death threats. In Syracuse NY a Democratic Mayoral candidate dropped out after being threatened and stalked. Donald Trump encourages violence against protesters and reporters and refused to condemn Nazis and white supremacists after Charlottesville. While a handful of Republicans were moved to respond publicly to Charlottesville, most went underground. Republicans use threats, intimidation and violence to subdue opposition.
Domestic abuse situations typically morph gradually from a romantic to an abusive dynamic. Usually battering commences after a build-up characterized by escalating verbal abuse and controlling behavior which conditions the victim to endure rather than escape. Similarly, I think the Republican Abuse Playbook has grown, gradually and organically, evolving as different tactics were tried by different individuals and groups and found to be effective. But the result is plain: years of unchecked Republican abuse has generated a set of norms granting Republicans broad license to use tactics against Democrats that would have been unthinkable a few decades ago.
In Part Three I will discuss Democratic responses to Republican abuse.
Cross-posted at DailyKos.
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