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The Domestic Abuse Cycle: A Framework for our Politics and a Path Forward, Part One

Posted in Politics & Media

Republican Abuse

I was watching a clip of Bill Maher and Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff (whom I like very much) discussing Donald Trump’s firing of former F.B.I. Director James Comey and Schiff lamented he was ”too nice”. That's when it hit me: the dynamic between the GOP and the Democratic Party fits perfectly into the frame of domestic abuse. The GOP leadership is the battering husband. The Democratic leadership is the battered wife. And American citizens are the battered children.

At I found a piece describing the 4 stages of battered womens syndrome (Per The 4 Stages of Battered Woman’s Syndrome battering situations follow a 4-step pattern:)

which are:

  1. Denial

  2. Guilt
  3. Enlightenment
  4. Responsibility

To summarize: initially the victim can’t believe what’s happening (denial). She doesn’t want to admit her partner is abusing her. She makes excuses, she rationalizes — he won’t do it again. But he does. Then she moves on to guilt. Guilt is a co-process: the batterer says he beats her because of things she’s done or not done and she accepts his rationale. He employs various manipulations to keep her submissive, with low self-esteem. She internalizes the notion his behavior is her fault and accepts blame for her lot. But eventually something helps her recognize the batterer’s behavior is abnormal — nothing she does warrants such treatment. She realizes the behavior is abusive (enlightenment). Finally she realizes the batterer is responsible for his battering; taking responsibility for his behavior is a form of enabling. She accepts she cannot stop the batterer — only he can choose to stop (responsibility). With this realization she may finally take steps to escape.

How does this relate to American politics?<.p>

Over the last 40-plus years, a constellation of conservative organizations have arisen: FOX News; radio, print and online media outlets; think tanks and pacs; and rightwing websites. I refer to them collectively as the rightwing-media-machine. Separately there are the elected leaders, operatives, donors, etc., who “run” the Republican Party (GOP for short). The GOP and the rightwing-media-machine once traveled on parallel tracks, but now the machine is an acknowledged arm of the Republican Party. For more than forty years people in this gestalt have been circulating propaganda extolling conservative positions, denigrating liberals, and perfecting tactics against Democrats that mirror the behaviors and outcomes of domestic abusers.

Republican abuse is more than the sum of its parts; it is the construction of a warped environment.

In domestic violence situations the abuser, through the use of multiple tactics, conditions the victim to accept the situation she's experiencing as “normal”. One of the definitions of acceptance is “willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation”.

This is what Republicans have achieved. Republicans have conditioned 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.

It's as if the two parties are playing a football game in which Republicans start at the Democrats' five yard line, Republicans have an unlimited number of downs, the referees are Republican, and Republicans are allowed to zap Democrats with tasers. Everyone wonders why the Republicans so often win, but no one questions the rules. That has to change.

Abusive Behaviors by Republicans, a Sampling

Over time members working within the GOP/media-machine have developed a full toolbox of abuse tactics, but the foundation is dishonesty.

Dishonesty is at the core of modern conservatism and is the lynchpin of most GOP abuse. This cannot be overstated. Republicans lie. Some more than others. Some more blatantly than others. They lie routinely, publicly and shamelessly. They cover for each others' lies. Serial, documented conservative liars pay little to no professional price or are actively rewarded, mostly within the conservative universe, but not entirely. Corey Lewendowski and Sean Spicer were both just awarded Visiting Fellows slots at Harvard.

Why does the GOP need to be dishonest? What problem does it solve?

Simple: Conservative policies, when presented honestly and accurately, are unpopular with majorities of Americans.

So you either change your policies, which conservatives have been unwilling to do, OR, you misrepresent those policies; distract attention from their implementation and create scapegoats to be blamed for unpopular policy outcomes.

Thus, over time more and more Republicans have embraced the use of misinformation and disinformation: Hillary Clinton murdered Vince Foster. Birtherism. Death Panels. Obama wants your guns. Pizzagate. George Soros pays people to (fill in the blank). Much of the junk is peddled — initially — by the hard-right but such slurs are often used, and virtually never condemned, by the GOP leadership.

Republicans make demonstrably false claims about their policies and legislation. They've lied repeatedly about how the ACA works and how it was developed. They've lied repeatedly about their Repeal and Replace efforts. They suppress factual data that exposes their falsehoods; they suppress studies, they shut down or defund departments performing research or work that counters their policy preferences; they attack the CBO. They invent rules like presidents-don’t-seat-Supreme-Court-judges-during-an-election-year to justify their extreme obstruction.

On the religious right, anti-choice activists lie about everything related to abortion. They open deceptive clinics aimed at fooling women. They vigorously promote lies about Planned Parenthood. They suppress information about birth control and promote laws premised on falsehoods.

Republicans have been lying with impunity for so long now it often appears they literally don't know they're doing it. Some have lost the ability to separate fact from fiction. Some lie out of ignorance. Some lie out of malice. Some lie because it works. Some don't lie publicly, they just take advantage of the lies of others. Republicans lie to obfuscate the outcomes of GOP preferred policies and to damage Democrats because Democrats point out the outcomes of GOP policies.

In my next segment I will describe how Republicans use the following tactics:

  • Demonization
  • Disrespect/Dehumanization
  • Gaslighting
  • Investigations
  • Voter Suppression
  • Opposition Suppression
  • Intimidation and Violence

But today I'll conclude with this point: Republican abuse is more than the sum of its parts; it is the construction of a warped environment.

NOTE: You can listen to this on DailyKOS radio, Kagro in the Morning Show on podcast, via YouTube, iTunes and LybSyn. I come in at around the 1:38 mark. (The show live streams 9-11am, M-F.)

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