Have you noticed that there seems to be a war on? A war between Bernie Bros and Clintonistas? I can’t open Twitter without seeing a buncha buncha hate flying between folks on the left. Barack Obama makes a speech, earns $400,000.00, and suddenly he is a scummy sellout. Chelsea Clinton tweets at 3:00 AM, and she’s a conglomeration of people cobbled together in a 24-hour schedule to pretend to be her on Twitter. Clinton does an interview and says she made mistakes in the campaign, and she’s not over it. Bernie Bros claiming Sanders woulda beat the Ol’ Pussy Grabber. Bros claiming that the DNC did it to themselves by rigging the system against Bernie. And, now being pro-choice is optional and “fading as an issue” according to Nancy Pelosi?
Iwanker poses for Trump Tower, Manila advertisement and barely a peep. The experts weigh in, sure, but boy howdy, we are ripping Chelsea, Hillary, Obama, Bernie, and, now, Elizabeth Warren to shreds. The GOP is out there lying about covering pre-existing conditions, how much of that is on Twitter? But, goddamn, that Hillary interview sure is being dissected. Bernie supports an anti-choice candidate and suddenly his commitment to women’s rights is being questioned.
Perez and Ellison do a unity tour, and it does more to disunite the party. One side is trying to out chant the other! People are bragging about the cheers given to Ellison and Sanders because some how… what?
Just the other day, someone commented on this blog that it wasn’t okay to elect a female predatory president! Holy shit! Do people actually prefer the Ol’ Pussy Grabber to Clinton? Is that possible? Is it possible that the hot chaotic mess that is currently writhing in the White House is considered preferable to the steady cerebral rational leadership that Clinton offered? Are we all mammals with mammalian brains? How can we be saying these things about each other?
What in the actual fuck is going on here? Have we all lost our collective minds? Seriously, this shit is painful. Pain-fucking-ful. Full o’ fucking pain be this shit.
It is all the more mind-blowing when you see the theatrical throngs thronging the thoroughfares thwarting threatening legislation and policy. We feel so united in the #Resistance and then the Clinton-Sanders, progressives-Democrats, leftists-centerists, incrementalists-purists dividing dichotomies gets started.
And, that is just it — aside from the Russian-paid hacks out there trying to stir up trouble — when we face a clear common foe like racism, threats to women’s health, climate denial, we come together and make common cause. But, the second that common enemy steps out of the line of fire, we turn our guns on each other. We have purists to our left and compromisers to our right and strategists in the middle and the gee, I just don’t know, bozos staggering around with their fingers up their noses and the folks who never got past their teenage rebel years just fucking things up.
Explanation #1: Blue-Eyes Brown-Eyes & Social Identity Theory
One of the explanations lies in how we perceive groups and how quickly we can form groups. Most people don’t believe or realize how quickly hard and fast boundaries between groups can form. One of the clearest demonstrations of this is Jane Elliott‘s heartbreaking Blue Eyes-Brown Eyes Study. If you haven’t seen any of the footage that Jane Elliott has produced over her life, you should take the fifteen minutes to watch this snippet.
Ms Elliott was reacting to the assassination of Martin Luther King. She wanted to teach her lily-white third graders a lesson in racism. She stood in front of her class and said, Blue eyed people are smarter, cleaner, better. Blue eyed people get five extra minutes at recess, get to drink from the drinking fountain, go first for lunch, and to get seconds at lunch. And, the children lit into each other like those brown-eyed kids were common Muslims getting on an airplane. They were howling for those brown-eyed kids to be removed from the plane this very instant!
It was heartbreaking. It was like everything bad happens to us. It’s like we lost our best friends.
Social Identity Theory explains a lot of this sniping between Dem-favoring groups. I’ve written extensively about SIT twice before. It is a well-established theory. Basically, it suggests that people seek social groups, after all, we are better when we work together. It is how we evolved to be the most dominate species in the known universe. We are attracted to people that we perceive as being similar to ourselves… and we judge people within a second of seeing them for the first time! To be similar is to have the physical appearance of similarity. It is why face-tatoos are so off putting. Come on, guys. Really?
Once we’ve identified with a group, Bernie Bros versus Clintonistas, for example, we develop a clearer distinction between the groups. Our self-esteem gets caught up in the esteem of the group. That’s one reason it smarts so much to lose. To enhance our self-esteem, we often denigrate the other side. Trash talk can be a fun creative way of expressing yourself, but can we agree to draw the line at electing someone like the Ol’ Pussy Grabber? Maybe not.
If we want to overcome this social identity division, we have to quit sharpening the distinctions between the Bros and the ‘Istas. We have to start emphasizing our similarities. It will take discipline and swallowing a little pride and keeping focused on the goal.
Explanation #2: Association Machines = Predictability = Safety
But, there’s more at work here. Right now, the Ol’ Pussy Grabber has us living in his world playing his game: chaotic crisis fight. When the world starts to turn to shit, and by shit I mean stop being so predictable, we retreat into enclaves of safety. Often that means a group of some kind — we evolved to work better in groups. But, we do more than that.
We also evolved to be association machines, so we begin to look for links between things in our environment. The functional side of this is that it helps us identify danger. If it is surprising, then it is potentially dangerous. If it isn’t surprising, it is because we’ve encountered it before, and it didn’t kill us, so it must be safe. This is one of the theories about why conspiracy theories are so appealing: they reduce complex environments to something more manageable, they bring associations together, and they give us tEhe veneer of predictability. Predictability equals safety.
That need to pare down a complicated threatening environment encourages us to do some very unhealthy things like narrow our focus, confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, motivated reasoning, and information avoidance. In other words, it is easier and less threatening to re-litigate the Democratic primary battle between Clinton and Sanders than it is to resist the Ol’ Pussy Grabber and work to overturn the Congress and re-take the state legislatures in 2018. We are inherently lazy, so emotion trumps reason. Tweeting and Facebooking hate to Bernie Bros or Clintonistas is so much easier than organizing a neighborhood to vote in the 2018 election or canvassing or phone banking for a candidate or even calling your Representative or Senator to oppose legislation. It has the added bonus of the illusion of accomplishment. You did something! And, you can see it! It’s right there on the screen! I’m impo’tent, too, mo’fo!
Explanation #3: Fear as a Catalyst for Change
There is a belief in the mental health world that people don’t change until they’re in enough pain to change. One of the biggest problems we have in white middle class America is that we ain’t in no pain, so we don’t change. One of the reasons that there was such a tremendous outpouring of #Resistance in the past few months is because the election of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber caused us a lot of pain as in fear. Fear is uncomfortable. Fear means danger. Fear means it is time to change. Fear is one of the biggest catalysts for change.
We face complex problems from healthcare to tax codes to economic policy to what the fuck to do about North Korea to immigration. One strategy that the right uses is to keep us confused so that the problems are overwhelming and to keep us afraid so we will vote conservative and for their simplistic solutions and illusory explanations. It is hard to imagine a world without abortion being safe and legal or Planned Parenthood or the neighborhood health clinic or the food pantry, but it is possible. It is so hard to imagine that we do not fear that world, especially if you’ve never relied on a food pantry or the neighborhood free-clinic.
The chaotic mess that is now squatting in the White House ortta scare the devil outta us all. It should be enough to unite us in opposition, but, obviously, it ain’t. The first 100 days of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s presidency is all he is capable of. It won’t change substantially from this. A real big motherfucking crisis is coming. It always does. Whether it is another Katrina or major California earthquake or Pulse or 9/11, it is coming. The Ol’ Pussy Grabber and his inexperienced understaffed White House will be totally incapable of leading us through it. We should be afraid. We should be very afraid. Many people will die or suffer horribly needlessly because of him.
Stay focused on the fear. Don’t normalize this bastard. Stay focused on his abnormality. Be outraged every goddamn day. And, channel it where it belongs at the GOP Congress that intends to further enrich the elite by looting the middle class and the Ol’ Pussy Grabber who will only be grabbing with both hands. If we don’t resist by organizing for the 2018 elections, we will all just be another wrecked life floating the maelstrom of destruction that the Ol’ Pussy Grabber leaves in his wake.