I had been writing my first ever year-end review of Ye Olde Blogge, when I took a break and started reading Sarah Kendzior’s Hiding in Plain Sight. At the beginning of the book, she offers a lengthy quote from an open letter she wrote to the American people right after Trump’s election asking us to think about our values and what we would and wouldn’t do since all of those things will be challenged during the next four years. It got me to thinking about how we have changed over the past four years. It seemed much better than just a year-in-the-blog review.
What’s changed in 2020, but also what’s changed in the five years that Trump has infected the national stage?
Leave a comment about the things you’ve learned, the ways you changed, or the changes you’ve observed during the Trump years. We’d love to hear from you. Remember, our comments are always open.
The Importance of People
Not only did our time in lockdown show us the importance of people, but so did our elections, protests, and politics.
Protest:The Women’s March kicked off our years of protests. Followed by the wild and woolly Muslim-ban protests at airports around the country. Black Lives Matter kept growing with every black person murdered by the police. And, it all boiled over during the past summer with the pent-up frustrations over lockdowns, continued human rights abuses, and lack of change regarding the police murder of black people.
Protests mattered. They fired people up. They got people committed. And, as Tim Snyder said, they got people out of their comfort zones and meeting people of like mind. They not only created energy, but synergy.
INDIVISIBLE: I don’t think the #Resistance would have been anywhere near as effective without Indivisible. They showed us the way to influence Congress. They inspired Ye Olde Blogge to begin writing about specific pieces of legislation and how to contact your MoC.
The experience showed me how “easy” and effective it is to influence Congress through phone calls. No where was this more evident than in the fight to save the ACA. Democrats really burned up the Capitol phone lines then. It overwhelmed our Representatives and Senators.
One of the most popular posts we had this year was about contacting Emily Murphy to start the transition! Contacting her had a huge effect. Unfortunately, we all too often let our anger get the better of us and many threatened her and her family in spite of my admonitions to be polite.
People mattered in letting our legislators know how we felt about legislation and the 2020 elections. It has helped us learn the lessons of being an involved electorate. Hopefully, we won’t be going back.
Voting: When Trump was elected, people did not turn out to vote. Whatever the reason, the lack of people voting allowed him to win by the slimmest of margins. Things had changed, though, by the 2018 mid-terms. Moderate Democrats were swept into the House on the backs of suburban women. We rode this wave through the 2020 election, but unfortunately, so did the opposition. While #BidenHarris won, by a very slim margin (had Arizona and Georgia gone differently, both candidates would’ve had 269 EC votes and the House would be deciding), we lost seats in the House and have left control of the Senate to the very last election. On the other hand, we had an increase of 20 some odd million from 2016 to 2020.
People mattered when it came to voting, too. Hopefully, we’ve learned this lesson well enough that we elect Warnock and Ossoff to the Senate.
The Authoritarianism of the GOP
I’ve been writing about it since May 2017, and it only got clearer as the years drug on. However, it seemed to culminate with the impeachment trial of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber in January. With the trial, it was made very clear that the GOP did not care about the rule of law only about maintaining their grip on the government. The only conclusion to draw is that they liked what the Ol’ Pussy Grabber was doing and wanted him to continue doing it, and what he is doing is wrecking our democracy.
the ultimate lesson of the Trump years: The Repubes are no longer a democratic party. They no longer wish to be constrained by the results of elections. This has been going on since at least Newt Gingrich’s permanent majority. They have fought hard to rig elections through gerrymandering, voter suppression, and sowing doubt about the legitimacy of our elections. Now they aren’t even trying to be quiet about it any more. They are just coming right out and saying it.
Mitch McConnell: McConnell is the one of the well-springs of the GOP’s anti-democratic urges. He really is the psychopath to Trump’s narcissist, the executive functioning to Trump’s dysfunction. And, during the Trump years, he’s achieved a hat-trick of anti-democratic destruction:
- He’s wrecked the Senate rendering it a completely dysfunctional legislative body.
- He’s packed the courts with radically unqualified judges.
- By passing absolutely no meaningful legislation, he forces the executive branch to rule by executive order making it an authoritarian. Neat trick, Mitch.
In many ways, Mitch McConnell is the single biggest thing wrong with our democracy.
Single-party pseudo-democratic minority rule that will transfer the nation’s wealth to the one percent as quickly as possible while the rest of us all live in Cancer Alley, drink Flint water, and die as quickly and quietly as possible when we no longer contribute as much as we cost turns out to be not only a snarky and sarcasticky description of the goals of the GOP, but, also, damn accurate. That really is what they want and the Ol’ Pussy Grabber and #COVID19 were just accelerants.
People like Kendzior have been warning us about the naked authoritarian grab not only by Trump but by the GOP for a long time. The problem was that no one was ready to hear it. It was too great a violation of our norms and beliefs about ourselves to be believed. After watching it unfold for four years, though, I puzzled through the evidence and came to the conclusion myself.
It was like realizing that your parents had to have sex in order to have you. No one is ever ready to admit that their parents are sexual beings, but at some point the cold grotesque truth wins out and bores itself into your conscious. It is the same here. Realizing that one of our major political parties is no longer supporting democratic ideals and is actively working to destroy our democracy is a hard sell. No one wants to believe it.
The Power of Social Support
Ye Olde Blogge was started as an exercise in understanding how people could be so virulently against gun reform legislation and be so anti-choice. We’ve made great strides in explaining it the psychological mechanisms that allow people to vote against their own best interests. It turns out that Stanly Milgram was right. In the right circumstances we’ll all electrocute someone or vote against our won best interest or profess our belief that #COVID19 is a hoax with our last dying wheeze.
Identity Politics: I’ve come to believe that all politics is identity politics and the less information a voter has, the more the voter relies on identity politics to make political decisions. Low-information voters rely on the politicians they like — **cough, cough ** the Ol’ Pussy Grabber ** cough, cough ** — to determine their political views. Whatever that politicians is saying, that is what they believe. Ideology be damned.
The higher information the voter is, the more likely they are to make political decisions based on ideology and are less likely to blindly support a demagogue. So, the good news is that we want to create high-information voters. Difficult but doable.
Social Support: While we seem to be living in the stupidest of all of the parallel universes, it has at no time been clearer than in 2020 when MAGAs would rather die than give up their conspiracy theories or let go of the cognitive dissonance that allows them to live in the comforting bubble of Trump’s lies. The thing that props the cognitive dissonance against all challenges is social support. Surrounding yourself with people and media that agree with your opinions and beliefs.
Social psychologists have long maintained that 75% of our behavior is due to our environment and other external factors and only 25% due to personality and other internal factors. The Trump years have convinced me that they’re right. The icing on that foul bitter cake is the MAGA reaction to the gross mismanagement of the #COVID19 pandemic by all local, state, and federal Repubes.
The horribler it gets the more they pad their social bubble with true believers that echo their beliefs. There is hope, though. To burst this resilient bubble, we may need to make political lies the equivalent of hate speech. But, at least we have a plausible plan.
One of the beliefs that the blog has borrowed is that a good diagnosis leads to a good treatment which leads to a good outcome. It is a medical model, I know. But, I think, if we can understand the psychological mechanisms that underpin the appeal of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber and the authoritarian GOP, we can find better and more effective responses. It is a fight that we have to have and that we must win if American democracy is going to survive.
These are some of the lessons that I’ve taken from the Trump years. I’d love to hear the lessons that you’ve learned. Please let us know in the comments.
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Categories: Social Psychology