Thursday, June 3, 2021

Toxic Therapy Party


Image via Dr. Tracy Hutchinson, Fort Myers, Florida.

Brad DeLong (subscribers only) gets a letter from Senator Rubio:

Fellow Patriot, 

I really am disappointed, Fellow Patriot. I am disappointed to say we missed our goal for May. I heard that Mark shared our internal financial memo with you and you still didn’t step up? I am SO disappointed. Like I told you, we had plans to open a field office, but we are going to have to push that opening back. With a RADICAL DEMOCRAT challenger just about to announce her campaign against me, we really cannot afford any missteps. 

I have been working my absolute hardest to ensure the people of Florida and America are best served by Congress. My efforts have not gone unnoticed, I was fortunate enough to receive an endorsement from President Trump for working on behalf of our veterans, enhancing Border Security, and standing up to “woke” corporations. While it was an honor to receive President Trump’s support, it riled up the Left. The good news here is I won’t EVER bend a knee to the radical Left. I am COMMITTED to fight for your conservative values regardless of whatever the out-of-control Left will try to throw at me. I will never give up on you, Fellow Patriot. However, despite all of these good things, missing this deadline is a MASSIVE misstep. I won’t lie, I am nervous. But I’ve spent the day strategizing with my team, and I have convinced them to extend our deadline for another 24 HOURS.... 

And wonders how people ever get to be so benighted and fearful they fall for a pitch like this, accusing them of letting the team down, ignoring their desperate pleas, and risking disaster: "I've been working my tail off [Sure, Marco, I happen to know you've stopped legislative work altogether in favor of shitposting on Twitter all day], fighting the out-of-control Left while you just sit there, making me miss my deadline as if you didn't realize what's at stake! I'll never give up on you, Fellow Patriot, why are you giving up on me? I've begged my team to give you another chance..." Because the team is somehow the boss of both of you, you and Marco, and you're lucky he cares so much about you that he's interceded with them on your behalf—they'll allow him to keep protecting your conservative values in spite of your feckless failure to live up to your responsibilities, but this offer will be available for a limited time only, you must send us your money NOW. 

It must work, or they wouldn't be doing it; it must have been thoroughly tested. But what kind of people are they aiming at? And what DeLong thinks of is the profile of adults who were victims of child abuse:

The authority figures who are “SO disappointed” but would love you if only you behaved, and who would then not wash their hands of you but protect you against the vicious world. The ally helping you to propitiate the angry male parental authority figure, who has put himself on the line for you and now needs you to propitiate as well.... But what happened to how many Republican donors as small children for this triggering to be an effective way of transferring their money into the grifters’ pockets?

Compare this, also using the "deadline" trope, coming to me a couple of days ago from Cory Booker:


We’ll be blunt — we missed our May fundraising goal yesterday.

Hitting our monthly goals is critical to building the strongest campaign possible. So today, we’re looking for a huge number of grassroots donations to make up ground for our June FEC fundraising deadline right around the corner.

We’re grateful to have this team on our side — supporters like you chipping in what they can give Cory and our team the ability to fully invest in defending our Democratic majority in the Senate across the country.

He doesn't blame me, he takes responsibility himself ("we missed"); he assumes I'm capable of understanding the point of the thing (I'm not sure I do, or sure I believe in it, but that's another matter), and he includes me in, by name, as a member of the team. That's adult to adult.

It's irritating to find myself wanting to subject the party system to actual psychoanalysis—really?—but I can't help seeing it that way, the distinction between liberationists and authoritarians as reflection of the difference between those who have managed to resolve the unconscious psychic consequences of any abuse they may have suffered as children and those who haven't. I don't mean to appeal here to the common image we have of the Democratic Party as nurturing mother and the Republican Party as stern and angry father. I'm thinking of the difference between those who don't need their party to be a parent at all, and those who do, because they've never gotten over whatever happened to them as kids; they haven't resolved it in that sense, their childhood isn't really finished.

I mean, Democrats want their party to stand for purposes like fairness and equality, and come up with practical ways of realizing them, bringing them into reality, from fixing the potholes and making all the schools work to keeping innocent people out of prison and creating a peaceful international order, and whatnot, and Republicans want their party to stand for parents in the various ways that might apply, the parents they're addicted to: not just who won't beat you as long as you're good, though that does seem kind of central. Parties that stand for the parent who doesn't hate you, that will hide that terrible thing you did from Mom, or tell you Dad is wrong and you're really smart in spite of your grades, things we all sort of need from time to time from somebody, but not a political party. Or that will do what you still feel your parents should have done, beat your brother instead because he's the one who started it, or not walk out on your mother. Or, on the contrary, model the cruelties you want to perform yourself, like beating your brother or walking out on your mother or your own wife. And, not unrelated, strategies of denial: "No, no, this didn't happen, or if it did happen, it's perfectly normal, my father did it to me", or the twin of denial, which is projection.

I've often thought of Democrats as being more or less interested in social action and Republicans in symbolic action, and maybe reported some of that on this page. What if the symbolism is of that kind, though? Rooted in the traumatizing conflicts of early childhood, especially the ones that involve violence, and acting them out, dramatizing them?

What if Democrats are simply comparatively mature, not necessarily "cured" but with coping strategies that enable them to detach themselves from their relationship with their parents, some of the time, and lead an active political life, and Republicans aren't? What if being a Republican is a kind of toxic form of or substitute for psychoanalytic therapy?

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