Monday, December 12, 2016

What's All This About Gaslighting?

In a series of articles here and here and elsewhere,  observers have been calling the Trump/Pence strategy "gaslighting" after the old Boyer/Bergman film "Gaslight".
source: wikipedia
But it's not gaslighting if you know the perpetrators are constantly lying as a strategy using false positive claims on their own behalf, while using a strategy of deny, deflect, distract, accuse when called out on the lies. That sends the fact checkers digging into reality, which the reporters dutifully report to little attention, while the perpetrator has already moved on to the next lie. Our elite media did not quite see this coming, labeling DT "not a normal candidate" much of this year and, falling into the false equivalence trap, the campaign between two presidential candidates was labeled "not normal".
So the normal candidate lost in the Electoral College which is the system we have.
Even as the accusations and counter accusations fly over the role of the FBI and Russia, some of the simple evidence is quickly forgotten, lost in the miasma.

Back to "gaslighting". We are talking about a populace divided between two types of nonbelievers - those who care about the lies and see this behavior of national leaders like DT and McConnell as destructive of national institutions of democracy and those who just do not care about the lying.

The willingness of conservative leaders to be mendacious in order to win elections and achieve policy goals without fear of retribution, without concern about the devastating impact on the political system is not unprecedented with DT, but the scale is unprecedented. DT beat them at their own game in the primaries and he had valuable assistance from the FBI and Russian agents to plow over the top. Had DT lost the election, he would not have been the leader of the Party. The Party leaders would have continued with the stonewalling of the Obama years, combined with a ratcheted-up opposition to Clinton - endless investigations culminating in impeachment hearings calculated to weaken her Presidency mercilessly ( "merciless" to us, the American people they say they care so much about.). The thinking on the best Republican strategy would have been, OK, Trump was a little over the top, we need to pull the strings of the primary system to make sure the non-establishment candidate does not win next time. Instead, Republican strategists have decided, OK, so this is what we need to do to win - not only elections, but in the court of public opinion as we govern. So lying about everything is the best tactic we have. Anyone who accuses us of lying is being "political", so we can swat down any accusation by labeling it biased. We can do whatever we want without fear of repercussions that we care about.

So it's not "gaslighting". The big mystery that requires a better explanation is - why do the supporters, the Republican base, just not care about the truth? About reality?  Why do they not see that mendacity in leaders can destroy a political system, what was once the best political system in the world? Why do they not care about that? Well, for the same reason that they care more about the American flag - a symbol - than they care about America - a country, their country. More on that in a future post.

Meanwhile, easily forgotten in the focus on the Comey role as head of the FBI to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump is the other FBI push made in the final week of the campaign - the posting of documents about the Clinton presidential pardon of fugitive Marc Rich. These actions, together with Republican suggestions that they would limit the Supreme Court to eight justices, or fewer if Justices started to die off with Clinton as president, along with advertising the planned investigations of a president Clinton - all made emphatically during the final weeks of the campaign - were designed to let the American people know - "If you elect Clinton as your president, we will make your life hell!" That warning to American citizens was the shot across the bow which succeeded. If you are a business person who leans Republican, why would you vote against a party that is inclined to enact policies that favor you - lower income taxes on the wealthy, eliminating estate taxes on the wealthy, lower Social Security taxes on the wealthy, lower Medicare taxes on the wealthy, lower corporate income taxes making your stocks more valuable, and so on? Why would you go against all that only to have Republicans in Congress not only continue the scorched earth tactics of the Obama years, but intensify those efforts.

So it's not gaslighting. We all know what is happening. We just have trouble believing the extent of the cynicism about the political system. And the shortsightedness. Do they not see?
These destructive tactics have destructive ends.

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