Time to Psychoanalyze America?

Brian Resnick opens his Vox article this way

These are strange, unsettling times.

It is true that America just elected a con man to be president. It is also true that the con man is doing what conmen do – he is trying to con us. Like all con men, he brazenly lies. He acts in his own, rather than the group’s interests. And of course, Brian is right. This is unsettling.

The strange part of it is that it was obvious that Donald Trump was a con man before the election. He was elected anyway, at least by the electoral college if not the popular vote. Thus, at least some voted for Trump knowing that he was a con man or ignoring the evidence. Something was driving those voters to vote for Trump, other than dispassionate reasoning.

Brian interviewed a bunch of psychologists to see if they have any insights into this behavioral pattern. And of course, they do. The most important insight relates to something called “motivated cognition”. In other words, when you are rooting for your team, you tend to overlook its warts and ignore the opposing side’s qualities.

How does this apply to politics? Sadly, it appears that politics has become a sport. And sport is for entertainment. Watching or playing sports does not assist our understanding of reality.  Brian’s psychologist friends warn us that we are losing sight of the separation between entertainment and dispassionate reasoning.

Hmmm … this sounds disturbingly like ancient Rome to me.

Could it be that Hillary lost because she was not entertaining enough? That she dared to take the election too seriously? If so, going forward, ambitious political actors might realize that being serious is a doggy downer. We might see a whole string of blowhards and buffoons running for president.  Being outrageous may become a political asset. Post Trump politics may even make Trump look reasonable.

The scary thing is that I cannot think of an antidote. I cannot see a clear path back to sobriety and reason. If you think this is overly pessimistic, consider that this is not the first time in recent years that we installed an idiot in the White House. We just recently endured eight years of George W. Bush.

BTW, partisan republicans may argue that I am revealing my own political bias here. They may argue that this post is an example of my own inability to see beyond party loyalty.

In fact, I am not a democrat. I am not a republican either. And I would not budge from my claim – George W. Bush was an idiot in the White House. Mission accomplished, my arse! And if you are interested in my political inclinations, see the next post below.

But I thought Bush was an aberration. It seemed that America was waking up to his idiocy and then 9/11 happened. 9/11 made his call to unite around “team America” resonate. “Super patriots” like Dick Cheyney stage managed invasions.  And for a while, this pose ruled the roost. Here is a provocative question — Isn’t Trump just round two of the super patriot games?

As I said, this is more than a bit scary. Let’s hope I am wrong.

PS – My dear old dad, rest his soul, said long ago that it really did not matter who won the presidential election. The decisions of both candidates were in the hands of advisors who were far more intelligent than the presidents were This view of the world most likely drove the popularity of the TV show, “Yes Minister” followed by “Yes Prime Minister”.  However, my hope that brilliant advisors would save America has so far not been realized. Will Ivanka and her hubby change everything? Stay tuned!

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