Monday, May 23, 2016

Grand Old Patty Hearst Syndrome

Steve's back on the tortured acceptance of Donald Trump by the GOP establishment...

It has been a year in which most observers of our political landscape have been rendered breathless by the apparent role-reversal of the two major parties, with the usually orderly Republicans flying in a protracted cluster formation, and the normatively unruly Democrats seeming for a few precious moments to be accepting the idea that they should simply anoint their highly qualified front runner.

Ah, but DNA cannot be sublimated in perpetuity; one’s essential nature cannot be denied. It lies dormant but dangerously incubates. This past week was when nature erupted over nurture for both parties.

In today’s column we assess the stunningly rapid alignment of the lemmings on the Republican side. In our next installment, we’ll get to the innate instinct for self-destruction in the Democratic Party.

Buyer’s remorse for the Donald? Think again. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll, 80% of Republicans now believe that the party and its leaders should get behind Donald Trump for President.

Now, 80% is a hyoooge number. Like, perhaps ten-fold the impression you have of Trump supporters as a segment of undereducated aging white guys in trailer parks in the rural south.

To make this a bit less notional, this means that eight out of ten of your Republican neighbors on the soccer sidelines in Darien, Winnetka, Shaker Heights, Edina, and Sausalito now want Donald Trump to be the next President of the United States. That dinner at Sleepy Hollow with the five couples the other night? Think about it.

Trump acceptance has now broken beyond rural cells that were ripe for a message of economic xenophobia.  It is now riding the Metro North, the SEPTA, and the Sounder to the wealthy suburbs.

What’s most interesting about the Republican commute from “Are you f’ing kidding me?” to “well, he won the nomination of my party fair and square” is the seeming acceptance of passenger Trump but the reluctance to take his baggage on board.

Here’s a parlor game of sorts to play with Republican friends and colleagues: ask them whether they agree with Trump’s position on the following issues. See if they will publicly acknowledge total agreement with a single one of them, or can identify a rationale for why they can acquiesce to the ones they reluctantly accept.  Count the times they vehemently disagree – if any -- with their own candidate.

Q. So, when you say that you support Trump, do you mean banning all non-citizen Muslims?
 A. Well, not really, but hey, even Trump backed off that one in the meeting with Ryan last week. Now he’s saying it was just a “suggestion.”
Q. Oh, ok… got it. And deporting eleven million undocumented aliens? How about that?
A. Hey, he’s just making a point, you know? Like, nobody was even talking about illegal aliens before Trump, and now we’re talking about it. So that’s a good thing.
Q. And the wall? 50 feet tall, the length of the border?
A. Dude, I think you are being really, like, literal. The point is that we have to fix the problem of illegals coming across the border and stealing jobs, man!!
Q. But I thought the wall was because you think Mexicans are rapists and drug lords?
A. No, I don’t think that! And that’s not the reason for the wall. The wall is to keep Mexicans from taking our jobs.
Q. But that’s not what Donald Trump said…
A. That’s not the point. It’s not that they are all rapists; he was saying that for shock value to get attention, and sure enough, he did. So his ends justified the means.
Q. Let’s move on. How about the idea of the 45% tariffs on trading partners? Do you think that is a good idea, or not?
A. He’s a negotiator, man. That’s how he’s going to get China to back down on their currency manipulation. He won’t need to slap tariffs on, cause the Chinese will back down.
Q. Punishment for women who have abortions?
A. Hey, he walked that one back already. His staff immediately retracted that one.
Q. Got any issues with the accusations of misogyny? The insults about Carly Fiorina’s face and Megan Kelly’s menstrual cycle? Unwavering support for his campaign manager who was arrested for physically accosting a woman reporter? The way he treated Heidi Cruz, ridiculing her appearance and saying he was going to “spill the beans” on her?
A. Yeah, well that slanted piece in the New York Times also said that he hired women in very senior positions at his company, so I think he has a strong record on working well with women.
Q. Any concerns about the foreign policy stuff? Stepping back from NATO? Bomb the shit out of ISIS? Nuclear Japan and Korea? Fair ball to go after the families of terrorists? Assassinate Kim Jong-un?
A. Fine. He has some learning to do on the global stuff. Any candidate for President does.
Q. But, uh, that’s really not true. Hillary Clinton does know “global stuff…”
A. Oh, yeah? Well, I have one word for you: Benghazi.
Q. Any discomfort with the way Trump changes his positions? On planned parenthood, gun control, Israel?
A. He’s not flip-flopping. He points out that the most successful business executives are always open to new input and constantly refine and modify their positions.
Q. Any qualms that he provides little by way of specifics on his proposals? Like, how is he going to repeal Obamacare but then provide health insurance to every citizen?
A. Great leaders cast a vision, man. Leave it to the wonks to figure out the implementation.
Q. Don’t you think he should release his taxes like every other presidential candidate has in the past fifty years?
A. He says he will release them as soon as the audit is done, and that’s good enough for me.
Q. Any worries at all about the truly strange level of self-aggrandizement? How the “Hispanics love me,” the “Blacks love me,” the “women love me.” That the “Art of the Deal” is only second to the Bible among the world’s great books? That weird thing of pretending he was his own press agent to talk about how many women want to date him?
A. All politicians have out-of-control egos.
Q. How ‘bout just the flat-out lying and exaggeration? “I saw thousands of Muslims cheering in New Jersey when the World Trade Center came down.” “Most of the world’s Muslims hate the United States.” “I’ve heard that real unemployment is 42%.” “81 percent of white murder victims are killed by blacks.” “Hillary Clinton wants to take away your guns.” “Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination.”
A. Every one of those things is something that he actually did read in a magazine or on the Internet, so he was just saying that he had heard about it. Which was true… he had “heard about it.”
Q. How about just the crassness of it all? The insults, the bullying, the imitating people with disabilities? “John McCain is not a war hero,” “Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, Low energy Jeb.” “Our leaders are stupid people.”
A. Hey, you heard him. He knows that he’s got to start acting more Presidential.
Q. Ok, look… it seems like you really don’t agree with your candidate on too many things. What am I missing? Is there something he is advocating that you believe in strongly that I am missing?
A. Well, uh, yeah. I mean, the guy tells it like it is. There’s none of that political correctness BS, you know? He speaks his mind, and that resonates with a lot of people.
Q. Well, o.k., but it appears that when he speaks his mind, you don’t really agree with him on many – gee, any -- of the positions that he has taken that we have discussed here. So can you tell me in one sentence why have you decided to support him?
A. Like, duh, man. My only other choice is Hillary Clinton, and I will never vote for her. 

There you have it, folks.

That secret special thing that Donald Trump possesses is actually something that I possess, you possess, and, indeed, every single human being on the planet earth possesses… except, of course, Hillary Clinton. What the rest of humankind has in common is not being Hillary Clinton, which is apparently the single and only lingering criteria Republicans actually are using to justify falling in line behind Donald Trump. On the substance of the issues, they either do not know exactly where he stands, or think that the stances he is taking either cannot or will not actually be executed. This would imply that they are banking the future of the United States on blind faith in his judgment and the hope that he cannot or will not actually do what he has publicly committed to doing.

Let’s call it a bad case of Patty Hearst Syndrome.  You’ll recall the famous heiress of Citizen Kane fame, who was abducted from her dorm room at the age of nineteen by the Symbionese Liberation Army, led by an earlier “the Donald,” Donald “Cinque” DeFreeze. 

Two months later, Patty Hearst re-appeared, re-christened with the SLA name “Tania.” Having been supposedly “converted” to the beliefs of the radical group, she was famously photographed brandishing an automatic weapon in apparent willing participation in a bank robbery.

“Patty Hearst Syndrome” is now used interchangeably with the original term for her psychosis, “Stockholm Syndrome,” which Wikipedia neatly summarizes as “capture-bonding … a psychological phenomenon … in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors.”

Take comfort in the fact that the utter lack of logic in the responses to the questions posed above has been diagnosed.  

Republicans have fallen in love with their captor.  Call it Grand Old Patty Hearst Syndrome.

Donald Trump has now conquered the Republican Party, and he is now the only thing standing between Hillary Clinton and the Oval Office.  This has become ample reason enough for Republicans to rapidly fall in line behind him. Exceptionally bright people -- capable of crunching the numbers on a biotech takeover, aggressively scrutinizing rental agreements in the Hamptons, and extracting heavy quid pro quo in a charity fundraiser – are putting their analytic skills on dimmer when assessing the Republican candidate for President. There appears to be little by way of examination of the implications of being “for” Donald Trump; only a self-assured certainty of the wisdom of being “against” Hillary Clinton.

Ironically, these are the very people who, when faced with a choice of evils, are most likely to default to “the devil you know.”  They are the people who would only very reluctantly hire an outsider for a crucial corporate role, who demand six personal letters of endorsement to join their clubs, and who drive Suburbans that serve as mobile resumes, with decals of brand names that ooze hard-earned establishment acceptance.

Hey, have some fun. It’s just a game. If you meet a Trump supporter, ask the same questions listed here.

See how much scrutiny you hear; how much vetting has taken place. Whether or not they really have a firm grip on exactly what their candidate believes and exactly what their candidate will do.

But in truth, the odds are that if you start down the path with these questions at a cocktail party, a polite hostess will swoop down, playfully scold you, and eagerly change the subject to the weather, the charity ball, or the successful lacrosse season.  After nearly a year of non-stop gab about politics, suddenly it is no longer cool to bring up politics over dinner at Jean-Georges; it is now frowned upon, as yesterday as chatty gossip about whether Leo will finally get his Oscar.

Because it is now two months until the Republican convention.

Two months for the ritual indoctrination; two months for the reprogramming.

Two months in hiding before re-emerging in Cleveland, now ready to go out in the public; perhaps now under the name of “Tania.”

There’s no reason for buyer’s remorse if you don’t have a clue what you bought.

There’s no way to question if you’ve been taken hostage.

And if you’ve fallen in love with your captor, you give yourself up to join his battle.

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