Over the past three decades, the Republican Party has been responsible for vast increases in poverty and income inequality in America, two disastrous and illegal wars in the Middle East, the complete breakdown of the financial system, holding the country to ransom over the debt ceiling, attempting to roll back women's rights 40 years, and generally wrecking every bit of sensible legislation the Democrats have tried to pass - often just for the sake of it.
Yet Americans still vote Republicans into office over and over again, apparently ignoring the fact that the party is no longer a political entity, but almost exclusively a dangerous group of nihilists paid by corporations and the wealthy to dismantle the government for their benefit.
We've seen this game play itself out over, and over again. George Bush illegally took the country to war in Iraq in 2003, then made every mistake humanly possible in the aftermath. His reward? Another 4 years in office. Barack Obama took over in 2008 and did his best fix the carnage created by the Bush Administration - with broadly speaking a good amount of success. His reward for trying to make the government work? The GOP took back congress in 2010, then the Senate in 2014.
This pattern of behavior is incomprehensible for any sane observer. The Republicans have such little regard for the plight of millions of Americans, it is amazing they get any votes at all. When a Presidential candidate can say this:
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. ... My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
And then go on to get over 60 million votes, there is something very, very seriously wrong. So what exactly is happening here?
It would appear that Americans are in an abusive relationship with the Republican Party, rewarding them for bad behavior and encouraging them to mistreat them without consequence.
We see this happen in relationships, where partners stay with their significant other despite suffering quite serious abuse. In response to the Ray Rice domestic abuse saga (for those of you unaware, NFL star Rice brutally knocked out his fiance, Janay Rice, who then decided to stay with him) Time Magazine's Eliana Dockterman reported the following:
Experts say that the limitations of leaving can be both psychological and physical. Many rationalize their situation. “People wind up blaming themselves for the abusive behavior of their partners,” says Craig Malkin, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School. “They convince themselves if they approach the person differently, maybe they won’t be abused.”
Malkin likened a relationship with an abusive partner to gambling addiction: “The person being abused is focused on the positive and waiting for the next positive. There’s a psychological effect like gambling: the moments of tenderness and intimacy are unpredictable, but they are so intense and fulfilling that the victim winds up staying in the hopes that a moment like that will happen again.”
“Eventually there’s sort of this wearing down for people on the receiving end of the abuse where they continue to tolerate more and over time feel less entitled to safety,” he concludes.
Dockterman also notes that:
Studies show that abused women often experience a kind of Stockholm Syndrome in which a victim comes to identify with and become attached to a captor.
Could this be happening to Americans? Are they so badly abused by their Republican captors that they blame themselves and believe they don't deserve any better?
It would certainly explain a lot. After decades of misogyny, racism and disdain towards the poor, Americans may genuinely believe the world as explained to them by Republicans. Women don't deserve equal rights. Poor people are poor because they deserve to be poor, and so on. When the Democrats can't (or sometimes don't) clear up the mess created by Republican policy, it shouldn't mean Americans give up and go back to the Republicans. Positive relationships take time to develop, and healing can take even longer, so patience is required. But the first step towards creating a positive relationship is building self esteem. After all, why would anyone want to be in a relationship with you if you don't value yourself?
Americans need to know that they deserve universal health care, that enormous wealth inequality isn't a 'fact of life', that women have the right to decide what happens with their own bodies, that having 22% of all children living in poverty isn't acceptable, that the government should be able to make peoples lives better, that corporations don't have the right to control your every waking hour, and that 47% of them aren't lazy good-for-nothings.
Perhaps once Americans genuinely start to believe they deserve better than this:
They might actually quit the GOP once and for all.
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