Monday, June 12, 2006


Michael Barone this morning on why the Democrats just can't seem to win elections:
It comes down to this: A substantial part of the Democratic Party, some of its politicians and many of its loudest supporters do not want America to succeed in Iraq. So vitriolic and all-consuming is their hatred for George W. Bush that they skip right over the worthy goals we have been, with some considerable success, seeking there -- a democratic government, with guaranteed liberties for all, a vibrant free economy, respect for women -- and call this a war for oil, or for Halliburton.

Successes are discounted, setbacks are trumpeted, the level of American casualties is treated as if it were comparable to those in Vietnam or World War II. Allegations of American misdeeds are repeated over and over; the work of reconstruction and aid of American military personnel and civilians is ignored.

In all this they have been aided and abetted by large elements of the press. The struggle in Iraq has been portrayed as a story of endless and increasing violence. Stories of success and heroism tend to go unreported. Reporters in Iraq deserve respect for their courage -- this has been an unusually deadly war for journalists, largely because they have been targeted by the terrorists. But unfortunately they and the Bush administration have not done a good job of letting us know that last pertinent fact.

We are in an asymmetrical struggle with vicious enemies who slaughter civilians and bystanders and journalists without any regard for the laws of war. But too often we and our enemies are portrayed as moral equivalents. One or two instances of American misconduct are found equal in the balance to a consistent and premeditated campaign of barbarism.

All of this does not go unnoticed by America's voters.

What's interesting to me is how, after each successive loss, they convince themselves that it was actually a win. Even today, they comfort themselves with the notion that the 2000 and 2004 election was somehow "stolen" from them.

The word "stolen" is very revealing of their mindset. Elections are "stolen" from them because they believe that actually own the presidency or the congress or the senate.

Their most recent loss in San Diego is also celebrated by the losers as some sort of win in their minds (presumably because the winner didn't win by as much as he was supposed to).

I once asked a paranoid patient of mine why he imagined that he kept getting hospitalized regularly. This was a patient who was constantly accusing others of attempting to hurt him; and whose behavior was so outrageous in public, that the police regularly had to bring him to the psychiatric emergency room for evaluation. There he would invariably be placed on an involuntary committment as a danger to himself and others. Needless to say, he never took his medicines after the committment ended, and the entire cycle would start up all over again.

He responded to my question by asserting that there was obviously a conspiracy involved (the details of which were amazingly specific) ; and that the people in this conspiracy were clearly trying to silence him and keep him from taking his "proper place in society." He was willing to discuss this with me--even though I was part of that conspiracy--as he showed me his pages of notes about the various connections within that conspiracy.

So, what is your "proper place in society?" I asked.

I should be a full professor by now, replied the individual (who dropped out of college about 25 years earlier) ; I should be wealthy--possibly even the dean of a well-known university. I should have an expensive car and a beautiful home....

The litany went on for some time; as he cataloged, one by one, all the perks that should have been his--if only the conspiracy against him could be exposed.

I think this patient has a lot in common with today's Democrats; and his grandiosity and unwillingness to take responsibility for his plight, is particularly resonant with its extreme left wing.

Neither have a clue as to how to actually achieve their dreams of social glory. They just assume whatever they desire should be automatically conferred upon them without any ideas, plans, or efforts on their part. And when their sense of entitlement is frustrated, it must be because there are evil and powerful people who are keeping them from what rightly belongs to them.

Since they do not believe that anything in their own behavior or view of the world could possibly be the cause of their lack of success, they will simply externalize the blame and responsibility onto whoever/whatever is convenient. Then they console themselves with a constantly expanding and convoluted paranoid fantasy that allows them to keep their inflated self-esteem and sense of superiority. In this delusional fantasy world, they star as the hero; bravely speaking "truth to power"; and always being brought down by the All Powerful Man.

Their delusional tale of woe and oppression is then wildly cheered by the anyone in the audience who buys into the same fantasy; and they all exit stage left.

Someone asked in the comment thread to this post:
I'd like to know, just how long can a person or a society maintain this sort of artificial world? Years? Decades? Can a group keep it up for generations, passing the delusion on to offspring? Because I keep expecting that at some point there is going to be a tremendous crackup, and I wonder when it might be coming, and what it will look like when it does?
To answer that question, you have to understand that paranoia and its precursor projection, are psychological defenses. They are primitive and immature defenses, but they are often fairly successful (at least temporarily) at protecting those who use them from having to face an unpleasant truth or reality.

But one side effect of using the less healthy defenses is that one's perception of reality gets more and more distorted; which invariably puts you at high risk for the consequences that come from ignoring/distorting reality. As an example, think of what happens to the deer caught in the headlights of a reality they cannot process.

Patients like the one I described above can often run afoul of the law. I see them in jails as well as mental hospitals. At the extreme, their behavior can lead to homicide when they are angry; or suicide when they are in despair.

When we talk about a large group within a society that requires conspiracy theories to maintain their belief system/ideology, then their anger and despair will eventually have serious consequences for the entire society.

The timescale is extremely variable, depending on the reality that is being ignored or distorted; but the consequences remain the same if there is no intervention that brings them to their senses.

UPDATE: Case in point.

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