Blog, Politics

From One Cranky Old White Guy To Another Cranky Old White Guy: Why I’m Not Voting For You Bernie

Originally published June 6th, 2016 on Huffington Post

I admit it. I’m a cranky old white guy.

I’m used to getting my way. All the time! And when I don’t, I become visibly nasty.

I’m used to being the “smartest guy in the room.” Which of course, I always am! All rooms, any room!

I’m not voting for you Bernie principally because I don’t want another cranky old white guy pretending to be charge of things when he really isn’t and won’t be in charge of anything. You’ll just further the dysfunction.

It’s easy to make all kinds of pronouncements, many with which I happen to agree, but have no hope whatsoever of ever getting implemented, at least not in my remaining lifetime, or yours for that matter. This is especially true of someone who hasn’t accomplished much in Congress despite being there for an awfully long time. You just plain alienate too many people. We already have too much acrimony. We don’t need more.

I especially don’t like it that in your debates with Hillary, all the while she is speaking, you constantly wag your hands distractingly and even make faces when she says something that you don’t like. This really shows what a cranky old white guy that you really are.

In short, you get on my nerves!

Yes, I’m a Hillary supporter. I think she’s smart (actually smarter than Bill), extremely knowledgeable about national and international affairs, has well thought-out policy positions, was well liked as a Senator by both sides of the aisle, and performed well under very difficult conditions as Secretary of State. This is spite of the fact that the Republican hate machine has for years done everything they could to destroy her. By not taking their bait on the Benghazi hearings, she literally drove the Senate Republicans crazy. Unlike us, she can be cool under pressure.

I give you enormous credit for promoting a Progressive agenda that this country needs desperately and for pushing Hillary to the Left. But I worry that if you and your supporters don’t get behind her as soon as possible—indeed, starting right now!—you will help elect Donald Trump, one of the worst nightmares imaginable.

I know that it’s hard for cranky old white guys to listen and to take advice from one another. Maybe we could learn to do it. It’s never too late to change. But then we wouldn’t be so cranky.

It’s really hard to give up something that has served us well for so long. But has it really?

Blog, Media + Politics, Politics

The Age Factor: Gauging the Candidates by the Development of the Audience to Whom They Appeal

Originally published March 14, 2016 on the Huffington Post

One of the most powerful ways by which to gauge the candidates vying for their party’s nomination for President is in terms of the developmental ages of the primary audiences to whom their appeals are addressed. First of all, developmental age is very different from chronological age. Psychologically, one can be much older or younger than one’s actual age.

A number of analysts have noted that Donald Trump’s use of language is at the level of two-year olds. His constant use and repetition of simple words and phrases–“I’m terrific; I will be so good you won’t believe it; etc.”–are exactly how two-year olds speak and puff themselves up. Two-year olds are also continually prone to temper tantrums and the use of unsightly gestures and facial ticks when others are speaking, and especially when they don’t get their own way. In short, they are not yet socialized, let alone civilized. What’s frightening of course is that so many are also at the level of two-year olds. Trump appeals directly to two-year olds because he vents their raw emotions.

While certainly not young himself, Senator Bernie Sanders is speaking directly to 20 and 30 year-olds. More accurately, he is speaking to the idealism that is a prominent characteristic of young people. To this group, or to that part of everyone that is eternally young, it’s completely irrelevant whether Senator Sanders could ever actually accomplish all of his admirable ideals. All that matters is that he not only articulates deeply humane and just goals, but that he remains true to them.

As an important aside, in Senator Sanders’ debates with Secretary Clinton, his frequent, disconcerting gestures of disapproval reveals that there is a prominent two-year old side to him as well.

In many ways, Secretary Clinton faces the hardest task of all. She is appealing to more mature adults. In the spirit of actually getting things done, she knows that one needs to set tough priorities and to compromise when need be. As an adult appealing to other adults, she does not shy away from complexity. But that’s precisely why it’s so difficult to “package” her policies and programs in simple one-liners that stir passion.

Developmental psychology also helps to explain why President Obama has faced such enormous hostility throughout his entire two terms in office. There is no question that out-and-out racism is a big part of the story, but so is the fact that he thinks and speaks like a professor. In particular, two-year olds and young people don’t like the “know-it-all” attitudes of older wiser adults, especially professors.

Instead of turning to demagogues who amplify our anxieties and fears, and thus use them to their advantage, one needs adults who can reassure us in times of overwhelming change and enormous threats. But this means that we need adults who can use reassuring language while not talking down to us. It also means we need adults who not only understand the idealism of youth, but can incorporate it into appeals for more adult approaches to the great challenges and issues of our times.

Blog, Politics, Psychology

The Psychopathology of the Republican Candidates


Originally published November 24, 2015 on Nation of Change

As a lifelong student of psychoanalysis, I am led to the proposition that the behavior of the current crop of Republican candidates and their supporters can only be properly understood, if that, in terms of psychopathology. Conventional explanations such as Washington is more partisan than ever, American power is in decline, etc. explain part of the anger of the Republican electorate, but they cannot account for its sheer intensity.

Conventional explanations also cannot account for why when challenged the candidates not only deny actual facts, but engage in out-and-out lies and deception. For example, Donald Trump receives major amounts of campaign contributions from his supporters. Contrary to his repeated claims, his campaign is not fully funded by his own fortune. For another, Dr. Ben Carson did appear as a spokesperson for a questionable product. And so on!

Yes, the Republican candidates are certainly engaged in pandering to their base, but this only raises the fundamental question why the base lives in a fantasy world that is increasingly out of touch with reality. For instance, it’s complexly unrealistic, if not insane, to believe that one could actually get Mexico to pay for a wall thousands of miles long that would keep its citizens out of the U.S. What interests of Mexico would this possibly serve? Why does the base so readily accept anything that literally pops out of the mouths of the candidates? The more preposterous the idea, the more fervently it’s embraced.

In times of great stress, underlying fears and anxieties that have not been dealt with adequately rise to the surface and take over people’s reasoning, if not their minds. Thus, enormous anxieties and fears having to do with: (a) underlying racial and ethnic differences, (b) the fact that white men, in particular, are no longer in complete control, (c) a world that is so complex that no one can fully explain, let alone control it, (d) the ever-present danger of terrorism, and (f) the seemingly loss of power and influence of the U.S. in world affairs—all of these and more are sufficient to drive sizeable numbers of people into the most bizarre fantasies. Gaining control by whatever means of an uncertain, dangerous, and precarious world becomes paramount.

I cannot emphasize enough that in times of great stress, people revert to earlier, primitive stages of development. That is to be expected. Nonetheless, the extent to which the Republican candidates and voters have regressed to earlier primitive stages of human development is absolutely scary.  It’s nothing less than mind-boggling.

One does not overcome great anxieties and fears by facts and logical reasoning alone. If anything, cold facts and logic only drive people deeper into fantasies. One requires calm, soothing voices that can address deep underlying anxieties, fears, and fantasies not by naming them directly, but by telling stories that provide reassurance. But this requires candidates that are strong enough to face reality in the first place, and then to fashion stories that make unpleasant truths palatable. True leadership is telling people what they can’t bear to hear. Sadly, I see no evidence of this whatsoever in the current crop of Republican candidates.