Monday, May 14, 2018

Congressional Republicans Show Signs of Battered Wife Syndrome

Medical News Today says battered women suffer from PTSD but then adds they suffer their own special symptoms as well.
In addition to PTSD, people with battered woman syndrome show symptoms that may be confusing to outsiders.
Those include:
  • learned helplessness
  • refusing to leave the relationship
  • believing that the abuser is powerful or knows everything
  • idealizing the abuser following a cycle of abuse
  • believing they deserve the abuse

Let's look at these one at a time and see how closely they apply to Congressional (and other) Republicans.  Naturally, not all Republicans are the same, but I suspect a good number fall into this category.

Learned Helplessness:  There are countless examples of Republicans unable to act appropriately.  Many Republican members of Congress privately complain about Trump.  He kept changing his position on immigration and they couldn't get a bill passed.  Many were upset with  Trump's imposition of tariff's and then breaking the Iran Nuclear Treaty.   There were the tax cuts that are predicted to raise the national debt to historic highs.  They cringe at his tweets, but are powerless to do anything.

Refusing to leave the relationship:  Actually, many are leaving.  Ballotpedia lists 3 retiring Republican Senators and 24 House members.  Two of the Senators are clearly leaving because of Trump - Corker and Flake.  The House members includes the Speaker of the House.   But the others seem to feel that can't break up the relationship, they have too much to lose.  Maybe they are vested in their prestige, income (payroll and side deals), influence, ideology, or whatever, that they rather stay taking abuse than leave or call out Trump's abusive behavior.

Believing that the abuser is powerful or knows everything:  It's clear they believe he's powerful.  He has the power to give them demeaning nicknames in his tweets and the power to support political opponents in the coming election.  He can sway the Republican base in the primaries.
But you might question their belief in his knowing everything.  Clearly, they don't think much of his knowledge of foreign policy, how government agencies operate, or how to manage his staff, let alone a presidential administration.  But because of social media, he will know anything they say publicly that's critical of the president.  And he'll punish them if he thinks there was any disrespect.

Idealizing the abuser following a cycle of abuse:   Chris Cilliza at CNN lists 11 Republican (one out of five) Senators that Trump has personally attacked.  Yet most of them have put their tails between their legs and made nice to Trump.  (Corker and Flake are exceptions.)

Time, back in July 2015 (!) listed 21 Republicans Trump had tweetsulted,  though many on the list are not current Congress members.

Vice asks, "How Many Insults Will It Take for the Entire GOP to Turn on Trump?"

But they seem to get over it and be charmed by, well, I don't get it myself.

Believing they deserve the abuse:  I don't have evidence of this, though I'm sure some of the more extreme Republicans believe the others deserve the abuse.  And I'm sure many, at least subconsciously, have some guilt for the kinds of compromises they had to make to get to Congress.

How to Get Out Of An Abusive Relationship

Help Guide offers lots of good information, too much to cover here.  But here's one section:

If you’re hoping your abusive partner will change... The abuse will probably happen again. Abusers have deep emotional and psychological problems. While change is not impossible, it isn’t quick or easy. And change can only happen once your abuser takes full responsibility for his behavior, seeks professional treatment, and stops blaming you, his unhappy childhood, stress, work, his drinking, or his temper.  
Trump has not even started to take any responsibility for his behavior.

If you believe you can help your abuser... It’s only natural that you want to help your partner. You may think you’re the only one who understands him or that it’s your responsibility to fix his problems. But the truth is that by staying and accepting repeated abuse, you’re reinforcing and enabling the abusive behavior. Instead of helping your abuser, you’re perpetuating the problem.
A number of folks - both in and out of Congress -  thought that by being involved with the Trump, they could modify his behavior.  The Boston Globe quoted a Romney aide as saying Romney wanted the Secretary of State job so he could influence Trump, as did a whole bunch of people who actually did get positions and have since lost them.  The Hill writes:
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday that he tries to “lead by example” when it comes to influencing President Trump’s behavior and character.
But we know that Ryan has since decided to lead by not running for reelection, a model we all hope Trump will follow.  Actually, many hope he won't be in office that long.  Don't hold your breath.
If your partner has promised to stop the abuse... When facing consequences, abusers often plead for another chance, beg for forgiveness, and promise to change. They may even mean what they say in the moment, but their true goal is to stay in control and keep you from leaving. Most of the time, they quickly return to their abusive behavior once they’ve been forgiven and they’re no longer worried that you’ll leave.
Trump's basic rule is "Attack, Counter-Attack, Never Apologize."  So this is never going to happen.  He may talk sweet when he wants something, but he's never going to admit he's done anything wrong.  And he's more likely to threaten when he wants something.

If your partner is in counseling or a program for batterers... Even if your partner is in counseling, there is no guarantee that he’ll change. Many abusers who go through counseling continue to be violent, abusive, and controlling. If your partner has stopped minimizing the problem or making excuses, that’s a good sign. But you still need to make your decision based on who he is now, not the man you hope he will become.
Yeah, right.  He'll never be in counseling.  The next point is the one members of Congress should focus on.
If you’re worried about what will happen if you leave... You may be afraid of what your abusive partner will do, where you’ll go, or how you’ll support yourself or your children. But don’t let fear of the unknown keep you in a dangerous, unhealthy situation.
They should be afraid.  But Congress and the President is NOT a marriage situation.  Republican members of Congress could actually gather together, get a backbone, even join with Democrats (they did during Watergate), and stop Trump's destructive behavior.  They don't have to leave Congress, they can make him leave the White House.  Though some may find such a move ends their political careers if they are up for reelection in November.  But at least they'll be able to face their grandkids in the future with some pride.

One Last Note

The quote near the top mentioned that battered women "show symptoms that may be confusing to outsiders."  Perhaps this experience with Trump will make some Republican politicians more sympathetic to the plight or battered women, whose decisions to stay with abusers seem counter-intuitive.

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