Donald Trump: America’s Shadow

If the American people use Trump as a mirror to see our Shadow, we can liberate ourselves from our own base instincts and build on the resistance to Trump to transform the United States into a compassionate community.

According to Stephen Diamond

The shadow, said celebrated Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung, is the unknown ‘‘dark side’’ of our personality–-dark both because it tends to consist predominantly of the primitive, negative, socially or religiously depreciated human emotions and impulses like sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger or rage, and due to its unenlightened nature, completely obscured from consciousness. Whatever we deem evil, inferior or unacceptable and deny in ourselves becomes part of the shadow, the counterpoint to what Jung called the persona or conscious ego personality….

The pervasive Freudian defense mechanism known as projection is how most people deny their shadow, unconsciously casting it onto others so as to avoid confronting it in oneself. Such projection of the shadow is engaged in not only by individuals but groups, cults, religions, and entire countries, and commonly occurs during wars and other contentious conflicts in which the outsider, enemy or adversary is made a scapegoat, dehumanized, and demonized.

Unfortunately, with his blatant “power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger [and] rage,” Trump is an All-American. He’s just more honest about it.

Are you free of those tendencies? I know I am not.

When we deny those realities, avoid confronting them in ourselves, and cast them onto others, it’s easy to demonize Trump and get carried away with our own irrationality.

Trump is a threat. It may well be that he is “crazy like a fox.” There may be a method to the madness that he, Bannon, and Miller exhibit.

He’s discrediting the lamestream media and creating his own reality, which his loyal followers accept uncritically. And he still has a 40% approval rating. That’s a lot of people.

And all he needs is a major crisis, whether manufactured or not, and more violent anti-Trump protesters to boost that base and increase his power.  

If we are hateful ourselves, we’ll give cover to the anarchists. Somehow we need to figure out how to deal with those who are prone to violence. Conducting demonstrations with a clear, strong tone of dignified nonviolence would be a great first step.

I remain hopeful that our strong civil society and judiciary will restrain Trump — if we are thoughtful in how we resist.

 

The System: Historical Roots

Human beings are inherently compassionate, cooperative creatures. We need to care for others and be cared for. Those deep, primal, primordial instincts are derived from the bond between infant and mother, both in the womb and in the months after birth.

For two million years, humans lived in hunter-gatherer tribes whose members were equal, cooperative, playful, and peaceful. Compared to modern comforts, conditions were hard, but food and material goods were shared. No “chief” ordered others what to do and everyone participated in group decisions. Those characteristics became deeply embedded in human nature.

In lush, remote areas, tribes perpetuated that lifestyle as modern civilizations expanded elsewhere. When the Spanish began to settle the San Francisco Bay Area in 1774, for example, the region was a virtual Garden of Eden. The fish were so plentiful people just threw rocks into streams to kill them and birds would at times block the sun like an eclipse when they flew. With this abundance, around the Bay, some 40 indigenous tribes with different languages lived peacefully, with only occasional conflicts.

At an early age, children suffer frustration and experience pain, which leads to fear, another deep instinct. Fear in turn often leads to anger. As the ego develops, without proper parenting, that anger can harden into hatred and be expressed destructively. Even worse, especially in modern cultures, the ego can become addicted to the adrenalin rush associated with defeating others in competitive struggles.

That conflict between love and hate, both strong instincts, has played out through human history. But love (with the mother) comes first. It’s deepest, and if fully cultivated, it can be stronger.

Only 12,000 years ago, when the last Ice Age ended and glaciers melted, new seed-bearing plants emerged. Not long after, in various parts of the planet at more or less the same time, humans learned to plant those seeds and grow crops. Eventually, they began to store food in central locations. As control of that food became critical, a few men amassed the power to protect and distribute it. Societies became centralized and separated into classes. Those at the top used physical violence and the threat of violence to impose their will.

With that development of centralized agriculture, ever since elites have dominated class-based societies (including those that later called themselves Communist or Socialist). As the risk of being conquered by outsiders developed, fear of “the other” intensified and ruling elites promoted religious myths and rituals to legitimize their power and help persuade their subjects to obey them. The selective granting of privileges and powers to those who were loyal also encouraged submission.

Over time, fear, hate, and deception became tools of social control. Monarchies rooted in the biological inheritance of wealth and power became commonplace. Most subjects generally supported their rulers, who provided economic security and protection against outsiders.

With the growth of capitalism, the new business class challenged monarchies and pursued political power for itself. Affirming ideals such as “all men are born equal,” they argued that greed and the pursuit of economic self-interest could be harnessed to benefit the common good. The threat of poverty, they said, was necessary to motivate otherwise lazy people to work hard, which was a dark view of human nature. They used fear to support the social order.

During the initial transition to democracy, only property owners elected government officials. Black slaves, indentured servants, other poor whites, and women could not vote. Those restrictions enabled property owners to pass on their advantages to their children. Nevertheless, a somewhat more fluid social inheritance of wealth and power replaced the rigid biological inheritance associated with monarchies.  

“Levellers” and others who wanted a more complete democracy threatened to expand the right to vote and redistribute property. Faced with that threat, in the United States, the Founders who wrote the Constitution took measures to protect stability. James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” wrote:  “Divide et impera (divide and conquer), the reprobated axiom of tyranny, is under certain (some) qualifications, the only policy, by which a republic can be administered on just principles.”

With those thoughts in mind, the Founders fragmented the nation’s government, divided the federal government into three branches and Congress into two houses, and established the Electoral College to elect the President. For the country as a whole, they divided power between national, state, and local governments. Those divisions made united popular action on a national scale difficult.

Throughout this history, the instinct to love and cooperate with fellow humans remained deeply ingrained. In every major civilization, generations passed down stories of an earlier time of peace, harmony, and prosperity. In Greece and Rome, that period was called the “Golden Age.” In the Middle East, it was the “Garden of Eden.”

Some freedom-loving rebels have always resisted centralized societies based on domination and submission. They’ve often tried to establish compassionate alternatives, whether privately in their families and religious institutions, or in small, semi-autonomous alternative societies and subcultures.  Sometimes slaves and other oppressed groups have rebelled and sought freedom violently.

Every major civilization has experienced conflict between those two major forces: top-down domination rooted in hate, deception, and fear; and partnership rooted in love, honesty, and faith in the future.

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NOTE: This is the first section of a forthcoming declaration.

Transform the System: A 16-Point Step-by-Step Program

NOTE: Following is the first draft of “A 16-Point Step-by-Step Program,” which will be included in “Transform the System: A Declaration.” To my knowledge, no organization of the sort envisioned here currently exists. As stated in the Preface:

A widespread commitment to that goal could help unify a broad array of forces into a “transform-the-system movement.” Various organizations could fight for specific causes while doing so for the sake of the larger cause. We could affirm both/and, within a shared commitment to systemic transformation. We could build momentum by occasionally supporting one another on timely priorities when victories are near. With that approach, we could inspire discouraged, inactive people who want to have a short-term impact. And we could inspire idealists who want long-term fundamental reform.

Feedback is welcome.

A 16-Point Step-by-Step Program

The following presents a scenario for how a coalition to transform the System might develop. These ideas are a “thought experiment.” There’s no assumption they will be fully implemented.

  1. A diverse organizing committee forms with the intent to find or help develop a multi-issue national coalition that:
    1. Helps members undo the System’s divisive conditioning.
    2. Stays together over time and quickly mobilizes large numbers of individuals nationwide to fight for priority issues one at a time.
    3. Promotes a new common purpose for our society.
    4. Aims to help reform all of our major institutions, our culture, and ourselves to serve that mission.
  2. The committee drafts a brief statement of principles to guide its work. To whatever degree it chooses, it draws on material presented in this booklet.
  3. The committee widely circulates that draft, solicits input, and modifies it.
  4. The committee looks for an existing national organization that already embraces the approach presented in that statement of principles.
  5. If it’s unable to find one, it seeks a local branch of an existing national organization, such as a local Democratic Party, that’s willing to adopt the project as a model that could be used to persuade its national body to take it on.
  6. If it’s unable to find such an organization, the committee explores forming a new organization itself with the following methods:
    1. It requests individuals to endorse its principles and pledge to join the organization if and when a certain number of individuals, perhaps 100,000, sign the pledge.
    2. The organizing committee also asks a broad array of organizations to endorse the statement of principles and pledge to mobilize their members for joint actions (perhaps once a month if needed) if and when the organization is launched.
    3. The committee tells organizations with more than a certain number of members that they will be able to designate a representative to the organization’s governing body.
    4. When the individual-member threshold has been crossed, the organizing committee forms a governing body.
    5. The governing body launches the coalition and collects membership dues, which will be the coalition’s only source of income.
    6. The governing body guides the Coalition by adopting written policies and delegating to staff the responsibility for implementing those policies.
  7. Individual members reach out to neighbors who live in the same voting precinct and form a precinct-based club with two or more members.
  8. Those clubs:
    1. Meet at least once a month.
    2. Share a meal.
    3. Organize and convene social and educational activities that enrich members’ lives.
    4. Open meetings with each member briefly reporting on one of their self-improvement efforts.
    5. Discuss how to engage other neighbors in mutual learning dialogs and recruit them to join the club.
    6. Unless its local Democratic Party already engages in year-round precinct organizing and fights for the Party’s national platform year-round, the clubs work together to persuade the Party to do so — and to persuade the State and national Party to do the same.
    7. Work with other organizations to develop slates of candidates for local and regional elected Democratic Party positions who agree that the Party should engage in year-round precinct organizing and fight for its platform year-round — and promise to push the state and national parties to undertake that kind of precinct organizing.
    8. During elections, engage in voter education and get out the vote.
  9. The coalition’s national office publishes a list of precinct clubs on the Web so new members can join their local club.
  10. When a few clubs in the same Congressional District (CD) have formed, those clubs select one or two members to participate in a CD action team. Democratic Party members who do not belong to one of the coalition’s precinct-based club may also participate in those CD action teams.
  11. Those self-governing CD action teams may engage in one or more of the following activities, as well as others:
    1. Send representatives to meet at least monthly with one of their Congressperson’s staff, ideally the chief of staff, to explore ways of working together to advance the coalition’s goals.
    2. As a model for the rest of the nation, persuade the Congressperson to convene an open-ended monthly community dialog at the same time each month to enable the Congressperson’s constituents (randomly selected if need be) to ask questions and make statements to the Congressperson.
    3. Persuade the national party to undertake a nationwide Precinct Organizing Project and dedicate itself to fight for its platform year-round.
  12. Each month, the coalition’s national office, after soliciting input from members and conducting straw polls, identifies a timely top priority winnable issue and asks all of its members to communicate with their Congressperson about that issue (which may or may not be an issue being advanced by the Democratic Party).
  13. If their Congressperson resists supporting the coalition’s position:
    1. CD action teams will gather support from other community-based organizations, elected officials, and local governmental bodies.
    2. If necessary, CD action teams may conduct public demonstrations and if needed and feasible, nonviolent direct action.
  14. If their Congressperson supports the coalition’s position, the CD action team works with the Congressperson to raise funds for the national Precinct Organizing Project and takes on other projects to strengthen the Party in other regions.
  15. When that issue has been resolved with a complete or partial victory, a defeat, or a stalemate, the national office undertakes a campaign on another timely issue. Regardless, from the outset, the Coalition will affirm that no victory and no defeat is ever final. The work is never-ending.
  16. The coalition moves toward being a bottom-up, member-controlled organization with the following methods:
    1. After the coalition has operated for two years, each CD action team will be invited to send one or two representatives to a regional advisory body. Each such body will represent 15-20 CDs. The national office will establish a method for maximizing diversity on that advisory body.
    2. Those bodies will meet every three months to evaluate how the Coalition is operating and send advice to the national governing body.
    3. After another year of operating, those regional advisory bodies will select representatives to a diverse national advisory body.
    4. After another year of operating, the national governing body will be selected democratically in a manner that assures diversity, either with a direct vote by the entire membership or by a vote by the regional advisory bodies.

Creating Chaos

Can you refer me to an article that compiles the many ways Bannon and Trump are trying to establish an authoritarian regime? Ten or fifteen such attempts come to mind immediately. I may post more on that soon.

After concluding that the talk about Trump’s personality diverts us from that more important strategic question, I couldn’t help but notice that last night MSNBC went on and on about his alleged irrationality and did not talk at all about the underlying strategy.

Inflaming chaos is the only way they can smash the state (as Bannon has acknowledged is his intent) and replace it with their State.  Nixon’s “crazy man” strategy has been updated. Beware Trump the great showman, who adores P.T. Barnum. Just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

Trump and Orwell

On tonight’s Newshour David Brooks summed up the issue clearly:

And there are sort of two theories of why [Trump] tells things that are false all the time. Is it because he’s sort of an Orwellian figure, an authoritarian figure who is twisting words in an Orwellian manner, “1984,” to exercise power and control people’s minds, or is he a 5-year-old who has an ego that needs to be fed, and the universe has to warp around his ego needs so he can feel good about himself, and everybody has to produce photos to make the monarch feel like he’s made of gold?

MARK SHIELDS: Which do you vote on?

DAVID BROOKS: I vote on the 5-year-old kid.

As I’ve argued here and here, I vote for Orwell. And the more we present the 5-year-old thesis and similar ad hominem arguments, the less we present and analyze the Orwellian thesis. We simply cannot do both at the same time, and the personal attacks divert from the political analysis.

Fortunately, however, sales of 1984 are number one on the Amazon bestseller list!

Lenin, Bannon, and Trump’s Movement

The bit of information from Steve Bannon’s recent interview with the Times that most interested me has received little attention. Bannon was one of the few advisers who “urged on Mr. Spicer’s confrontational, emotional statement to a shocked West Wing briefing room on Saturday.” That report suggests to me that the controversies about crowd size and voter fraud were manufactured in a calculated manner, not the result of Trump’s impulses.

Trump and Bannon,Trump’s chief strategist, operate on the same white nationalist, authoritarian wavelength. Like Lenin, whom he admires, Bannon takes the long view. He doesn’t care that they only have 33% approval now. That’s more than enough “vanguard.” So he focuses on solidifying the loyalty of those true believers by getting them to trust their “alternative facts,” as I discussed in “Trump Constructs Reality?

As they see it, when the chaos they foment with trade wars, undermining the new world order, and provoking violent demonstrations which will result in more repression, they and their vanguard will be well positioned to build on their 33% and take charge.

Their ad hominem attacks and their scapegoating “enemies” contributes to that devolution.

If we respond in kind, we’re taking their bait and adding hate to the heat. Rather than psychoanalyzing Trump, applying psychiatric labels to him, and otherwise demonizing him, we’d spend our time more fruitfully being proactive, focusing on the issues, and organizing compassionate communities.

 

Trump Constructs Reality?

It may well be that Donald Trump is neither a pathological liar, deluded, mentally ill, indifferent to truth, nor diverting attention from other issues.

On November 4 in “Beyond Lying: Donald Trump’s Authoritarian Reality,” Jason Stanley argued:

Donald Trump is trying to define a simple reality as a means to express his power. The goal is to define a reality that justifies his value system, thereby changing the value systems of his audience….

The simple picture Trump is trying to convey is that there is wild disorder, because of American citizens of African-American descent, and immigrants. He is doing it as a display of strength, showing he is able to define reality and lead others to accept his authoritarian value system.

The chief authoritarian values are law and order. In Trump’s value system, nonwhites and non-Christians are the chief threats to law and order….

Trump is thundering about a crime wave of historic proportions, because he is an authoritarian using his speech to define a simple reality that legitimates his value system, leading voters to adopt it. Its strength is that it conveys his power to define reality….

Trump is, as Frankfurt asserts, certainly openly insensitive to reality. But he is not carelessly insensitive….

Denouncing Trump as a liar, or describing him as merely entertaining, misses the point of authoritarian propaganda altogether. Authoritarian propagandists are attempting to convey power by defining reality. The reality they offer is very simple. It is offered with the goal of switching voters’ value systems to the authoritarian value system of the leader….

Describing what Trump has done requires us to talk not just about the importance of honesty and accuracy, but also about power, value systems and in-groups vs. out-groups. It also requires us to confront the failures of elite policy that have led to an erosion of democratic norms, primarily public trust, that make anti-democratic alternatives suddenly acceptable.

Trump’s approach is in harmony with the widespread postmodern belief often reflected in contemporary culture (and the image above) that it’s impossible to know what is true or right.

Trump’s strategy is reminiscent of the Bush White House. In October 2004, Ron Suskind wrote in The New York Times Magazine:

In the summer of 2002, … I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. … he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

That senior adviser was later revealed to be Karl Rove.

Trump’s effort to create in-groups and out-groups may work partly because our society systematically divides-and-conquers by labeling people and exaggerating the importance of those social categories. Being judgmental and disrespecting others is drilled into all of us. Only the names of the enemies change.

The mainstream media is doing a good job of talking “about the importance of honesty and accuracy,” as Stanley recommends. That’s helpful. But so far, it seems to me, they aren’t addressing his other recommendation: to talk about “power, value systems and in-groups vs. out-groups.”

 

No Shortcuts

Jane McAlevey, longterm labor organizer and author of No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age, was the guest today on Your Call Radio. Following are my notes from what she had to day.

Need to shift away from deep organizing to shallow mobilizing

The Women’s Marches were incredible, especially small rural towns

How do we translate it?

The Right’s key is to sow division with fear

Trump won because the Democratic Party has failed most working class people in this country, black, brown, and white.

Now is an outsider moment.

To keep the momentum, we must have a longer-term attention span, do power analysis and strategic thinking.

Think globally, act locally.

Must figure out: 1) how to take over locally; 3) elect local leaders

Go to town council meeting, take over neighborhood or union, then town council

Figure out how to actually win

We need a Tea Party-like structure within the Democratic Party

It will take time and patience

Must build real, high-participation organizations and sustain that structural power, which we aren’t doing.

We’re out-strategized by the Right

Not everything is sexy, like taking control of your local Democratic Party

The work is messy and hard

Build power locally and amalgamate it higher up

We can build big, win, and keep it democratic and progressive

Focus on how do I become a precinct leader? Congressional Districts are too big to start with

The Right started at the local level

Take on yes or no campaigns

How do you build a class movement that is intersectional?

We must tackle and overcome race and gender because we have to in order to win

We don’t wake up wondering how to talk about identity

When you do a union campaign you’re not picking who you relate to

It’s structure based, not self-selecting

Most of the people we need aren’t coming to our meetings

You must overcome the complexities of various identities

No Shortcuts

Jane McAlevey, longterm labor organizer and author of No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age, was the guest today on Your Call Radio. Following are my notes from what she had to day.

Need to shift away from deep organizing to shallow mobilizing

The Women’s Marches were incredible, especially small rural towns

How do we translate it?

The Right’s key is to sow division with fear

Trump won because the Democratic Party has failed most working class people in this country, black, brown, and white.

Now is an outsider moment.

To keep the momentum, we must have a longer-term attention span, do power analysis and strategic thinking.

Think globally, act locally.

Must figure out: 1) how to take over locally; 3) elect local leaders

Go to town council meeting, take over neighborhood or union, then town council

Figure out how to actually win

We need a Tea Party-like structure within the Democratic Party

It will take time and patience

Must build real, high-participation organizations and sustain that structural power, which we aren’t doing.

We’re out-strategized by the Right

Not everything is sexy, like taking control of your local Democratic Party

The work is messy and hard

Build power locally and amalgamate it higher up

We can build big, win, and keep it democratic and progressive

Focus on how do I become a precinct leader? Congressional Districts are too big to start with

The Right started at the local level

Take on yes or no campaigns

How do you build a class movement that is intersectional?

We must tackle and overcome race and gender because we have to in order to win

We don’t wake up wondering how to talk about identity

When you do a union campaign you’re not picking who you relate to

It’s structure based, not self-selecting

Most of the people we need aren’t coming to our meetings

You must overcome the complexities of various identities

The Future of the Women’s March

Having heard that the organizers of the Women’s March are meeting soon to plan future actions, I just reviewed their website and was greatly impressed with its substance and quality.

You may want to sign up on the Get Notified form at the bottom of the 10 Actions for the first 100 Days page. It states:

STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT COLLECTIVE ACTION

Make sure you don’t miss any of the future actions, sign up to get notified when new actions are published:

The About tab includes links to Mission & Vision, Unity Principles, National Committee, Honorary Co-Chairs, and other captivating information. Absolutely incredible.