After the Capitol Hill riot, the divide between reality and fantasy may become too wide to bridge.
For a long time, people have predicted the crackup of American conservatism, the end of a Republican Party dominated by the conservative movement as one of the major powers in our politics. Demographic trends were supposed to permanently marginalize the right. Barack Obama’s 2008 victory was supposed to signal conservatism’s eclipse. The rise of Donald Trump was supposed to shatter Republican politics the way that slavery once broke the Whigs.
Conservatism survived all these prophecies, always clawing back to claim a share of power, maintaining unity and loyalty by offering a bulwark against liberal ambition even as its own agenda became more and more threadbare.
So it would be a foolhardy prophet indeed who looked at the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol and assumed that this time, under this pressure, the conservative coalition will finally break apart, sending the Republican Party deep into the wilderness and reshaping American ideological debates along new lines.
But breaking points do come, and the violent endgame of the Trump presidency has exposed a new divide in the conservative coalition — not a normal ideological division or an argument about strategy or tactics, but a split between reality and fantasy that may be uniquely hard for either self-interest or statesmanship to bridge.
At the same time, it has cast the key weakness of conservatism into even sharper relief: the growing distance between right-wing politics and almost every nonpolitical power center in America, from the media and culture industries to the old-line corporate suites to the communications empires of Silicon Valley.
But the implicit bargain of the Trump era required traditional Republicans — from upper-middle-class suburbanites to the elites of the Federalist Society — to live with a lot of craziness from their leader, and a lot of even crazier ideas from the very-online portions of his base, in return for denying Democrats the White House. And it’s not clear that this bargain can survive the irruption of all that crazy into the halls of the Capitol, and the QAnon-ification of the right that made the riot possible.
Even before Jan. 6, the difficulty of balancing normal Republican politics with an insistence that Mike Pence could magically overturn a clear election outcome helped cost the party two Senate seats in Georgia. Even before the riot, finding post-Trump leaders who could bridge the internal divide, bringing along his base but also broadening the party, was going to be an extraordinary challenge.
But the Republican Party that lost Georgia a week ago still looked competitive enough to count on holding, say, 47 Senate seats even in a tough election cycle. A week later, it seems the party could easily break harder, and fall further.
Here’s how it could happen. First, the party’s non-Trumpist faction — embodied by senators like Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, various purple- and blue-state governors and most of the remaining Acela corridor conservatives, from lawyers and judges to lobbyists and staffers — pushes for a full repudiation of Trump and all his works, extending beyond impeachment to encompass support for social-media bans, F.B.I. surveillance of the MAGA universe and more.
At the same time, precisely those measures further radicalize portions of the party’s base, offering apparent proof that Trump was right — that the system isn’t merely consolidating against but actively persecuting them. With this sense of persecution in the background and the Trump family posturing as party leaders, the voter-fraud mythology becomes a litmus test in many congressional elections, and baroque conspiracy theories pervade primary campaigns.
In this scenario, what remains of the center-right suburban vote and the G.O.P. establishment becomes at least as NeverTrump as Romney, if not the Lincoln Project; meanwhile, the core of Trump’s support becomes as paranoid as Q devotees. Maybe this leads to more empty acts of violence, further radicalizing the center right against the right, or maybe it just leads to Republican primaries producing a lot more candidates like Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, to the point where a big chunk of the House G.O.P. occupies not just a different tactical reality from the party’s elite but a completely different universe.
Either way, under these conditions that party could really collapse or really break. The collapse would happen if Trumpists with a dolchstoss narrative and a strong Q vibe start winning nominations for Senate seats and governorships in states that right now only lean Republican. A party made insane and radioactive by conspiracy theories could keep on winning deep-red districts, but if its corporate support bailed, its remaining technocrats jumped ship and suburban professionals regarded it as the party of insurrection, it could easily become a consistent loser in 30 states or more.
Alternatively, a party dominated by the Trump family at the grassroots level, with Greene-like figures as its foot soldiers, could become genuinely untenable as a home for centrist and non-Trumpist politicians. So after the renomination of Trump himself or the nomination of Don Jr. in 2024, a cluster of figures (senators like Romney and Susan Collins, blue-state governors like Maryland’s Larry Hogan) might simply jump ship to form an independent mini-party, leaving the G.O.P. as a 35 percent proposition, a heartland rump.
None of this is a prediction. In American politics, reversion to the gridlocked mean has been a safe bet for many years — in which case you’d expect the MAGA extremes to return to their fantasy world, the threat of violence to ebb, Trump to fade without his Twitter feed and the combination of Biden-administration liberalism and Big Tech overreach to bring the right’s blocking coalition back together in time for 2022.
But if Biden governs carefully, if Trump doesn’t go quietly, if MAGA fantasies become right-wing orthodoxies, then the stresses on the Republican Party and conservatism could become too great to bear.
I woke up last Wednesday thinking that the G.O.P. had survived the Trump era, its power reduced but relatively stable, with some faint chance to redeem itself — by carefully shepherding it supporters back toward reality, while integrating elements of populism into the reality-based conservatism that our misgoverned country needs.
A week later, that hope seems like as much of a fantasy as QAnon. Instead, it feels as if the Republican Party survived Trump’s presidency, but maybe not his disastrous and deadly leaving of it.
“That never happened.”
“You’re too sensitive.”
“It was just a joke.”
Gaslighting. It’s a term you’ve probably heard before, but the signs can be confusing. In this video, Dr. Ramani Durvasula and MedCircle host Kyle Kittleson discuss…
What is gaslighting?
What does gaslighting behavior look like?
Why do narcissists gaslight / what is the goal of a narcissist when they gaslight?
What are the 3 signs someone is gaslighting?
What is deflection?
What impact does this type of emotional manipulation have on someone’s mental health?
What should someone do if they are experiencing this type of narcissistic abuse?
What SHOULDN’T someone do when they are experiencing gaslighting?
Why don’t narcissists like getting caught?
What is the #1 surefire sign that you are being gaslighted?
The Dire Dangers of Narcissism
Though I’m professionally distant from today’s media luminaries, I have a particular personal interest in the current narcissistic spectacle du jour: I went to college and was friends with Harvey Weinstein nearly a half a century ago.
With an admixture of feelings, I watch the scandal unfold. I’m horrified and angry at what Weinstein is charged with perpetrating. I’m confused and saddened by my former friend’s behavior. Yet, I’m not surprised, given what I remember about Harvey when we were students. That’s not to say I could have predicted this. I don’t identify with interviewees solicited by journalists to tell what they knew of ignominious scoundrels before they committed their heinous acts. Harvey Weinstein—from first impression of him being grandiose, sycophantic, and magnanimously generous to the progression of his unstable and rampant ambition—was intense, needy, insecure, ingratiating, and over-the-top in his endeavors.
I’m not invested in justifying or scourging Harvey. He’ll get whatever the consequences of his actions bring—spiritually and legally. I feel sorry for him, but ever more sorry for, and indignant about, the victims he is accused of abusing, exploiting, bullying, and oppressing. Such injustice must be vindicated—but that is not up to me. As a psychologist, my goal is to unravel and shed light upon the inner forces that develop into disastrous behavior. Since I consorted with Harvey and knew him well decades ago, I want to lay bare the seminal roots of an accused tyrant before he became one.
As a psychologist, I have something to contribute by explaining the wily dangers of narcissism, thus allowing potential victims to be informed and better protected. As an American citizen, I am alarmed and wary about the course and future of our country, our people and our principles. As a father, husband, and person with strengths and weaknesses who is desirous of healthy relationships, I, too, am vulnerable. Narcissism is an insidious monster, born of a needy and unstable ego that lurks for years, nursing its perceived wounds, until it explodes in aggressive and blind perpetrations. A healthy self-image must be nurtured. It can be achieved by hard work that includes the basis for self-respect and the practice of respect for others. Though the development of narcissism is neither predictable nor clearly delineated, certain factors may contribute to a self-aggrandizing ego and overbearing sense of entitlement:
- a “silver-spoon” upbringing, where material things and excessively indulgent opportunities became integral elements in the family culture;
- exposure to a series of traumas and humiliations;
- use of embarrassment to modify childhood misbehavior;
- employing self-flagellation to cope with insecurity; or simply
- relying on an escapist fantasy and the transformative illusion of becoming a legend and hero in one’s mirror.
Though we may recoil from the exaggerated hubris of the narcissist, we should also be respectful and thankful for not traveling along such an isolating and destructive path. As my mother often said: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” To live a life of worthiness and honor, one must embrace gratitude and humility.
What Happened to You, Harvey Weinstein?
Do you remember me, Harvey? I know you’ve got a lot on your mind these days; but I’ll bet that if you heard my name, you’d say, “Mark… how the hell are you doing?” We go back a long way, Harvey, to some wild days at the University of Buffalo.
Remember the crowd? Janis Siegel (affectionately called Pumpkin), who went on to acclaim as a singer with Manhattan Transfer. And the creative and iconic Jay Beckenstein, jazz saxophonist with Spyrogyra.
Remember those all-nighters, the 4:00 AM greasy burgers at Your Host Restaurant? The anguished, drugged-out rants and discussions about the universe, who we were, and where we were going?
We grew up and went out in the world to different places. You were amazing, Harvey: intense, sycophantic, driven, disturbed, and needy. I identified with you—Jewish kids from New York, arrived in a blue collar city, ready to take over and show how much we knew and how things should be done.
You floundered, and then soared. It wasn’t long before you traded academics for an entrepreneurial path, on your way to becoming a juggernaut. You founded Harvey & Corky Productions, bringing big-name musical talent to downtown Buffalo. You soon rubbed shoulders with the top names and icons of our generation. It must have been intoxicating, far beyond the drugs that most used to reach for peace and imagined self-importance.
Throughout the years, I watched your movies and cheered you on. There goes Harvey Weinstein—I knew him in college; we were friends. I envied your success. From my intimate knowledge of your personality, I suspected that you were not happy or fulfilled. How could you be, never filling the immense void within you with something other than riches and accolades? Not to diminish your sweeping achievements. But you were so needy and insecure. How could anything the world had to offer be enough?
I wrote to you fifteen years ago, hoping to reconnect. But I never got a response.
Apparently, you tried to fill your deep inner void with surreptitious trysts, using your money and influence to sway and dominate young women—impressionable and aspiring beauties you used for your lustful and egotistical purposes. You used your money, power, and influence to lord it over people, to take advantage of them, and to coerce their silence. The chickens have come home to roost; the truth will not be hidden; you are exposed and in trouble.
It’s not for me to judge you Harvey. I just want to tell you something about women and men and power and accountability.
Females are not immune from deceit, hypocrisy, and the fleshly litany of sins. But females are to be protected and respected. They are “weaker” in some sense, but immensely more powerful than men in many respects. Our society inherently imposes on women mixed messages, psychological traumas, economic discrimination, and often the raw end of many deals. Our culture exalts and worships physical appeal, but quickly disregards and discards worthwhile human beings when their outward beauty fades. Ironically, we exalt and worship physical beauty, and yet we exploit it. The fleeting blooms of pulchritude and stardom leave women vulnerable and with undeserved dismissal or ostracism. Too many men strut their machismo, stricken with envy (and with the fantasy) that a woman can have sex any time she wants (whereas many men have to feel they must lure or seduce). Unfortunately, some men act out of this context to take advantage and force or exploit women. When the playing field becomes overly imbalanced, many women either withdraw into resentful passive aggressiveness—avoiding or manipulating intimacy—or act out with hostile projection—rejecting men or typecasting them as insensitive and only interested in exploitative sex. Though there’s plenty of blame to spread around, men bear the burden—historically, we have been at fault by dominating women and isolating them from full and equal participation in society.
With your overarching success, Harvey, you now have trouble (tsouris, in Yiddish) on a grand scale. My heart aches for you, and I pray for you.
I have some advice for you, Harvey, my dear old friend: it’s time for you to make amends, to acknowledge your wrongdoing, to seek forgiveness, and to make restitution—no holds barred. I know you must now resort to posturing for strategic legal reasons, but you are going to sacrifice a lot of money to pay for your mistakes. You can no longer “buy” people (and certainly not their silence). You will feel alone, and will be alone. You will have to give up the pretenses you have long abused to fill the abyss and mollify the gargantuan ego that hides the empty Harvey Weinstein.
Yet, there is someone valuable, tender, sensitive, worthwhile inside the blustering and offensive Harvey. This is an opportunity to find out who you really are, to change the offensiveness, and to develop into an honorable person.
God has used you, Harvey, and he is not done yet. Through these scandals, he is using you writ large to teach others; and he is bringing you to your knees in the hope that you will stay there and begin to acknowledge and worship him.
Truer riches await you, my friend, if you will only repent and ask for divine forgiveness and guidance. You must also seek forgiveness from the people you hurt, so many of them. It’s time to be open, sincere, and humble. You must unequivocally repent.
Years ago, you founded a big company—Miramax—named after your parents, Max and Miriam Weinstein. What would they think of their son now? I never knew Max or Miriam, but I am sure they always loved you. Why, Harvey, has it been so difficult for you to feel love?
The Harvey Weinstein I knew nearly half a century ago could never relax. He always had to prove something, to get more and show more. You were an intense and difficult person. But you were likable, Harvey, and you didn’t have to try so hard.
The term narcissism is taken from Greek mythology. Narcissus was the son of the river god Cephissus and nymph Liriope. He was proud, in that he disdained those who loved him. He was drawn to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it (himself), not realizing it was merely an image.
Today, narcissism is a psychiatric diagnosis and considered a mental disorder. It is also often used disparagingly in common parlance and description. Narcissism involves extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, and has come to characterize a personality type. Narcissists think extremely highly of themselves and are often driven to seek validation of their worthiness and inflated self-opinion by soliciting and even demanding the approval of others. They delude themselves that their boorish machinations and manipulations of others testify to their own self-worth. Though they may be capable of compassion and empathy, narcissists are so preoccupied with their own selfish interests and with validating themselves that they typically ignore or do not consider or recognize others’ needs, even the people closest to them.
Narcissists’ classic “me-first” posture often leads them to resort to aggressive acts that allow them to dominate or “win,” regardless of the costs. They love and need to be the center of attention, often usurping the limelight, dominating conversations, and controlling situations and people to serve their own ends.
It is when they are challenged or confronted with reality that the true pathological character of narcissists flagrantly emerges. Narcissists’ fragile self-image and ego structure do not allow them to acknowledge the egregious nature of their self-importance. Thus, is it is rare for them to apologize or admit wrongdoing. Remorse and repentance for their offensive actions almost never occurs (think Trump).
Thus, narcissists often have a problem with reality-testing; that is, they can only perceive events and circumstances from the same perspective as others when such “reality” supports and buttresses themselves in a positive and flattering light. Unfortunately, this infrequently happens. Instead narcissists twist and distort reality to suit their own views, inevitably causing confusion, alienation, and damage to relationships and the integrity and well-being of others. They constantly use people in devious ways, and invariably deny their motives and the unpleasant effects upon others. Narcissists have confounding and appalling obsession to blame others for what they themselves have done. A psychological term for this is projection. This is denial at its craftiest, and it is infuriating (again, think Trump).
When dealing with and referring to people who thought too highly of themselves, a dear friend of mine use to quip. “I’d like to buy you for what you’re really worth, and sell you for what you think you’re worth.”
We can shake our heads in disbelief or disgust at narcissism, and we can mock this condition with humor. However, don’t underestimate the dire danger of narcissism as the disorder affects all those who come into contact with the narcissist. Narcissists cannot have good relationships because they view others as opportunities to validate and gratify themselves. In psychoanalytic terms, they have poorly developed object relations. In plain language, this means that they cannot separate and distinguish between themselves and the legitimate perceptions, opinions, values, desires, and needs of others. What others experience (including hurt or neglect perpetrated by the narcissist) is blocked by the arrogant, center-stage prominence of the narcissist’s own needs.
Dealing With Narcissists
Because narcissists live in a bubble of self-absorption and denial, it’s very hard to break through their manipulations and defenses. Normal people (allowing for differences among individuals) have varying abilities to admit mistakes, acknowledge wrongdoing, apologize with sincerity, recognize their flaws and trespasses along with the negative impact upon others, and modify their behaviors to minimize the negative effects of selfishness. Not so with narcissists, as this is the core of their personality disorder.
It may be helpful to review the following guidelines in dealing with people you suspect of narcissism:
Expect self-centeredness and reality distortion
Because narcissists’ self-absorbed attitudes and responses are often provocative, it’s tempting to react with consternation, indignation, umbrage, and the like. However, if you keep your dismay and outrage to yourself, you’ll be in a better position to question the behaviors with a strategy of setting limits. Instead of expressing your emotional reactions to narcissistic self-centeredness, practice the strategies listed below.
Refrain from demonstrative emotional reactions
Tie responses to facts, evidence, and questions
When faced with narcissists’ bold claims, quietly question the bases for such statements. Or, just ignore them. For example, someone may proudly announce, “These people don’t know how to drive. I happen to be one of the best drivers on the road.” You could say, “ I guess so. But there is the issue of your three moving violations and numerous parking tickets.” Or, you could just let it go, and smirk to yourself.
Sometimes, simply questioning the basis for outrageous statements is enough to slow down the narcissist’s bluster. Remember Trump’s tirades about how he “knows more about Isis than any general in the military,” and his defiant complaint that he is “the victim of the greatest witch hunt in history”? There is no shutting down such an ego. However, one might ask, “Where did you acquire your military knowledge, and why were you not consulted and solicited before you became president?”
“Please give us some details about the other witch hunts against which you compare your own alleged persecution.”
And don’t expect an intelligent and coherent response to your questions!
Preface accountability and confrontations with acknowledgment and legitimate praise
Narcissists perceive questions, challenges, and alternate opinions—even facts—as threats to and defamation of their integrity. Therefore, it’s helpful to preface and intersperse your messages of accountability with reasonable and relevant praise toward the person whom you’re trying to get to really listen to you. Even appealing to their putative sense of discernment and justice may get you farther along on your attempts to bring reality into the conversation.
When I deal with pie-in-the sky people who live inside dreams inflated by their own sense of self-worth and entitlement, I find it prudent to ask, “I understand that, given your abilities and track record (?!), you expect this to work out as you’ve favorably planned…, but because you are smart, have you formulated an alternative scenario and plan?”
Set boundaries and repeat if-then consequences as they pertain to the narcissist’s behaviors
Inevitably, narcissists repeatedly step on the toes of others. Their transgressions may be verbal and/or they may take vindictive actions (hello again, Mr. Trump). Their self-aggrandizement can make it hard to keep a straight face; or, their attitude of entitlement may carry implicit threats for noncompliance or resistance. (Harvey Weinstein got away with his egregious behavior in large part due to his political and economic influence, much of which he wielded against much less powerful women. When he ultimately confronted a woman who was formidable and courageous, she pulled the plug, and the dirty slimy water that had accumulated in the bathtub over the decades slurped down the drain. Harvey was left sitting naked and shivering in his own filth.)
Granted, it’s not for individuals to take on the President of the United States. But the collective violations and outrage are propelling Trump to his comeuppance. Kudos to the brave people who have spoken the truth and challenged Trump, even at risk to their own reputations and careers! That takes integrity, confidence, and courage!
And Harvey? My old friend, your bullying and predation have ironically transformed the zeitgeist. Your secret life of lust, aggression, and intimidation now exposed has caused trauma and harm—shame on you! However, the notoriety has caused a groundswell of indignation, objection, and cries for justice. You have become the agent of change, long overdue.
The message is clear: If you abuse or intimidate women, it will come to light and you will pay.
Solicit commitments, promises, and contracts in writing
Remember that, as part of their sense of entitlement, narcissists do not hesitate to change the rules—including their agreements, commitments, promises, and respect for others’ needs—when it suits their purposes. Therefore, it’s wise to make a habit of solidifying commitments and promises in writing, with dates and signatures if possible. Though the self-entitled may scoff and sneer at such requests, pretend you are prone to mistaking the details, since your memory might not be as good as theirs (!) and remind them of the pithy saying, Black and white on paper is a lot clearer than the gray matter of the brain.
In other words, play dumb, like a fox. The narcissist may pity you and indulge you.
At the very least, keep your own meticulous records with details of words, actions, and dates. E-mails and texts establish a continual, accessible, and practical audit trail, useful for holding the narcissist accountable, especially when deception and conflict arise.
Be prepared for breaches of trust, intimacy, and fidelity
Precautions and attentiveness notwithstanding, you cannot change the basic flawed character of the narcissist. That’s not to say that people don’t change. Life experience, traumas, pain, and consequences are all great teachers. They even teach to the seemingly robust and impregnable bravado of narcissists (and, at best, it takes awhile). In his own way and with his own timing, God chips away at the lives and consciences of the foolish and hurtful. At his own discretion, he causes miracles to happen.
But the very nature of narcissism attacks trust, empathy, and consideration. Don’t be surprised when the narcissist (repeatedly) violates boundaries, flaunts rules, and sabotages trust, intimacy, and even your own faith. Remain loving, but be cautious and be prepared. Your sensitivity and good intentions are no match for the power of narcissism. Engaging in an argument or a major adversarial battle with a narcissist can be akin to stepping into the ring with a mixed martial arts fighter. No holds are bared. Be prepared for the unexpected. Be on guard. Protect yourself at all times. Expect hyperbole, manipulated facts, concocted falsehoods, inconsistencies, and outrageous lies. It’s all part of the package.
Narcissism’s Dire Consequences
Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein are but two notorious narcissistic icons—caricatures writ large in a field of opportunism. Their transgressions leave us aghast, wondering how such egregious behavior could have escalated and continued.
Surely, someone like Weinstein, if indicted and convicted of a crime or crimes in a court of law, must be thwarted and punished. Trump is a much more complex matter involving political and constitutional issues that are still in the process of unfolding. However, the important take-home message is that there are many like them—young, old, male, female, prominent, less significant—who foist their attitudes and perpetrations upon the unsuspecting and vulnerable, the psychologically and experientially less sophisticated, and those with fewer defenses and resources.
Narcissists may be overtly offensive, or they may be furtive and wily—sheep in wolves’ clothing. In a culture that has inveterately promoted self-centeredness and a “me-first” value system, narcissists may seem to embody the cultural virtues, to blend in and prevail over the competition. But you will recognize them by their intransigence and lack of compassion for the basic welfare and psychological well-being of others. As legends in their own mirrors (or pools, as with the Greek Narcissus), they deem themselves the only ones who matter.
As a society, we should focus attention on identifying, dissuading, and modifying the development of narcissistic character. Respect for women—pervasive societal, legal, accommodating respect—is surely a good place to start. We are beginning to painfully learn those lessons.
But the battle against misogyny is not enough. Parents must teach their children that the world does not “owe” them. The government should provide more than minimal education and health care—service, schooling, and training that focuses on character development and resources for the ravages of character failure, including disorders of emotional bonding, anxiety, depression, trauma, and the depredations of addiction.
We need to return to God, individually and collectively. Each of us determines our own personal relationship with or abandonment of our Creator. Religion should not be forced. But spiritual living should be foundational and institutionally encouraged. The development of the soul and its conscience and compassion is incompatible with the “me-first” ethos that culturally reinforces narcissism.
When tragedy strikes, we become voracious Monday morning quarterbacks. We scrutinize the history of assassins and predators, looking for clues that should have exposed them earlier. However, social autopsies on misfits will not relieve us of the larger problem, nor will those efforts alone avert the perverse development of unhealthy, megalomaniac egos.
We must become a society, through and through, that values humility and teaches people, rank and file, to put others first. Against such a social norm, the Trumps and Weinsteins will identify themselves early as faulty people who need discipline, correction, and guidance to develop true and healthy self-love.
Narcissism may never be eliminated, for we are a prideful and sinful species. With regard to selfish insensitivity, some are given to robust excess, even to the point of outright cruelty. Recoil as we might from Trump and Weinstein, we should learn that we need to expose them earlier in order to prevent the devastating potential of narcissism from exerting its will.
Farewell to the Harvey I Knew
We can’t live in the past. The Harvey Weinstein I knew nearly a half century ago has gone his own way, as have I.
In college, you looked up to me, Harvey. In your desperate neediness, you couldn’t see through my pretense, my needing to appear hip and avant-garde. If I’d had your talents, Harvey, perhaps I would have gone much farther astray than I did. Money and fame eluded me, but I guess I was luckier than you. And life did not let me get away with what, in my insouciant arrogance and ambition, I secretly wanted to.
If we could have coffee, I’d share with you some of the ordeals that happened in my life, what I’ve learned and about the people who taught me. Despite many setbacks and traumas, I’ve been fortunate. I have loved and been loved. Women have been great teachers to me, some intimate, some maternal, and many have been platonic, wonderful influences. I have learned to respect women and to not take advantage of them. Except for my wife, I regard them as sisters, mothers, and daughters. I treat them with biblically directed protection, respect, and deference. I joke (respectfully) about the differences between men and women. I note with professional acumen the stereotypes that frequently characterize the brains and demeanors of the two sexes. I’ve written a book about this, too, aimed at improving harmony and satisfaction in marriage relationships.
With maturity, I have more confidence and less need to prove myself or be the center of attention. I’m more able to appreciate the difficulties women have in a male-dominated world. I’m grounded enough to speak up and to model for males how to respect, value, protect, and share equally with females.
With God’s help and the stringent sanctions of many people who knocked me off my self-constructed pedestal and put me in a proper place, I’ve tamed most of my narcissistic tendencies.
The Harvey Weinstein I knew has grown and devolved. Farewell naïve and callow college buddy. I still recognize you, Harvey; beneath the atrocities, there is a boy, now a man, desperate for satisfying love. I hope this is God’s way of teaching you how to find it.
— Mark Steinberg, Ph.D.
63:45which this with this Chetty study has63:47established which I won’t belabor63:49likewise lack of mobility as such is63:53strongly related to lack of social63:55mobility if you’re between 18 and 34 in63:56the United States you are you are most63:59likely living with your parents it’s64:02more likely than any other arrangement64:04which means that literally you have not64:06moved right lack of geographical64:08mobility like worsening health like64:11shortening lifespans like lack of social64:14mobility works against a sense of time64:17which allows you to think that time is64:19moving forward right and so the time64:22escapes start to change now how does64:24this work in politics in politics it can64:29be it can be you can be channeled moved64:31incorporated exploited however you64:34prefer by politicians who talk in terms64:37of a different time scape so for example64:40make America great again is a time scape64:42which doesn’t refer to a better future64:44it’s a time scape which loops back to an64:46unnamed and mythical past right so now64:49there are studies now about what make64:51America great again means for Americans64:53for example Taylor at all in the Journal64:55of applied research and memory cognition64:57finds not surprisingly that Americans65:00define the moment when America was great65:02in the past as the moment when they were65:03young right65:08which is funny but I think it’s also65:14politically very significant because it65:16refers us to a certain political style65:18which I’m going to call the politics of65:19eternity or the government as being65:21rather than than doing because one of65:24the things about youth is that65:26government can’t give it back to you65:28right I mean whether wherever we are on65:31the span of like how much government65:33should do not do can we will generally65:35agree that government cannot in fact65:37make you young again right so this is65:40funny but it’s also revealing because65:43the pot what I’m gonna call the politics65:45of eternity the politics of cycling back65:47to the past rather than imagining of65:49future is precisely about defining65:52political problems in fictional terms65:54and therefore in irresolvable terms so65:58if what you want out of politics is to66:00be young again you might keep voting for66:02that promise but government is not going66:05to give it for you and can’t I will nowgive you a more serious example one ofthe things which distinguishes whitetrump voters from white Clinton votersis that a significant majority of whiteTrump voters in a very small minority ofwhite Clinton voters it’s an interestingdifference a significant majority ofwhite Trump voters believe that White’sface greater racial discrimination inthe United States than blacks do nowthat is interesting but it’s alsointeresting politically because that’s afictional problem if you are white andyou believe that your problem is thatyou face Greater racism then blackpeople do again that is not a problemthat government can solve right it’s anin it’s an because it’s a fictionalproblem now I’m trying this is not meantto be funny it’s meant to define adifferent political style a Timescape inwhich government doesn’t promise you abetter future but instead regularly in acyclical way mentions the things whichirritate you which are important to youwhich cannot be solved the politics ofdoing rather than being if that seemsimaginary consider the first year of theTrump administration there is nolegislation which is going to make anyof these kinds of voters it’s not goingto speak to what we would regard astheir interests or even to an ideologyrightum the two major initiatives are takehealth insurance away from people whichis precisely interesting because it’speople who needed the health insurancemost who were the swing group whichbrought him into office right that’s thefirst one and the second one is taxregression rightthe second major policy initiative histax regression precisely taking incomeaway from poor people and giving it toricher people that’s it in the landscapeof the first year those are the only twothings neither of those things can bethought of as creating a future rightthose things if anything only makes onlymake matters only make matters as onemight see it worse so where does thiswhere does this lead us to the firstthing is I’m gonna referring to to wherereception Dvorsky ended up it may not bethat the thing we have to worry about iswhether mr. Trump will fail I mean Idon’t think he’s actually after successin the normal liberal sense of the wordI think he’s after failure I don’t thinkthey intend to make policy which makeslife better for their constituents Ithink they’re moving very consciouslytowards a different kind of policy um Ithink it’s a mistaketherefore to refer to this as populismbecause in American tradition anywaypopulism means you’re against the elitesbut you still imagine the government isgoing to do something for you I thinkwe’re in a different territory I thinkwe’re in something which is moreaccurately characterized as Sadopopulismwhere you you are against theelites right but you don’t expectgovernment to do anything for you infact you kind of want government not todo anything because that reinforces yourbeliefs about the way the world works sowhere does this lead us this is my finalword where does this lead us on thequestion of of comparison right so whatI worry with when when people say wellit’s it doesn’t line up well to theinterwar cases there are differencebetween US and Nazi Germany what I were69:06with is about that is the implicit69:08conclusion that therefore everything’s69:10a-okay right everything’s not a okay69:12just because it’s not February 1933 and69:15thoughts of Germany I think the way to69:17understand the comparisons is more as a69:20source of normative69:22action right I’m not gonna make that69:24case now because it’s the case I made in69:25the book on tyranny it’s not that where69:27we are now is going to inevitably lead69:29to czechoslovakia 1948 or you know69:32germany in 1933 it’s that those regime69:35changes or the witnesses to those regime69:37changes give us useful and timely advice69:39about how to head off regime changes in69:42in rule of law states I think the69:44comparisons are most useful in that way69:46most useful is a general guideline that69:49globalization’s can crash69:51most of our comparisons are about the69:53first globalization crash we’re now in69:54the middle we’re now in the middle of69:56number two what I think is that we can69:59move away from democracy we can learn70:02away we can learn from other people70:04while we’re doing didn’t try to resist70:06it even though where we’re going is70:08going to be somewhat different I mean as70:09for me where I think we’re going or70:11where we seem to be going is is70:12something like you know oligarchy with70:14just enough fascism to get by as a kind70:17of lubricant and and the and the way70:21this would look would be not so much the70:23creation of something new but just the70:25dissolution of what we have right and70:27not I completely agree with the point70:30not mobilization but demobilization are70:33only very occasional mobilization like70:36very occasional marches very occasional70:38violence but mostly the mobilization at70:40atomization and what’s worrying about70:42that is that then you know implicitly70:45the people who in some of these70:46presentations were counted on to come70:47save us right the economic elites70:49whoever they are that the economic70:52elites can be on the same side that you70:54you can be an economic elite and you can70:56think in you know environment Germany70:58you can be the economic or in Italy you70:59can be the economic elites and you can71:00think rightly or wrong you can think71:02wrongly we can outwit these guys maybe71:05in America you’re the economic elites71:07and you think correctly you can outwit71:10these guys but the outcome still isn’t71:12democracy right if you continue to have71:15the kinds of drift that we’re having71:16with the outcome still to democracy it71:18might not be anything that has another71:19dramatic name but it’s not necessarily71:21democracy so the the point that I’m71:24trying to make is that we’re at this71:26historical moment in the sense that not71:28just that great things are at stake and71:30that in that in the actions and71:31Institute71:32that we take now make a lot of71:33difference but also historical in the71:34sunset the way people are thinking about71:36time is changing I mean if that tips if71:41that if we tip from one way of thinking71:42about time to another if I’m right that71:44there is such a tipping point then we’re71:46closer to dramatic change than other71:48kinds of indicators might suggest okay71:51thanks thank you for those amazing72:02presentations I think that probably we72:05could re title this whole conference how72:07scared should we be and this panel in72:11particular you know sort of how72:12terrified should we be and I think the72:14reason we’re seeing a lot of answers to72:17that question that kind of vary across72:18the spectrum from you know completely72:20terrified to only mildly concerned is72:23that we really don’t know I mean who72:25knows you know that’s sort of the point72:27no one knows how history is going to72:29unfold we’ve certainly been surprised by72:31it in the last year and not just in the72:34last year so the answer to the question72:37is not is not no and I like to tell my72:39students you know I asked them a72:40question I say that’s a real question72:42not a professor question you know we we72:45really don’t know and so if you’re like72:47me at all you you go back and forth in72:49your own mind over even over the course72:51of the day I wake up in the morning and72:52I think oh you know it’s gonna be okay72:54and then by you know 3:00 in the72:56afternoon I want to crawl under a pillow72:57and just you know be one of these actors73:00who’s stayed away from Rome for the73:02whole whistling period so so we have we73:07do have kind of a range of responses and73:10one of the inspirations for bright-line73:12watch is that you know you look for73:14signs of what is going to happen and the73:16last thing you want to do is see the73:18sign in the rear view mirror we don’t73:20want to be treating in retrospect at the73:23signs we don’t want to say well it73:24really was the moment when Judge Garland73:27didn’t get a chance to be confirmed or73:29it was the moment when you know fill in73:31the blank when things really became73:33irreversible and and democracy died or73:36became severely eroded in the United73:39States in a way that would be very very73:40difficult to recuperate over any73:43meaningful time period so73:46I have some some questions I remember73:49that you folks are writing down73:51questions and filtering them to headman73:53who’s standing over to the side we have73:55a few questions I like a two-door I’m73:57going to take some moderator prerogative74:01enact ask a few questions but I’m74:03mindful of not taking too much time74:05because I know that there will be more74:06questions from the audience and that74:07these were highly provocative and74:09interesting presentations so just just a74:12few questions for Nancy you and there74:19the concept of distancing which which I74:23took to mean and I’ve taken from your74:24early earlier work to mean that even if74:27my ally even if the person who I’m a74:30elite political actor and someone who74:33I’m in alliance with violates a critical74:36norm or constitutional feature I will74:42join the effort to punish that actor but74:46I’m thinking about another kind of not74:48distancing but let’s call it74:49constitutional action and I’ve I’m74:52thinking about this in part because74:54seeing our tutor this morning thinking74:56about his fascinating retrospective74:58considerations of what happened in Chile75:00there were moments in the sort of75:02slow-moving debacle of Chilean politics75:06where it went from being a long-standing75:07democracy to being a coup and a military75:11dictatorship that lasted for 17 years75:13and was extremely repressive and harsh75:16there there’s the sense of you know75:19moments when say the Christian Democrats75:21might have said it’s good for us if this75:24happens but it’s really it’s a it’s a75:26danger for Chilean democracy so that’s a75:29slightly different concept I think75:30that’s putting the long-term health and75:34viability of the constitutional order75:36ahead of immediate partisan advantage75:40and I wonder whether in the cases you75:43examined and more to the point in75:47American politics today you see room for75:49those kinds of moments of constitutional75:51action on it your presentation makes me75:56think that Trump is Fidesz and piece75:58right that we’re sort of we you walk76:02through the actions that those76:05governments amazingly parallel kind of76:07template’s as you described them and it76:10makes me think that we’re sort of only76:11halfway there so the courts are76:14politicized well you know Melania is not76:17making judicial appointments yes or I76:19guess it the real equivalent would be76:21mrs. pence so the media in the United76:26States is harassed but there aren’t76:28really formal constraints that have been76:30imposed for the most part yet76:33and the question then is again this this76:36issue of what are the signposts and when76:38do you see them in in Hungary and Poland76:422010-2015 was it predictable were there76:45you know forward-looking intellectuals76:48journalists concerned citizens who saw76:50these things coming or or were they76:53really surprises questions for sort of76:58this is sort of Susan and Tim but well77:02Susan mostly I it’s it’s you both raised77:07in your presentations the very important77:09point that what we are observing is77:11taking is unfolding in an international77:13context and what we do influence is what77:16other democracies do and likewise what77:19they do influence is what we do and I77:21guess I’m looking for any hope in that77:26so instances in which we might learn or77:29be or be forewarned or take actions77:34drawing on international contemporary77:36international events that that might77:39help with the situation here there were77:41I recall with the French election there77:43was some speculation that it didn’t help77:45lepen to have a Trump out there that77:48perhaps that gave that gave some french77:50voters pause Daniel you it was77:55interested in the so the the sort of77:59problems of lines being crossed of norms78:02being violated and the examples you gave78:05were pretty much on the Republican side78:07and I so our colleague Jacob hacker has78:12written a lot about asymmetric78:13polarization I wonder if you think this78:16is an asymmetric problem or if they’re78:18symmetric more along the lines of what78:20team or Quran was talking about this78:22morning if there’s a kind of symmetrical78:24equilibrium that we’ve that was sort of78:26a bad equilibrium that we’ve entered78:28into Tim I am it’s mind-blowing to think78:35about the you know the sort of social78:38construction of our sense of time and78:41and and how that influences politics on78:44the other hand I’m very struck by you78:46know the make America great again78:48narrative so that means he you know the78:52the the the slogan is collectively sort78:54of doing what you say we do as78:56individuals thinking that there’s a you78:58know there’s an adolescence or a teenage78:59period of early 20s sort of in in our in79:02our national so I’m equivalent to that79:04in our national history that is a moment79:06we want to get back to and that strikes79:09me as setting up setting the government79:13up for the setting Trump up for you know79:16greatly disappointing his constituents79:18for some of the reasons act reasons you79:20gave and although I take what you say79:23that perhaps you know the the the goal79:26is not success on the Ute and the usual79:29metrics that politicians use such as79:32high popularity when the next election79:34comes around in re-election so those are79:38some questions maybe we could just get79:39to them while while people in the79:41audience are filtering out any other79:43written questions that you want to have79:44a so yeah I I’m delighted that you asked79:49this question about distancing in the US79:52and whether there could possibly be a79:55different kind of distancing here79:57because I I was struggling with that way79:59myself as I was writing this the kind of80:02distancing that we saw in interwar80:04Europe where political elites were80:07facing fascist parties were engaging in80:09violence gave them a less ambiguous80:12signal than we’re getting80:14here you know if mobs are killing people80:17you know that wrong has been done if80:20you’re talking about violations of80:23constitutional principles or norms that80:26fight is is much much more ambiguous and80:30so distancing under those circumstances80:32is much harder and so frankly I’m still80:37grappling with the idea that how that80:40concept can be transferred to this kind80:44of system but there’s no doubt that80:47battles over the constitutional norms in80:50the courts would be a place to start80:53that would be an arena for distancing80:55but it’s going to be much harder here80:57except that I am assuming that money81:02still has a huge amount of importance81:07universe politics and that if you if if81:11the most dynamic sectors of our economy81:13can get behind some sort of distancing81:16and realize that they don’t need the81:18nationalism especially or the xenophobia81:21that’s embodied in the particular kind81:23of challenge we have which doesn’t81:25involve actual killing yeah81:27then I think that that it is still81:30possible but that the battles may take81:33place in the court and that’s part of a81:38historical continuity but not completely81:42so it was was what happened in Poland81:45and Hungary predictable um it was I mean81:47this is you know – this is basically the81:48death of a democratic there’s a81:51chronicle the Democratic Death Foretold81:53um and it was predictable because you81:55know the leaders were very clear on this81:56right they wanted not just to remake81:57policies but to remake the institutions81:59of polish and Hungarian democracy to82:01better serve national interests right82:03this was very much you know making82:04Poland and Hungary great again secondly82:06there was precedent right the82:08institution’s had not been impervious to82:10this before there’s been put the82:11polarization of the judiciary in the82:12past there was a previous attacks on the82:15media this was just a much more82:16concerted effort um and third I think82:18will response important was that these82:19are parliamentary systems and in times82:22past these fairly fragile governing82:24coalition’s I will kept these parties82:25from fully exercising their Prague82:27and now in the absence of either in82:29opposition or coalition partners they82:31were able to do exactly what he said82:33they would so serious question for me82:41was what basically what’s the hope from82:43thinking about this isn’t international82:45events both u.s. you deserve in other82:49countries in that other countries are82:50affecting the US and that was a very82:52difficult question I have lots of things82:54that I might say I mean one thing to82:56just note is part something that I don’t82:58think isn’t a viewpoint that’s it’s82:59going to be presented much at the83:00conference which is sort of Mia culpa83:03from some of the IR scholars with who83:05are really promoting open economy83:08politics Pro globalization stuff which83:11is just that you know the the embedded83:13liberal liberal liberal compromise that83:15we knew about and we have known about83:16for a very long time was not83:18successfully implemented in the US and83:20that that both economically and83:22culturally maybe maybe a fault and is83:25maybe something that policies83:26prescriptions could deal with right83:28their policy that others have have83:31potentially thought about I guess the83:33other thing that is not really hopeful83:35but I think something that I skipped83:37over in my remarks because I was 1083:39which has just said when I very much83:42interested in how countries react to83:45international pressure to look and act a83:47certain way right and so some autocratic83:49posturing that I think we are seeing now83:51might be for short term sort of applause83:55and political gain rather than like it83:57might some of it might sound worse than83:59it actually is which is not really that84:01hopeful but I do think that there are84:04incentives that that some leaders that84:06we see throughout the world to act you84:10know more more totalitarian more fascist84:13more you know they sort of take these84:15these dances that are that are quite84:16extreme because they know they will get84:18attention for taking those those dance84:21which is not entirely good news but I84:23think can be interpreted as something84:25that is maybe slightly less nefarious84:28and the extremely clever long-term long84:31game autocrats that it’s referencing who84:32are able to abide by the rules of the84:35game up right up until the moment in84:37which they they break with them right so84:39I think that that is a long term in the84:41long term I’m more worried about that84:42sort of strategy rather than the sort of84:45splashy head like grab bean you know84:47attacks in the media and that’s not sort84:50of thing which are consequential but I84:51think not quite as nefarious as some of84:53the other strategies that one could84:54imagine and that are harder to observe84:56unhappy yeah so two thoughts one85:00directly on your question on the85:01asymmetric polarization no I I mean I85:03think that the record shows that it85:04began on the right you know and you know85:07people often date this the Gingrich85:09revolution and kind of change tactics in85:11Congress and Orrin Mann and Ornstein and85:13the work on the US Congress have kind of85:16shown this but it you know it’s not it’s85:18not only Republicans who are vulnerable85:20to this I mean Harry Reid’s use of the85:21filibuster in the early 2000s against85:24Bush I mean this is clearly another85:25instance of this and that I guess that’s85:27what’s dangerous is that is that it mate85:29you know it doesn’t at some level you85:30know begins on one side but then when it85:32escalates and it becomes a kind of85:34spiral that’s exactly exactly the85:36dangerous scenario even the dilemma of85:38course is you know we should stay85:40high-minded and continue act with four85:42born before Barents in the face of85:43somebody who’s not I mean it’s like85:45going into a box you mean with one one85:47hand tied behind your back does that85:48really make sense and I guess my thought85:50on that is that as long as there are85:52Democratic channels still available85:53that’s the way to go I mean you know85:55this is the right answer but that’s85:57that’s that’s kind of how I think about85:59it I just wanted to say something also86:00on the distancing and learning because I86:02think there is actually something that86:03can be learned about other cases of dis86:05distancing and just you know just86:06recently in the last two years I mean86:08what’s striking about the Austrian86:10elections last year of presidential86:11elections and the French presidential86:12elections in both cases in the Austrian86:15case the Catholics didn’t make it to the86:17second round and they and a lot of86:19Catholic politicians endorsed the Green86:21Party candidate for president in France86:23fiown and endorsed that you know the86:26right86:26– right candidate endorsed McCrone86:28rather than lepen and so both cases86:30there’s instances of distancing kind of86:33on the right – against the far right and86:37so we can learn from that and I think86:38one of the interesting things is why in86:40these countries this has happened the86:41waters in the US this hasn’t happened86:43and I think part of the reason is in a86:45in a multi-party system in Austria and a86:48two tiers you know with a runoff system86:50and in France there’s a history of this86:51and in both instances people were in86:53Austria they refer back to Kurt Waldheim86:55and say well you know we have learned86:56from this in France there’s the86:58experience of father lepen and dealing87:00with father lepen and so I think you87:02know if the idea is that you know the87:03u.s. we just didn’t have we haven’t had87:04experience with this and there’s87:06possibility for learning and this is87:08kind of where you know human action87:09actually can make a difference so people87:10could learn from we can learn from our87:12mistakes and my guess is next time87:14around you know hopefully people learned87:17something right so there’s something I87:18learned from other cases as well okay so87:24there were the the question about any87:27hopeful things internationally and then87:29the idea of making America great again87:31it cannot lead to disappointment so87:33internationally I’m just gonna take a87:35step back and make the point that I87:36think the winning the Cold War both the87:40idea and the fact has turned out to be87:42very poison chalice for us so the idea87:45that therefore there were no87:46alternatives87:47I think stultified our political debate87:49precisely about alternatives and made87:51inequality much worse in this country in87:54the last quarter century and the reality87:56of the end of the Cold War was also bad87:57for us because one of the reasons we had87:59civil rights in the welfare state was to88:01compete with not so much with the88:03Soviets but to respond to their88:04propaganda and without that challenge we88:06drifted in another direction so that’s88:09just I mean that’s just by way of making88:11oneself conscious so that one can learn88:13things well could we have learned I mean88:15the book that I’m that I’m finishing now88:17is about this it’s about the last five88:19or six years not starting from us but88:21starting from Russia with the idea that88:23most of the things which happened here88:25which seem surprising to us are just88:27more sophisticated versions of things88:28which happened in other countries which88:30we didn’t recognize at the time so I88:33mean here I’m 5050 there are a lot of88:35things we could have learned for88:36Russia and Ukraine between 2011 and 201588:39but we didn’t learn any of them um88:42and the consequence was that in 2016 in88:44my world at least it was the Russians88:46and Ukrainians who were jumping up and88:48down saying you know Trump is possible88:50this is how it works in other people’s88:51worlds it would be the African Americans88:53but there are plenty of segments of the88:55pocket or the renegade Midwesterners88:57right there were various demographics88:58who said Trump was gonna win but the89:00Russians and Ukrainians said he was89:01gonna win and they had a reason89:02no um people there are people there are89:05positive exceptions like Peter89:06pomerantsev in his book nothing is true89:08but everything is possible which is you89:10know on its surface a book about the89:12media in Russia ends that book which89:15concludes in 2014 ends that book by89:17forecasting that that combination of89:20media unreality and political89:22authoritarianism is going to come to the89:24UK and to United States and then there’s89:27brexit and then there’s and then there’s89:28Trump so and then there are people like89:30pet rock Rocco in Hungary you know who89:32runs political capital who does who do89:34Studies on directed unreality right89:37foreign projections of unreality in the89:39Czech Republic and Slovakia and those89:41things are useful for us to read because89:43the things that were happening gotten89:46further in the Czech Republic and89:47Slovakia and Hungary then here89:50nevertheless started to turn up here in89:522050 so yeah I mean analytically we can89:54definitely learn from others and of89:55course civil resistance is something89:57that we can learn from other people89:58right we can swallow our pride and89:59realize that there’s been a lot of90:01successful civil resistance movements in90:03other countries and that the social90:05science on civil resistance is actually90:06very mature the second point on whethersome of these some of these voters willbe disappointed because they imagine abetter world in the past and they’re notgoing to get it I don’t think so andI’ll tell you why I think I mean therethere will be Republican voters will bedisappointed with Trump but that’s adifferent set of Republican voters thereare two sets of Republican voters thereare the ones who own house doesn’t havemoney in the stock market and are theones who don’t own houses that don’thave money in the stock market the oneswho own houses are gonna be disappointedwhen the stock market crashes and that’snot gonna have anything to do with thesenarratives that I’m talking aboutand I don’t treat them as the criticalbloc of voters because they went forRomney – right they did they didn’tchange anything but these folks the ninemillion people who voted for Obama andthenfor Trump or the people whose health isgetting worse but voted for Trump thepeople in Michigan Wisconsin WestVirginia Ohio Pennsylvania who swung theelectionthese folks I don’t think can bedisappointed in that way that that’s mypoint you know it’s you want to be youngagain but you know at some level you’renot going to be young again you’d likethe person who tells you look great butyou know at some level it’s not trueright and that’s how that no look foryou it’s true you’re like 15 but but Imean the general right you know it’s nottrue and that’s how this kind ofpolitics works it’s not by the deliveryof goods it’s by the regular delivery ofaffirmation as against someone elsewe’re where white Republicans become inpolitical science terms the slope theidentitarian subalterns who areexpecting to own the state but what theyonly expect from the state is that theyown itthat’s it they’re not expecting thatit’s going to do anything for them theother thing I want to say about makingAmerica great again that links back tothe other point is that the make Americagreat again does have a specifichistorical referent not for us for usit’s about being young again that formr. Trump it’s about the 1930s or the1920s it is a it’s a revision of the1930s as being a time where we didn’thave a welfare state and where we didn’tgo to war against Nazi Germany rightthat’s what America first means Americafirst is Deutschland uber alles inEnglish America first means we have morein common with Nazis than divides us andthere is you know the fact they did theycommemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day bysaying other people suffer besides theJews which is like commemorating thefourth of July by talking about Frenchindependence I mean it’s true that thereare like other possible references inhistory but like the holiday is for oneof them and there are a number of otherexamples of this how they’re trying toundo a certain American myth and what itcomes down to is that we used to thinkthe 1930s were a bad time to be learnedfrom and now we’re being instructed notjust in America this is international inRussia Poland Hungary and alsoimplicitly by the fullness and islandFrance said by the brexit movement inBritain we are we were being instructedthe 1930s were a good time to which towhich we should loop backI have some questions so this is aquestion for Susan Hyde and Anna G Bwhile the EU is powerless not able and93:01willing to move effectively against93:03democratic erosion how successful have93:06other regional organizations around the93:07world been to fight forms of democratic93:09erosion eg Mercosur a you just one93:19question at a time uh yeah I think so I93:21think we will see how far behind we get93:24on that yeah yeah I mean the so there93:26there’s some empirical work on this that93:28other people have done and and you know93:29it’s very hard to separate from the93:31international environment entirely right93:33so I don’t know who I should but93:36basically I I think that the the93:40European Union and other regional93:43organizations most of which in the world93:45have a stated preference to support93:47democracy have some ability to do93:50something right now right I mean there’s93:51no reason why the US needs to be the93:53only country that is willing to stand in93:56defense of democracy and and93:57increasingly I think others are stepping93:59into that role what can they do you know94:03not much but a little they can they can94:07sort of make clear that this is a value94:10that the groups of countries definitely94:12support I don’t know that they can do94:15anything for the u.s. specifically the94:17case that were most concerned with today94:19but in smaller countries they certainly94:20have made it clear that Jews are94:25unacceptable for example this is already94:27one of the biggest moments we’ve seen in94:28recent memory on this front is that most94:32countries that have coos many of them94:35have been pro-democracy coos right that94:37they’re not against democratically94:39elected leaders they’re against94:40basically authoritarian leaders we’ve94:42seen a few of these but even those have94:45been on pretty strict timelines for94:46democratic elections following those so94:48you know we’ll see I’m not super94:51optimistic that they’re the saviors of94:53us democracies certainly and I would say94:56that knew the EU shizuka-san was94:57familiar with isn’t captain some ways94:59responsible for the rights of the95:00populace right because and they run up95:02to you accession in 2004 there’s95:03basically this elite consensus among all95:05mainstream parties that the EU was this95:07fantastic good that premarket was95:09wonderful and free trade and everything95:10else have went together as a wonderful95:12package and the only parties that95:14criticizes consensus or the populist who95:16at the time we’re getting you know five95:18percent of the vote and it’s after the95:19accession when it becomes apparent that95:21neo maybe this there was some room more95:23for criticism95:24it’s the populace who make hay out of95:25every single95:27some deleterious effect of free trade of95:29the EU and so on and they’re the ones95:31who then come to power on the basis of95:33this elite consensus and now anytime95:34that the EU speaks against these parties95:36they point to it as this is further95:38severe negation of our national self95:39interests that the EU is prompting so we95:41now have to you know go to our loins and95:43defend against the EU okay this is a95:47question for the panel in general and95:50Nancy bur mayo in particular you say95:53that the tendency what can you say about95:55the tendency of citizens to vote along95:58personal political issues ie those95:59heavily influenced by cultural96:01predilection predilections such as gun96:04control or abortion rather than in the96:07interest of democratic norms96:13not much so what one thing I think that96:20we don’t fully appreciate that is that96:22at least going back to the 1930s96:23earliest opinion surveys thirty percent96:26of Americans are authoritarian I mean I96:28think you know if you look at who you96:29know father Coughlin had thirty percent96:31of the vote George Wallace had thirty96:35percent of the vote you know support in96:37opinion polls McCarthy had up to forty96:40percent support you know this is there’s96:42a kind of strand in the electorate that96:44I mean you know I this is a bit96:46provocative I you know I don’t have96:47details you know add an attitude data96:50but these they supported authoritarians96:52and so the issue is not what you know is96:54the American electorate becoming more96:56authoritarian the issue is how do you96:57prevent that portion of the electorate97:00and those tendencies from putting97:01somebody in leadership positions and so97:04until 2016 we had a presidential97:07selection system that kept that served97:09as a gatekeeping system and kept these97:11kinds of dynamics out of the top97:13leadership positions in the u.s. say a97:18few words about that but I think the97:20question is actually really important97:22whoever asked it all right because it’s97:26forcing us yeah I think you’re asking us97:31to to think about these small these97:35issues that seemed small in our abstract97:40discussion of democracy but actually97:42loom very large in the minds of97:43individual voters and gun control is a97:45wonderful example of that so political97:48elites to really have to do more97:52research on what makes certain issues97:55salient and what makes certain issues97:58Trump all of the other much more98:00important issues like health care at the98:03polls and motivate you know a trump vote98:06and but I just I think social science98:10can be an answer to that98:11first of all identifying those voters98:13and then targeting those voters and in98:16an alliance with moderate politicians98:18changing their minds and changing the98:21salience of issues in people’s heads I98:23think it can be done with the media98:25if we’re just not doing it so do you98:29disagree because I think you know gun98:30control or abortion our democratic98:32values right these are things that98:33political parties have traditionally98:35espoused I mean the Republican Party has98:36espoused it and there’s nothing you know98:38there’s nothing inherently wrong with98:39being pro-life or promotion or non98:43democratic about those stances right I98:45think you know what I’m more concerned98:47with is the the statistic that the98:48Daniell brought up which is that it’s98:50not just the United States if you look98:51at you know Poland or hungry or France98:53in the last elections there’s a steady98:5435 to 40 percent of the electorate that98:56is willing time and time again to plump98:58for authoritarian populist right-wing99:01nativist etc to parties and so the99:03question is how do you contain that yeah99:05I don’t think it’s I don’t think it’s a99:06question of persuading I think it’s a99:07question of containing well I certainly99:10don’t want to say that all of those99:11positions of the abortion position is99:13anti-democratic I’m just thinking about99:15the salience of99:17issues as someone approaches the polls99:20so they can say this candidate like99:23Trump for instance this candidate is99:29clearly anti-democratic and repulsive on99:32many issues but I really give priority99:35to anti-abortion and he appeals to be an99:38anti-abortion candidate so I’m going to99:39vote for him that’s the that’s the sort99:41of calculation that I think demands more99:43research and more thought on the part of99:45politicians but there’s certainly not99:46especially an issue like abortion that’s99:49not an anti-democratic issue I think so99:53this is a question for Daniel’s if lat99:56but Tim Snyder might also reflect on it99:59how and why were those norms of mutual100:02tolerance and forbearance built in the100:051880s through the 1900s what lessons100:08does that period have for for for us100:11today100:14ya know it’s it’s a it’s a tragic story100:17in fact and then and we dig into this in100:21our book and this is kind of more a100:23discovery after admit as somebody who100:24didn’t spend my life studying American100:26politics I think the norms of mutual100:28toleration and forbearance were built on100:31racial exclusion you know it’s the end100:35of Reconstruction 1890 the failure of a100:39voting rights bill the lodge act that100:43allowed Southern Democrats and northern100:46Republicans to get along so you know100:51what do we do about that I mean at some100:52level these so-mei I hesitate even to100:55call these Democratic columns these are100:56norms of stability100:57forbearance a mutual toleration so the101:00real dilemma I think we fit in at some101:02level one can think that you know the101:03post 1965 rule there’s one in which101:05racial inclusion of making our political101:08system finally democratic really after101:10only 1965 I would argue has generated a101:14backlash which now threatens those norms101:16and so the dilemma that Democrats face101:18you know with it with a small D is how101:21do you reconcile these things can’t can101:23a political system be built that is both101:25democratic inclusive as well as one that101:28sustains these norms because101:30historically they have not there’s a101:32tension that there’s really a tension101:37there’s a just following from Daniels101:40point we did the United States undertook101:42two experiments more or less101:44simultaneously and they were I don’t101:46think there were two experiments that go101:47well together the first was the101:49experiment which I think probably none101:52of us would call into question of101:54actually trying to make the country101:55democratic by allowing its citizens to101:57vote right 1965 is clearly an important102:00step towards American democracy which102:02again I would emphasize American102:04democracy is and remains an aspiration102:06but 1965 is an important step towards it102:09but not long after that about 15 years102:12after that we began the experiment of102:15inequality which we are still in the102:17midst of professorship gorski’s charge102:20of the gap which is from the economic102:24policy something it’s a102:25that this shows that the gap growing102:27from 1980 between productivity and wages102:30right and the experiment that we’ve102:32conducted on ourselves since 1989 about102:35what what it means when you say there102:36are no alternatives102:37those two experiments have been102:38happening simultaneously and so on the102:40American Left when I talk to people on102:42the American Left which I do know all102:44the time102:44there’s this constant disagreement about102:46whether it’s a race or whether it’s102:48inequality and I just I don’t see why we102:50have to choose between those two things102:52it’s both and the way they work together102:55is that if white people feel privileged102:58then they react to inequality laughs and103:01in a way which is louder and which might103:02be more disruptive of the system than103:04others but the inequality to the way to103:06which they react is nevertheless real103:09right so that the racism may be harder103:11to get a handle on and the inequality103:13may be more tractable by policy103:15instruments so we have lots of questions103:20unfortunately thing we’re gonna have to103:21do it just a couple of more so this is a103:25question for Susan Hyde you emphasized103:29the demand side of the information103:31problem but what about the supply side103:33how worried should we be about state103:36media like Tennant sorry I don’t think I103:40read that right media tendencies like103:41Fox and how do you compare to other103:44cases like Venezuela or Italy yes state103:48media tendencies media like tendencies I103:51guess yeah I mean there’s there’s an103:53abundant you know there’s an abundance103:56of information right now right it’s not103:58that people can’t access accurate104:00information it’s it their self-selecting104:01into inaccurate information and I think104:04one can talk about the supply side of104:06this issue as as a contributor to how we104:10got here but I’m not sure that it104:13matters in terms of where we go from104:16here if that makes sense so once you get104:20into a space in which people are just104:22unwilling to look at the same sources of104:24information and many people may be104:25unwilling to consider objective104:27information or know how to judge whether104:29any104:30piece of information is objective I feel104:34like the demand side is just something104:35we understand a lot less well than then104:38we understand the supply side so because104:40of the individual access to to the104:42Internet to lots of sources of104:44information and because of the lack of104:46trust in all institutions I think also104:49expert institutions right those104:50individuals that might be perceived as104:52providing expertise on any given topic104:55and I think that confidence in their104:57their opinions has also been undermined104:59already we don’t trust expertise we105:02don’t trust objectivity we don’t trust105:05science we don’t you know all of these105:06things are undermined that to me I mean105:08I feel like just the demand side is is105:11broken enough that fixing the supply105:13side at the moment is not going to105:15change that problem so I’m sort of105:17evading the question of it okay last105:21question and this is directed to Nancy105:23burr Mayo but others on the panel may105:25want to address it as well focus is on105:28importance of distancing by elites and105:30optimism is based on the idea that US105:32democracy does not present an immediate105:34threat via redistribution to elite105:36interests yet earlier presentations levy105:39she wore ski suggests that the lack of105:41progressive redistribution is105:42undermining confidence and democratic105:44institutions105:45is there an irreconcilable difference105:48here over weathered redistribution105:50counts as a threat or an asset to105:52American democracy I think there’s an105:55important distinction between105:57redistribution and actual property106:00seizure and revolution and we are106:03clearly in remedying the inequality that106:08we talked about in an earlier panel106:11would not require revolution if which106:14require redistribution of the old social106:18democratic component and I think that106:21folks in Silicon Valley are probably not106:23even worried about that I think they106:27could handle it and I think that I106:28haven’t seen survey research but maybe106:31some of you have done it I’d like very106:32much to look at the values of the young106:35entrepreneurs in the tech industry and106:37to see whether they would in fact halt106:40much more redistribution than we have106:43I’d love to see that data I sense that106:45there’s probably more room there than we106:48might anticipate and certainly more room106:50than there was in fascist Italy yeah106:54comments on that last yes there you go107:12no but it’s it’s just fall short of107:15revolution and it falls short of backing107:18anti-democratic action on the part of107:20truck so but it’s basically buying107:23social goodness sure well I want to107:28thank our panelists very much for a107:30fascinating session107:31[Applause]107:38[Music]
Americans have always been magical thinkers and passionate believers in the untrue. We were started by the Puritans in New England who wanted to create and did create a Christian utopia and theocracy as they waited for the eminent second coming of Christ and the end of days. And in the south by a bunch of people who were convinced, absolutely convinced that this place they’d never been was full of gold just to be plucked from the dirt in Virginia and they stayed there looking and hoping for gold for 20 years before they finally faced the facts and the evidence and decided that they weren’t going to get rich overnight there. So that was the beginning. And then we’ve had centuries of buyer-beware charlatanism to an extreme degree and medical quackery to an extreme degree and increasingly exotic extravagant implausible religions over and over again from Mormonism to Christian Science to Scientology in the last century. And we’ve had this antiestablishment “I’m not going to trust the experts, I’m not going to trust the elite” from our character from the beginning. Now all those things came together and were super-charged in the 1960s when you were entitled to your own truth and your own reality. Then a generation later when the Internet came along, giving each of those realities, no matter how false or magical or nutty they are, their own kind of media infrastructure. We had entertainment, again for the last couple hundred years, but especially in the last 50 years permeating all the rest of life, including Presidential politics from John F. Kennedy through Ronald Ragan to Bill Clinton. So the thing was set up for Donald Trump to exploit all these various American threads and astonishingly become president, but then you look at this history and it’s like no we should have seen this coming. The idea of America from the beginning was that you could come here, reinvent yourself, be anybody you want, live any way you wanted, believe any thing you wanted. For the first few hundred years, like everywhere else in the world, celebrity and fame were a result of some kind of accomplishment or achievement, sometimes not a great accomplishment or achievement, but you did something in the world to earn renown. America really was the key place that invented the modern celebrity culture, which was, beginning a century ago, more and more not necessarily about having won a war or led a people or written a great book or painted a great painting, but about being famous, fame for its own sake. We created that, we created Hollywood, we created the whole culture industry and that then became what I call the fantasy industrial complex where, certainly in the last few decades more than ever more than anybody thought possible before, fame itself, however you’ve got it, was a primary goal for people. And again, as so many of the things I talk about in Fantasyland, not uniquely to America but more here than anywhere. And then you get reality television, which was this unholy hybrid of the fictional and the real for the last now generation where that blur between what’s real and what’s not is pumped into our media stream willy-nilly. There are now more reality shows on television than there were shows on television 20 years ago. And that’s another way for nobodies to become famous overnight. YouTube, another way for nobodies to become a famous overnight for doing almost nothing or nothing.
–Peter Pomerantsev, Soviet born journalist and author of “Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia,” and more recently, “This is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality,” joins David to discuss state propaganda, Russia, and much more. Get the book: https://www.amazon.com/This-Not-Propaganda-Adventures-Against/dp/1541762118