Battered Democrat Syndrome

As we head towards a midterm election where the Democrats are likely (and, frankly, I think deserve) to lose control of Congress, I want to look at a long-neglected aspect of mental illness: Battered Democrat Syndrome.

Let’s start with a definition for an abusive relationship. These are a few of the signs of an abusive domestic relationship, as outlined at the excellent

Does your partner:

  • humiliate or yell at you?
  • criticize you and put you down?
  • treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
  • ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
  • blame you for his own abusive behavior?
  • see you as property or an object, rather than as a person?

Now let’s look at some of the recent behavior by the White House towards the Democratic base:

And why do they get away with this? They feel we have nowhere else to go. The Obama White House knows that the Democratic base that they’ve belittled, marginalized, and outright insulted don’t want to see the Republicans take back Congress. We know that the Republicans won’t make things better and probably will make things worse. We’re hesitant to go into the voting booth and push the button for Republicans because as bad as we have it, we’ll have it worse with the other people.

Just like an abusive husband who tells his wife that he’s the best that she can ever hope for, and if she left him she’d only have it worse.

This kind of attitude is what has progressively (pardon the pun) pushed the entire political spectrum of the country ever rightward for twenty years. After Michael Dukakis’ amazing come-from-ahead loss to George Bush, Sr., in 1988, the Democrats took the wrong message. It wasn’t that we had a bad candidate, it was that our candidate had bad positions. They didn’t look at the fact that Dukakis had all the charisma of a teddy bear rolled in broken glass, or that he had all the passion of a piece of toast. The messenger wasn’t the problem, it was the message. Answer? Become more like the Republicans.

So in 1992 we nominated and elected Bill Cinton, a man who on most social issues was actually to the right of the Republican President that he defeated, but had a “D” after his name. So we had a social conservative in the White House who enacted Welfare “reform,” started the process of gutting public education, codified discrimination against homosexuals in both the military and towards marriage, and a slew of other insults towards the progressive base of his own party. But he was a successful Democrat, so we all rallied around him.

This had a chilling effect on the Republicans. Ever since Saint Ronald launched his 1980 campaign, there had been one basic political mantra for them: “Democrats are all liberals, and all liberals are bad.” So they kept insisting that Bill Clinton was a liberal, and as a reaction the Republican party had to be even more reactionary and move further to the right. This is what led to the marginalization of once-moderate Republicans like John McCain and Lamar Alexander, and led to the Presidency of George W. Bush.

Now with a Democrat in the White House who really does make Bill Clinton look like a flaming Marxist chucking firebombs, the Republicans are allowing their mantra handed down from Saint Ronald to push them even further rightward. This is how we’ve arrived at a point where we now have a choice between defunding public schools in favor of “charter” schools (the Obama plan) or doing away with public schools altogether. This is how we wound up with a choice of gutting Social Security or doing away with it altogether. This is how we wound up with a choice of legalizing discrimination against homosexuals or actively seeking to make homosexuality a crime as the Republican Party of Montana has in its platform. This is how we’ve wound up with a Democratic White House that is farther to the right of not only every Democratic president in history, but even to the right of every Republican president before Ronald Reagan, and in some categories even to the right of Reagan, too!

As the abusive husband asks his wife, “what choice do you have?”

The sad thing about this? “Battered Wife Syndrome” isn’t the effects of an abusive relationship; it explains the violence that happens when the abused spouse finally snaps. If the battered spouse can’t get help and get out, then eventually they’ll take matters into their own hands and fight back overwhelmingly and finally. The battered wife too often leads to the burning bed.

So the question is, what happens to the Democratic base now that we have an abusive White House? Are we finally ready to assert ourselves? Are we ready to pressure the White House into going into the political equivalent of couple’s therapy?

Or are we going to be left with no choice but to burn down the party when we can’t take the abuse any longer?


Article Copyright 2010 Paul L. Sungenis, used with permission. May not be reproduced or excerpted without prior, explicit written permission.

2 thoughts on “Battered Democrat Syndrome

  1. This is absolutely the best summary I’ve seen of the dilemma for us Progressives right now. Good job. Thanks for ruining my day.

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