Connecting the Dots of the G.O.P.-The Grand Old Psychopathology

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Connecting the Dots of the G. O. P-The Grand Old Psychopathology Max Blumenthal, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party. New York: Nation Books, 2009. $25.00.

It is rare for a journalist to draw upon psychology to analyze contemporary politics. It should be done more often as the pages of this Journal have argued for the combining of the study of psychology with the study of history over the last nearly four decades. How refreshing whenever a journalist contributes a book that is important reading for psychohistorians. Such a book is Republican Gomorrah by Max Blumenthal.

The book is very strong in describing the psychopathology that permeates so many of today's prominent personalities in the Republican Party leading to their poisonous policies and practices. Indeed, Blumenthal argues that psychopathology has captured the G. O. P. The many case studies of toxic personalities presented, each revealing a more twisted individual than the one before, will utterly engage the psychohistorian interested in contemporary U.S. politics. Blumenthal interviewed hundreds of people to write this book. Many were deep within the body of the G. O.P. beast. And many such individuals turn out to be beasts themselves. We see portrait after portrait of damaged individuals obsessed with opposing abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, evolution, and the other components of the right-wing Christian fundamentalist agenda. The case of G. O. P. luminary Larry Craig, who fought all gay rights reforms yet is homosexual himself, is ironic in the extreme and memorable for the hypocrisy it reveals. The reality of the present G. O. P. is positively chilling with its ideology in the wake of 9/11 that one is either "with us or against us" in this self-righteous, extremist, White-supremacist, neo-fascist, imperialistic, anti-intellectual crusade for U.S. hegemony around the world and "family values" at home (based upon adherence to a literal translation of the Old Testament while ignoring more empathetic notions of the New). Considered together, Blumenthal's many cases compel the reader to conclude that the G. O. R is led by an extremely destructive and dangerous group of individuals who draw their ideology from an extremely destructive and dangerous group of ideologues, and who are willing to carry out extremely destructive and dangerous policies if given half a chance. Oozing psychopathology from every pore, these out-of-control and power-hungry "whack jobs" (a la Sarah Palin) are laying the tracks for a catastrophic train wreck. The lesson for the U.S. and for the world can be summed up in one word: Beware.

The book is not strong in bringing sophisticated psychohistorical theory in any comprehensive way to the analysis. Blumenthal draws upon only the theories of Erich Fromm in Escape from Freedom (1941) written in the midst of the Nazi rise to power and destruction. He writes as if he is the first to connect the dots between brutalizing parenting, traumatic childhood, and psychopathological behavior in leaders. He seems startled to discover these three elements go hand in hand in a causal equation exhibited through behaviors such religious fundamentalism, sexuality denial and repression, addictions, hypocrisy, abusive behavior towards self and others, inability to trust, aggression, paranoia, and others. Of course, such a relationship is no shock to psychohistorians. Some of us have "written the book" on it. Blumenthal's analysis would have been richer had he brought to bear theories of Adorno, Atlas, deMause, Erikson, Freud, Miller, and others who have long attempted to connect these same dots. The pages of this Journal are filled with examples of brutal historical individuals, groups, and nations driven to destruction to themselves and to others by brutal parenting. Blumenthal makes no claim to be a psychohistorian. He is a journalist. He can be forgiven this shortcoming. This is his first book.

The G. …