Sunday, December 18, 2011

Projection in Politics

Perhaps the most profound awareness I've had as a political junkie over the last couple of years is the prevalence of projection.

...a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people.

A few examples:

Mitt Romney calling Gingrich extraordinarily unreliable

Glenn Greenwald calling anyone who disagrees with him a cultist

Newt Gingrich calling President Obama a radical

Mitt Romney accusing President Obama of deliberately harming the country for political reasons

Notice how its always used to attack an opponent. The truth is that most often rather than weakening an opponent, it shows your own vulnerability. Not only that, it demonstrates the weakness of your ideas in having to resort to this kind of attack.

Many of these might really be Freudian in a psychological sense. In other words, they might truly be unconscious. And then there's Karl Rove...who has taken projection to a whole new level. A while ago Steve Benen provided a good summary.

Rove has spent his professional life engaged in political sleaze, so he's accused Obama of adding "arsenic to the nation's political well." Rove ran a White House that embraced a "permanent campaign," so he's accused the Obama team of embracing a "permanent campaign." Rove embraced the politics of fear, so he's accused Obama of embracing the politics of fear. Rove relied on "pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted " political events, so he's accused Obama of relying on "pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted" political events. Rove looked at every policy issue "from a political perspective," so he's accused Obama of looking at every policy issue "from a political perspective." Rove snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan, so he's accused Obama of snubbing snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan. Rove had a habit of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons, so he's accused Obama of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons. Rove questioned the motives of those with whom he disagreed, so he's accused Obama of questioning the motives of those with whom he disagrees.

Click through to Benen's article and you'll find links for his back-up on all this.

What feels different about Rove is that I think this is a deliberate strategy on his part. In throwing out these attacks, he's making it difficult to accuse his side of the same thing because it winds up sounding defensive. So its an inoculation move that he thinks will allow him to get away with the very things he's accusing others of doing.

I'll hand it to him...its a shrewd strategy. But its also souless and only works if we stay ignorant about what he's up to.


  1. This also presupposes that President Obama would accuse someone else of doing any of the preemptive accusations from Rove. The President doesn't run a negative campaign. Rove knows this; he just chooses to ignore it because he can't help himself. I would have thought that the Republican Party had learned that lesson from 2008. Apparently not.

  2. Both the Left AND the Right use it. It's part of their Hegelian Dialectic methodology.
    The real question is: "Can YOU escape from their trap in time to save our Democratic Republic?".

  3. Projection so blatant even this casual attender picked up on it. Has been built into the "rapid response" mechanism and combined with the GOP "wordsmith" generator that spits out psychologically loaded words or characterizations for all things Democratic. Love that "Obamacare" has been embraced and turned positive by BO.
    LY, Marietta, OH


Sure, Trump is unfit for office. But his agenda would also be a monumental disaster!

For just a moment, I'd like to back off the fact that Donald Trump is unfit for office, is a serial liar, has been found guilty of rape/...