Guest post: The caucus has become a mob

Originally a comment by Claire on Fairly judging the facts.

There comes a point where those in power no longer seek to maintain or increase that power for a reason but simply for the sake of power itself. It’s a black hole, the power sucks you in and once you’ve passed that event horizon, it’s pretty much impossible to get back out. Backing out means coming to terms with what you did to get there in the first place. For most people that is unbelievably painful because cognitive dissonance is agonizing.

Related to my comments on another post, I’m fascinated by cognitive dissonance, how it works and the way it is capable of drawing ordinary people into doing extraordinarily horrifying things. Interviews with people in Germany and countries occupied by the Nazis in WWII are illuminating. The Gestapo was effective, despite being relatively small in numbers, because people believed they were everywhere. In fact, most of the arrests of people targeted by the Gestapo were instigated by denunciations by their neighbors, their friends, even their families. Much of the information was incredibly flimsy, but nobody cared because the point wasn’t really to find undesirables, although that was a useful side effect. The point was terror. The Salem Witch Trials industrialized and formalized to intimidate people into conformity.

The same thing is happening here. Whips in the US Congress don’t have the power or the ability to instigate fear that the Whips in the House of Commons in the UK have. British whips can threaten MPs with all kinds of terrifiying things, including deselection. US whips can’t do that. This gives senators and congressmen more power to act on their own conscience. In theory. In practice, a new kind of intimidation power has arisen and it has the same effect. Not a single GOP representative or senator wants the rest of the caucus to stand and point at them screaming “Witch!”. The caucus has become a mob and once you have a mob, you can no longer appeal to the reason of the individual. And if you dare defy the mob, you are out on your ass.

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