Stockholm Syndrome and the Illinois Republican Party

From the Dispatches archive regarding the Stockholm Syndrome — this is an altered version of an article that posted on this day in 2007:

Why certain Republican elected members of the General Assembly are voting the Democrats might not be an unsolvable mystery after all.

It’s not even disputed that establishment Republicans have for decades failed to advance things like limited government and school choice, or defend common sense pro-family policies in Illinois. Some Republicans who claim to support their party’s platform regularly cast votes in Springfield that are diametrically opposed to the principles clearly articulated in that platform.

The case can be made that this strange behavior is actually a manifestation the Stockholm Syndrome.

The name for this syndrome dates from 1973 when two machine gun carrying criminals took hostages in a bank in Stockholm, Sweden, and held them for several days.

After their rescue, the hostages exhibited a shocking attitude considering they were threatened, abused, and feared for their lives for over five days. In their media interviews, it was clear that they supported their captors and actually feared law enforcement personnel who came to their rescue. The hostages had begun to feel the captors were actually protecting them from the police. One woman later became engaged to one of the criminals and another developed a legal defense fund to aid in their criminal defense fees.

This mental phenomenon has been recognized for a long time in abused children, battered women, and in prisoners of war. Clearly abused Republicans are susceptible to it as well.

In the final analysis, emotionally bonding with an abuser is actually a strategy for survival for victims of abuse and intimidation.

For some who want to stay active in Republican politics, the thinking must be that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Among the symptoms of the syndrome include:

  • Positive feelings by the abuser toward the victim.
  • Supportive behaviors by the victim, at times helping the abuser.
  • Inability to engage in behaviors that may assist in their release or detachment.

In a state where there are fewer psychological problems clouding good judgment, the people who engineered the kind of disastrous 2018 election we saw last year would’ve been asked to give up their leadership posts. In Illinois, Democrats need only invite Republicans to join them in their folly to make those Republicans feel important.

One of the four conditions that serve at the foundation for the development of the syndrome in an abusive relationship is when there is “the presence of a perceived small kindness from the abuser to the victim.”

In threatening and survival situations, we look for evidence of hope – a small sign that the situation may improve. When an abuser/controller shows the victim some small kindness, even though it is to the abusers benefit as well, the victim interprets that small kindness as a positive trait of the captor.

Another aspect of this syndrome is that there is a “perceived inability to escape.”

Many abusive/controlling relationships feel like till-death-do-us-part relationships — locked together by mutual financial issues/assets, mutual intimate knowledge, or legal situations.

If you can’t escape or change is impossible, then you might as well make the best of it.

In relationships with an abuser or controller, the victim has also experienced a loss of self-esteem, self-confidence, and psychological energy. The victim may feel ‘burned out’ and too depressed to leave.

Conflict isn’t any fun, but anyone who thinks we’ll ever see needed policy reforms without a healthy dose of conflict better think again. An enormous and well-funded tax-eating apparatus exists that isn’t going to be disassembled without a fight — a big fight. If a person can’t handle disagreements, it’s a good sign they need to find another hobby.

Fortunately, not everyone succumbs to kind acts from individuals who long ago proved their ulterior motives. And not everyone is unfurling their white surrender flags due to fatigue.

Regardless, during this past session of the Illinois General Assembly, too many Republicans voted with the Democrats. And that’s something we can’t continue to live with.