Clinton’s Stockholm Syndrome Effect

By | 8/19/2016 Leave a Comment

Rarely in modern U.S. elections do we get to witness the astonishing sight of a massive grassroots insurrection against the mainstream establishment parties as we’ve seen in this year’s Democratic and Republican primary races. In both instances, the leaders of those uprisings were initially dismissed, ignored or simply sniggered at behind hands by the condescending chattering classes that had seen it all before and knew so much better…until they didn’t.

In the case of Donald Trump, who threw the political playbook right out the window and made just about every naysaying political pundit on the planet eat their words, his improbable quest to achieve his adopted party’s nomination ultimately, and against all odds, proved successful. But for Senator Bernie Sanders and his equally quixotic journey, the movement that he spearheaded fell tantalizingly short of that goal.

Many of the reasons for that, of course, are well-documented. The Clinton campaign’s blatant complicity with the Democratic National Committee to undermine her rival is no longer social media rumor but proven fact, thanks to the WikiLeaks email exposé. And countless examples of election fraud in states all across the country continue to come to light. Throw in a happy-to-oblige mainstream media, a horde of financially-incentivized superdelegates and a whole lot of industry lobbyist cash, and it’s not hard to see why the Vermont Senator was eventually denied the top spot.

But whatever the causes, the reality is that Hillary Clinton – by fair means and foul – is now the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

This left many Sanders supporters at something of a crossroads, especially after the man they’d pinned their hopes and dreams on was now officially endorsing the candidate they’d so reviled throughout a long and increasingly bitter contest.

Hard data on what those voters now intend to do with their support is impossible to accurately quantify, since available polling information on the subject varies wildly. On July 25th, for example, the Washington Post ran a story touting a poll from Pew Research (the nonprofit, nonpartisan and non-advocacy think tank) that claimed to show 90% of Sanders supporters now backing Clinton, while a more recent article in FiveThirtyEight touted data that claimed a third of his supporters were still not “with her.” So the only fact we know about that percentage is that we still don't know what it is.

But however those numbers eventually shake out on the ground, it’s clear to all but the willfully blind that a significant percentage of Sanders voters have thrown their support – however grudgingly – behind the former Secretary of State. How then, after so much animus and acrimony, could so many foot soldiers of the “revolution” simply abandon a future to believe in for a future that, until very recently, they passionately did not?

Could it be, for want of a better term, a case of Clinton Stockholm syndrome?

Without doubt, the vast majority of those newly minted “with hers” would not only have been aware of the deceptive practices and dirty tricks perpetrated against their beloved candidate – and indeed their very votes – they would also have been downright furious about it. Moreover, for the past 12 months or more they’d joined the rallying cry against big money in politics and put twenty-seven of their hard-earned dollars where their mouths are to help counteract it – only to give up the fight in the space of a few short weeks and back the candidate who was the biggest recipient of lobbyist cash of any candidate in either party…by a very, very wide margin.

According to Merriam-Webster, Stockholm syndrome is “the psychological tendency of a hostage to bond with, identify with, or sympathize with his or her captor.” But if we were to switch out the words “hostage” for “voter” and “captor” for “vanquisher” it might go some way into perhaps explaining the baffling volte-face of so many ardent adherents of the bern factor.

Psychiatrist Dr. Frank Ochberg, who originally defined the term, describes it this way: “The hostages [voters] experience a powerful, primitive positive feeling towards their captor [vanquisher]. They are in denial that this is the person who put them in that situation. In their mind, they think this is the person who is going to let them live [save them from Trump].”

The upshot:

The level of heart and soul invested in Senator Sanders’ campaign by his supporters was a marvel to behold. This was truly a grassroots movement of the people, by the people, for the people. To witness, then, so many of those same voters offer their allegiance to the antithesis of everything they’d been fighting for and against boggles the mind and demands explanation.

So yes, perhaps after being browbeaten and outfoxed by an establishment foe that utilized everything that’s wrong with modern political campaigning, those voters simply acquiesced to the fact that they were once again under the thumb of politics-as-usual. And with the specter of a Trump presidency darkening their sky, Clinton the vanquisher had now, reluctantly, become Clinton the protector.

A bitter pill to swallow to be sure, sweetened only by her promise to embrace many of the policy goals that their candidate had so valiantly championed…but don't hold your breath on that one.

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