Republicans are blurring the line between political fantasy and reality with deadly effect: mental health experts

There has been a blurring of the lines between political fantasy and reality during the past 5 years. While there has always been a disconnect between what politicians say and what they do (or what they say when asked again later), one can argue now that the consequences of this disconnect have never been more serious or deadly to America and its people. The adage that politicians lie or like to talk out of both sides of their mouths has been around likely as long as there have been organized governmental structures directing human social behavior.

With the candidacy and then Presidency of Donald Trump, we have seen an erosion of truth that extends beyond political rhetoric or mere appeasement of the electorate.

Just as there has always been a notion of political truth versus fiction, members of Congress and other leaders have routinely had a public facing side and a less visible, shrouded side. The job requires one to be a chameleon of sorts. Many political leaders acknowledge the fact that they are playing a role when serving on committees, taking part in an investigatory hearing, or speaking with a scrum of reporters. Many will also admit the relationship between Congress members in private is very different than that which is televised. As a recent example, while the GOP would not initially admit that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the November election, Senator Lindsey Graham was seen giving Harris what looked to be a congratulatory fist-bump on the Senate floor during the same time frame.

Kamala Harris, Sen. Lindsey Graham Fist-Bump On Senate Floor | NBC News NOW www.youtube.com

Some political leaders are very skilled at compartmentalizing their public and private personas to the point that it can be disconcerting to those individuals who encounter politicians off camera. The two of us have had several interactions with political figures during our time writing together. We have encountered former Cabinet members, U.S. Representatives, and former members of the Trump staff and found the exchanges to be civil and devoid of any heated rhetoric or ill-will. In fact, some of these individuals acknowledge "that's work" and this is "real life."

We would argue that Donald Trump represented, and many of his Republican acolytes continue to represent, an embodiment of an official who does not or cannot compartmentalize the two sides. In other words, Trump is all theater. What you see is what you get whether he be on or off camera. While Trump may be largely fantasy, the death and destruction he has wrought is all too real.

We could also argue that Lindsey Graham is stuck in a pendulistic swing between political theater (fantasy) and reality. And frankly, we have no idea which reflects his truer self. We have seen Graham exhibit nauseating fealty to the former President shortly after delivering what appeared to be a sound rebuke. In addition, we know that during the 70-plus days between Biden's declared victory and Inauguration Day, the Republican party was either silent or encouraged the maintenance of Trump's fictional election win. The Stop the Steal Show was re-run so often and on so many platforms that millions believed the performance was real.

The second Impeachment trial of Donald Trump has revealed the nature of, and extent to, which members of Congress behave based on political theater versus reality. The Republicans in Congress are fracturing and the resulting fissure is breaking along the divide between fact and fiction. Lead House Impeachment Manager Jamie Raskin (D-MD) invoked his children, including his recently deceased son Tommy, and the children and grandchildren of the sitting Senators when he discussed the long-term adverse effects of a Trump acquittal. This reminder that so many Senators are parents and grandparents brought the fact versus fantasy dynamics into sharp relief.

Let's look at some facts. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, two GOP Senators at the heart of the January 6th Insurrection, are married fathers who come from an Ivy League education. Mo Brooks, Representative from Alabama, is a Duke University alumnus, a father of four, and grandfather to ten. The same Mo Brooks objected to Biden's electoral vote certification and was on stage the morning of January 6th exclaiming, "Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass." The point is this: these are well-educated family men who should (and very likely do) know that the Trumpian election fraud claims were bogus but decided to play a part in the political theatrical production.

We have said before and will restate here that whether the GOP is made up of pathological individuals who lack the capacity for rational thought, compassion, empathy, logic, and human emotional expression or are people merely playing the role of unfeeling, evil, and malicious leaders, the result is the same: previously unthinkable massive loss of life, erosion of democratic norms, rejection of science, and mockery of expertise.

This must be called out and reckoned with for our nation to move forward.

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