The Universal Notebook: America by gaslight

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How stupid do Republicans think Americans are? How stupid did they think we were?

I ask this question in both the past and present tense because I am writing a few days before the Nov. 6 election, so I don’t know yet whether voters came to their senses and rejected the false narrative of the GOP that threatens this nation with tyranny. Since Donald Trump’s election, the American people have been lied to every day about virtually everything, so it’s possible they no longer know the difference between the truth and the lies.

In many ways, Maine and the nation held elections by gaslight this year, “gaslighting” defined as an abuser manipulating information in such a way as to make a victim question his or her sanity.

Republicans are masters of gaslighting, which used to simply be known as lying through your teeth. Donald Trump is the gaslighter-in-chief of course, but even U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, once a fairly honest Mainer, has been consumed by the flames of Republican gaslighting.

Who will ever forget Collins, in her tortured rationale for supporting the Kavanaugh nomination, saying of sexual assault, “if any good at all has come from this ugly confirmation process, it has been to create an awareness that we have underestimated the pervasiveness of this terrible problem?”

In fact, senator, just the opposite is true. No good will come of that Republican circus.

“We must listen to survivors, and every day we must seek to stop the criminal behavior that has hurt so many,” Collins continued in a classic example of gaslighting, just before announcing a vote that proved she did not mean a word of it.

The 2016 political campaigns were dizzying with gaslighting. The most egregious example of this bad-is-good, up-is-down strategy was Donald Trump’s tweet, “Republicans will totally protect people with Pre-Existing Conditions, Democrats will not.”

How stupid do you have to be, how short your memory, not to know that Republicans have spent the past two years doing everything in their power to destroy the Affordable Care Act without once offering a credible alternative?

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, the Republican incumbent in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, obviously thought he could lie his way out of having voted to strip away coverage for pre-existing conditions, to allow insurance companies to charge older citizens five time as much for health coverage and to turn Medicare into a voucher system.

Then, with the shrill hysteria of a man losing his grip on power, Poliquin accused his opponent, Democrat Jared Golden, of doing everything he himself had actually done, all the while screaming “radical,” “socialist,” “Pelosi” at the combat veteran.

Poliquin is a spineless tool of the Trump agenda, having voted Trump’s will 96.7 percent of the time. Were the people of the 2nd District intelligent enough to figure out what a cad Poliquin is? For the sake of the nation, I sure hope so.

What we have in Trump and his GOP cronies is a president and a party who refuse to take any responsibility for their destructive, irresponsible rhetoric and behavior.

As Nov. 6 was approaching, Trump pulled out all the stops, whipping up his bellicose, benighted base at rallies with tall tales of hordes of immigrants headed for the U.S. border in a caravan hiding Muslims and possibly funded by a Jew.

The anti-Semitic mass murderer in Pittsburgh and the pathetic pipe bomber from Miami are prime examples of the weak-minded individuals incited to violence by Trump’s rhetoric. Trump is absolutely complicit in every act of racist and political violence that his disturbed followers commit.

But to hear Sarah Huckabee Sanders tell it, the media is responsible for the violence because it attacks the president and makes his supporters mad. Gaslighting 101. Standing up to bullies and bigots does not make you a bully or a bigot.

The Trump administration has made it Job One to discredit anyone – media, courts, intelligence community – that might expose the truth behind his lies. We have a president so bereft that victims of tragedies don’t even want him coming around to pretend to console them. They know he will only use their misfortune for his own political gain, like blaming the victims in Pittsburgh for not posting armed guards at worship, a clear appeal to the NRA and gun nuts everywhere.

If Democrats did not take control of the House on Nov. 6, there will be no effective check on Donald Trump’s tyrannical excesses for at least another two years. By then it may be too late. Trump is already threatening to repeal the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by executive order, so, please, please, don’t try to tell me Republicans are concerned about the rule of law.

That, too, is pure gaslighting.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.