In professional wrestling circles, the Legion of Doom is a name that conjures up the fearsome physiques and painted faces of one of the great tag teams of all time. In the political arena today, the same moniker aptly describes an even more daunting and dangerous duo: the profits-over-people corporate wing of the Democratic Party and the belligerent, bigoted, and brutal GOP of Donald Trump. There's really no better way to describe a pairing that literally imperils our democracy and our planet at the same time.
The foundation for this forbidding alliance--"bipartisanship" at its worst--is simple. Both of these powerhouses are beholden to the same benefactors: an assortment of status-quo-defending behemoths that includes Wall Street, the oil and gas industry, health insurance companies, Big Pharma, military contractors, and mainstream media conglomerates. They therefore share the same no-holds-barred commitment: making sure that progressive victories are few and far between.
Of course, unlike their predecessors on the mat, today's Legion of Doom don't rely on brute strength and frightening visages to subdue opponents. Rather, their seeming stranglehold on our politics comes from the bottomless wealth of the self-serving 1% and from the use of manipulative narratives--"political mind games"--designed to mislead us about what's happening, what's right, and what's possible.
As a psychologist, I've studied these propaganda appeals. The ones that tend to be most effective in confusing and misdirecting us target five core concerns that govern how we make sense of the world--namely, issues of vulnerability, injustice, distrust, superiority, and helplessness. Each is linked to a basic question, like this.
First, are we safe? The Legion of Doom are ready with the answers that best serve their corporate backers. Sometimes that means fearmongering about how progressive policies will threaten our wellbeing. Encouraging panic over Medicare for All fits the bill--even though tens of millions of Americans lack the health insurance they need. At other times, they instead offer unfounded assurances to allay our legitimate fears. Thus, they falsely insist--contrary to scientific data--that the destructive consequences of climate change are overblown and no cause for alarm.
Second, are we being treated fairly? Here the Legion of Doom are quick to prey on our uncertainties about right and wrong. One frequent ploy revolves around disingenuous claims that they're fighting for justice. Corporate school reformers become ultra-wealthy entrepreneurs by promising to help underprivileged children, and massive defense contractors fill their coffers by posing as defenders of human rights. Another ploy involves misleading arguments in which shameful injustices--unconscionably extreme inequality, astronomical CEO salaries--are portrayed as the just outcomes of so-called free markets.
Third, who should we trust? Our doubts in this arena are soft targets for the Legion of Doom's manipulative appeals. So they tell us that particular groups--perhaps communities of color, or immigrants, or those who are poor--are "different" and that their grievances are best viewed with suspicion. And they warn us that progressives and other critics of the status quo are purportedly dishonest, misguided, or misinformed--despite overwhelming evidence that the current system rewards the few by depriving the many.