In my piece, I addressed the puzzle of why it is that some of the most remarkably decent people I know have supported an American leadership thats itself remarkable precisely for lacking such decency. This is the piece that appears on this site at
To that puzzle, I proposed an answer in two parts.
But my story really arises from the second part of the answer I proposed in my commentary.
Part of why these good people can be seduced by a bad leader, I said, is that theres a part of them that welcomes the seduction. A leader can give people an opportunity to expressvicariously, in the name of the glorious Us forbidden impulses that theyd never allow themselves to act on as a Me in their individual lives.
Whats not integrated into the personality does not disappear, I continued, but instead becomes a point of vulnerability. History has shown that among the most dangerous leaders are those adept at giving hidden expression to peoples forbidden desires.
The op/ed-page editor scheduled my piece for publication. But then, to his surprise and mine, a higher-up spiked it: its not appropriate, said the newspaper honcho, to allege any moral or psychological shortcomings to any of this presidents supporters.
Now, if it were just this newspaper man, I wouldnt think this reticence to publish such an argument signified much. After all, prudence might lead someone in the business of selling newspapers to hesitate to offend a constituency that, these days, seems animated by an angry and vengeful spirit.
But I also heard some of this from my own circle of colleagues who customarily vet my writings before I go public. These colleagues have generally been cheering me on, over this past more than a year, as Ive been taking on the ruling powers they also oppose. But, with this piece I wrote to explain the appeal of the Bushites to many very decent people, several of my colleagues balked at the idea that there might be anything dark in our fellow Americans to which these dark powers might be giving expression.
Thats what I find interesting here. It seems to me another sign of that inability of many liberals in todays America to confront the dark dimension of human affairs.
The idea that confining the human creature in too tight a case might produce subterranean feelings of vengeful rage would have been no news to Nietzsche, or Freud, or Jung. Why is it not credible to us?
Weve lived our whole lives in the shadow of that terrible discovery --made shortly before the middle of the twentieth century-- that decent people in a civilized society might be willingly complicit in terrible atrocities. Why should it be so surprising that Americans, too, might have their dark sides?
Weve seen normal people -- summoned by destructive leaders to supposedly righteous causes-- slaughter their neighbors in Bosnia and Rwanda,. Why should it be out of bounds to imagine that an American leader could bring out of his followers, collectively, the worst of their potentialities?