In psychiatry it's called "folie a deux," or madness of two. It's when one delusional person pulls another person into his delusions which they then share. They reinforce each other's madness.
It is not frequently seen in psychiatry, but we are seeing the syndrome writ large in our Republican legislature and cabinet as legislators and cabinet members unembarrassingly fawn and gush unctuously over their great leader. It’s as though our right-leaning lawmakers and cabinet members have had a group frontal lobotomy and are now brainless, remote controlled, hypnotized automatons, rapturously kissing Trump’s ring, idolizing him and blindly following his lead. Trump has been crowned by his D.C. toadies with a sol invictus halo and wears it as surely, and with as much cocky entitlement, as any Caesar ever did.
The suddenness of the turnaround has been stunning. Those who formerly tended toward debate and independent thought are now sycophantically falling all over themselves and into line. They are strangely excited about a tax plan Trump wanted but more then 65 percent of America didn’t. Our legislature, by eliminating the mandate, has now cut the hamstrings of Obamacare and millions of Americans will find themselves uninsured or facing premiums that are unaffordable or policies with such high copays and deductibles they might as well be uninsured.
Our Republican legislative leadership and members of Congress lined up on the Congressional outside steps and embarrassed themselves with their words of giddy high praise. They may soon regret that sight - and their words of glorification - in this year’s midterm elections especially if Special Counsel Robert Mueller returns a few more indictments that cut close to Trump and family, resulting inevitably in some talk of impeachment.
A spell of sorts seems to have been cast over Republicans that has taken away all powers of critical thought. We are reminded of the earlier scene where House Republicans with the President dizzily praised their passing of their healthcare bill only to have Trump immediately call it “mean” and sorely in need of serious Senate re-engineering.
The psychology of the spell lends itself to careful study. Clearly there’s a “bandwagon” effect with legislators sensing the way things are going to go and jumping on to not be left behind and alone to explain their failure to get with the movement. The question now is: where’s the wagon heading, and will Americans like where it likely will take them?
Then there’s the “group think” effect by which a group breathing its own smoke declares all dissenting thought corruptive and intolerable. We will also find a strong “confirmation bias” in operation whereby thought leaders will cherry pick evidence and arguments that support their position and ignore everything else, however compelling, that might work against what the leaders are devising.
Clearly Republican House members and senators have drunk Trump’s Kool-Aid and it seems to have put them and deep analytical thinking to sleep. And let’s not forget peer pressure and donor pressure, RNC funding and support pressure, as well as lobbyist money and pressure.
But what can possibly explain the suddenness of the group adoration cum worship now occurring with Republicans in both chambers? Has everyone entered a fugue state in which the past and present are stricken from consciousness and a new altered persona precipitously appears, as from nowhere, for a whacky honeymoon with a cultural-disease-bearing pathogen: namely The Donald. Something pathological is curiously, even fascinatingly, afoot. Before our very eyes we are seeing an almost group “dissociative fugue” making its bewildering appearance in which a kiss-up personality disorder (affecting all D.C. Republicans on the Hill) is supplanting a previously lively, noisome, internally quarrelsome, independent one.
Where from here? The story’s unfolding. Where it goes is anybody’s guess. But it’s clinically riveting to watch.
Dr. Brik McDill of Bakersfield is a retired psychologist.