One of my favorite articles from the archive of Steve Benen’s time at the Washington Monthly is this one from 2011 titled: Karl Rove and the Affection for Projection. Here’s how he begins:
Karl Rove has a special, some might call it “pathological,” quality as a political pundit. More than anyone I’ve ever seen or heard of, Rove identifies some of his own ugliest, most malicious, most pernicious qualities, and then projects them onto those he hates most.
Perhaps it is the fact that I am a “recovering therapist” that draws me to this kind of intersection of politics and psychology. But I think it can be very helpful as a way to understand political dynamics.
We are currently witnessing an example of how projection plays out in a much wider way in Republican politics. As a case in point, I’d simply remind you that over the last seven years we’ve been subject to all kinds of crazed conspiracy theories about “Obama the tyrant.” These have come in the form of everything from death panels to FEMA camps to Jade Helm. And they are not simply coming from the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party. Sen. Chuck Grassley bought into the idea that there were “death panels” in Obamacare and the Republican Governor of Texas took the whole Jade Helm nonsense seriously.
But now, perhaps as a result of Trump-mania, we are getting a chance to witness the roots of those conspiracy theories. First of all, Ed Kilgore is right to suggest that, when Donald Trump says that as president he would deport all 11 million undocumented workers, the only way he could possibly “manage” that is via police raids and box cars. Not to be outdone, this week Mike Huckabee said that, as president, he wouldn’t rule out using the FBI and federal troops to stop abortions (which, by the way, have been ruled constitutional by SCOTUS. But never mind…)
I think it’s safe to say that neither of these men will ever be President of the United States. But at least now, when we hear conspiracy theories about the current occupant of the White House being a tyrant, we know that those machinations come from the fevered brains of would-be tyrants.