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Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 230 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.

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Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

Integrative United States President Joe Biden

A Journal of the Month Before the Election
and the Days That Follow It: Part 5

Elliot Benjamin

It's now over a week later, and it looks more and more settled that Trump has virtually no chance of stealing the election from Biden.

It has been a month since Election Day. Safe Harbor Day and the Electors Voting Day is soon approaching, and I am anticipating and greatly looking forward to Joe Biden moving closer and closer to being inaugurated as President of the United States. Trump has recently said that he will leave office if the Electoral College votes for Biden on December 14th [1]. However, I will not feel completely at ease until I see that the Electoral College actually does vote for Biden, as my 2016 election PTSD remnants will linger on at least until Biden gets inaugurated on January 20th, 2021. My two journal entries over the past week convey my thinking and concerns about this, as described below. But first I want to discuss some harrowing consequences of the 4 years that Donald Trump has served as President of the United States.

To begin with, the dangerous drama is by no means over, as it is still going to be quite a precarious remaining lame duck period of more than a month and a half to go. Perhaps the most dangerous consequence of all of Trump's “election fraud” manipulation and promotion to his followers is that nearly 75% of people who voted for Trump think that the election was “stolen” from him [2]. There is a disturbing article in POLITICO that describes the dire but I think very realistic future possible scenario of the Republican party sooner or later taking over the reigns of power, utilizing all the “dirty tricks” that they learned from our current master of deceit and sinister manipulation (with perhaps even Trump himself running for president again in 2024), to essentially put a final end to democracy in the United States [3]. The complete mess that has been left to Biden to try to clean up is chock full of Trump's “successes,” ranging from hundreds of appointed Republican conservative Federal judges and a 6-3 Republican conservative Supreme Court bench, to hordes of angry militia members and white supremacist aficionados spewing hate and ready for violence to “avenge” their “stolen” election [3], [4].

However, I know there are a number of things Biden can and will do to offset much of the damage that Trump has inflicted on the United States through his destructive environmental policies such as expansive oil drilling and removing clear air and water and industrial safety precautions, as well as his heartless punitive immigration policies, inclusive of his inhuman family separations [5]. Undoubtedly how much Biden is able to accomplish is related to what happens in the two Georgia run-off senate elections, although even if the Democrats retain control of the Senate there is still the corporation friendly Centrist Democrat factor to contend with, with Joe Manchin leading the pack [6]. And then there is the lingering continuous ghastly but quite possible debacle of Trump getting us into a war with Iran before he finally leaves the helm [7]. Yes I am afraid it is going to be a very long month and a half to go, and as much as I would like to put this essay series to rest, it is therefore quite likely that there will be a Part 6 sequel to this series. But for now, what follows are my specific thoughts and concerns about achieving the necessary major step of finally removing our current president, to begin the process of at least trying to heal the attempted destruction of United States democracy by Donald Trump.

Tuesday, 11/24

It is now 3 weeks since Election Day, and it is time for me to convey my thoughts about what has happened in the 2 weeks since I wrote Part 4 of this essay series [8]. At the present time, it looks more and more like Joe Biden will successfully emerge as the President of the United States on January 20, 2021. Most of the swing states have now certified Biden as the winner in their state, Trump has been extremely ineffective in nearly all of his court cases, and the Trump appointed General Services Administrator has finally acknowledged that Biden is the president-elect and has authorized him receiving all the government resources and financial remuneration that he is entitled to [9]. So is there any possible way that Trump could still pull off “winning” the election?

It is difficult to say if there is virtually “no” chance for this, or if there is still a “slight” possibility that this could happen [10]. The “nightmare scenario” that a number of people have previously described and that I conveyed in my earlier essays in this series [8] basically is now Trump's remaining plan of action. Putting it succinctly, Trump is trying to persuade enough swing state Republican state legislators to appoint electors to vote for him even if Biden was declared the winner in their state [8], [10]. Pretty dicey, but perhaps not impossible? “If” (and a gigantically BIG “IF”) Trump were successful to sow enough chaos to result in enough swing states offering two competing sets of electors and not coming to a resolution on their December 14th electors meeting, then neither candidate would emerge with the necessary number of 270 electoral votes to be declared the winner. In that “nightmare” case scenario, the matter would go to Congress, and it could very well happen that the House and Senate do not agree on how to resolve the state's situation, in particular if the Republicans retain control of the Senate through the Georgia run-off elections. Then either the governor of the state may end up deciding who the winner in their state is, or the 12th Amendment would apply, which means that the House gets to decide who becomes president, with its one state/one vote system that has a Republican majority counted in this way [10].

But here is where the whole situation becomes something that sounds like a science fiction story, but in theory could actually happen. Apparently there are “controversial” things that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could do to insure that the Democrats temporarily have a voting majority in the House just for the explicit purpose of voting for Biden in that scenario [10]. This is where things get quite fuzzy, but Pelosi could actually instigate the House challenging the legitimacy of a number of close state elections and vote to appoint “temporary” new House members to replace them, just for enough time for them to elect Biden [10]. Of course the response from nearly half the country would be horrific and she would receive numerous death threats. But would she do this if push came to shove and this was the only way to stop Trump from stealing the election from Biden? Given the stakes of what is involved, and the fact that things would only have gotten to this point if enough states completely violated United States democracy by rejecting the popular vote of the people in their state, I think it is quite possible that she would do this. And finally, if somehow this process were to get stalled to such an extent that this bold plan did not work, such as Pelosi's brainstorm resulting in enough legal turmoil to derail the whole process and January 20th were to come with neither candidate being declared the winner, then guess who becomes the “acting president” of the United States until the matter is resolved? Yes Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House would become Acting President of the United States [10].

Well I don't think this science fiction nightmare scenario is going to happen. I think that virtually all the Republican state legislators will end up reflecting the votes of their constituents, as it appears that all Republican state canvassers will have upheld the votes of their constituents [9] and I don't think that the Republican state legislators would be willing to suffer the massive backlash that would undoubtedly ensue if they were to take actions that are completely antithetical to United States democracy. And given Biden's apparent 306 electoral college votes, it would take a minimum of three states to violate the votes of their constituents for Trump to have any chance of successfully stealing the election. But I think that's enough for now, as each day is an eternity and let's see what the next week brings.

Wednesday, 12/2

It's now over a week later, and it looks more and more settled that Trump has virtually no chance of stealing the election from Biden. All the crucial swing states have certified their elections in favor of Biden [11], and even Attorney General Bill Barr, who is arguably the worst of Trump's repulsive appointments, has actually stated that no widespread voter fraud has been found [12]. Sure Trump won't attend Biden's inauguration and will reportedly hold his (likely) 2024 presidential competing campaign rally at the same time [13]. But this is all small potatoes. What concerns me much more than Trump's continuing unrealistic and absurd efforts to discount Biden's presidential victory or his boycotting and throwing darts at Biden's inauguration, is the possible remaining and escalating damage and destruction that he can cause to the United States and the world in the remaining more than a month and a half in his lame duck presidency, in particular from getting us into a war with Iran or even a nuclear war [7].

Psychiatrist Bandy Lee, who has tirelessly and courageously worked to publicize the dangerousness and mental disturbance, as in sociopathy and malignant narcissism, of Donald Trump for the past 4 years [14], has recently published a provocative, timely, fascinating, and horrific profile of Trump as well as of his followers [15]. Lee describes in no uncertain terms how extremely dangerous it is to still have Trump as the United States president [15], pp. 133-134.

“Concerns have been great, even before Donald Trump crossed a number of recent alarming thresholds: scaremongering and fomenting violence from the White House. . . attacking the electoral process. . . escalating global instability. . . and allowing a deadly pandemic to grow exponentially. . . . With provocation of or incitement to violence being one of his main maladpative coping strategies, this means that we are entering a period in which there will be an elevated risk of all forms of war: civil, international, or nuclear. Nothing is off the table, and no stone will be left unturned in his campaign to hold onto power at all cost. . . . As he is a danger to self and to others, he needs to be contained, to have his access to weapons removed, and to be psychologically evaluated regardless of whether or not he gives consent. . . . The President must be removed from access to the nuclear codes. The fate of human civilization should not be dependent on an unstable individual without rational decision-making capacity. . . . The President's war-making powers should be curtailed. The temptation to draw the nation into a devastating war for reasons other than the good of the nation will be too great for a president who lacks the capacity to lead.”

And Lee wrote precociously a few months ago about the grave dangers of a possible lame duck period [15], pp. 135-136.

Bandy Lee (2020), Profile of a Nation: Trump's Mind, America's Soul

In the absence of successful persuasion [to concede the election] he might instead resort to attempting to stay in power by any number of methods: through challenging the results, instituting martial law or the equivalent in the case of civil demonstrations against his refusal to leave, or invoking any of the vast emergency powers that are vested in the presidency. An alternative to successful persuasion would be swift intervention immediately following election results, but preferably before, along the lines of removing the dangers or removing his influence through the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, urgent impeachment, court-ordered involuntary mental health evaluations, or removal from decision-making and exposure to the public. The more time is allowed to pass with his growing expectations and increasing external pressures and fears, the greater the dangers will grow, which makes the 'lame duck' period, were there to be one, the most dangerous of all.”

I think that Bandy Lee's suggestions to curtail the extent of the immense dangers from Trump during his lame duck period, though wise and very important, are unlikely to happen. Although hopefully if push came to shove, someone in the higher chains of command of the military would at least be able to stop the unleashing of a nuclear war, I have much less assurance that a more traditional war with Iran can be avoided [7]. However, it is also the case that Trump is thinking of running for president again in 2024 [13], and hopefully he would avoid getting us into a war that may have negative repercussions in regard to his hopes of regaining his position as President of the United States.

But I will think positive right now, and make the assumption that in a little over a month and a half we will finally be rid of Trump and that we won't be engaged in a war with Iran or the unimaginable horror of a nuclear war. Then the situation that progressives and Democrats will be faced with is what to do about the fact that nearly half of the United States voted for Trump in the 2020 election. First off, Lee sizes up what she perceives as the disturbingly unhealthy personality factors in many Trump supporters [15], p. 121.

“A demagogue. . . is able to stir those who have felt inept, inferior, and abjectly insignificant into reimagining themselves as a powerful, entitled people of destiny. Through the vilification of outgroups such as immigrants, Democrats, the so-called 'elite,' and the media that was critical of Donald Trump, his supporters and attendees of his rallies can evacuate their feelings of self-loathing, weakness, and humiliation. In purging themselves of these feelings they transfer them onto others; by casting others as the epitome of evil they are then able to refigure themselves as being superior and chosen. Accordingly, Donald Trump, the man who delivers them this intoxicant, is exalted for the brash social dominance he displays, the prejudices he affirms, and for protecting them from the world, which they experience as a very dangerous and threatening place. . . .

That exaltation and sense of identification are behind the inseparable bond that leader and followers have come to share, like parent and child. Once the followers identify with their leader, any criticism of scandal concerning his fraudulence, his inanities, or his criminality is experienced as simultaneously posing an existential threat to themselves; their leader is not just protector but country, constitution, and government itself. Criticism therefore activates defensive denial, disavowal, and a willingness to fight to one's death to protect their 'protector.' As this is essentially an inviolable bond, if a situation were to arise wherein unfavorable facts, science, and incriminating evidence were to mount, the more they will rather unmoor themselves from reality. In doing so, they find and cling ever more closely to the few sources of information that will corroborate their beliefs and adopt unquestioningly their leader's fixed, false beliefs. Their ability to return successfully to previous levels of functioning depends on the swiftness of any intervention, the completeness of the separation from the leader and sources of propaganda, and the support they receive in the aftermath of the trauma.”

And Bandy Lee has some wise words for how to effectively to deal with Trump's followers when he is no longer their leader [15], pp. 142-143.

Bandy X. Lee
Bandy X. Lee

“I am often asked how to engage these [Trump's] followers, which is a chief question for many people. Mental health professionals are indeed frequently confronted with the question: 'How do we reason with a Trump supporter?' The quick answer to that query is 'You don't.' That Donald Trump's supporters must be convinced and won over, in order. . . [for] him to be removed from power, is a common misconception that people have. The reality is that the opposite holds true: removing him from power will reduce the followership. In the meantime, people should follow certain general guidelines when engaging with Trump supporters. First, they should not be confronted with facts, for it will only rouse resistance (subconsciously, they already know what is true, which is why they project onto others their own characteristics very accurately; for example, their radically irrational support of the leader can be described as symptomatic of the 'Trump Derangement Syndrome' they often accuse of others, or call peaceful protesters the 'violent left,' even when the FBI reports that the tiny percentage of violence that did occur is from the right-wing Boogaloo Boys). Second, persuasion would not be the goal, for that will only lead to exhaustion: the problem is in their granting an impaired individual power, not in their cognitive system or, most of the time, even their mental health. Third, people should continue to state facts, evidence, and science-based approaches elsewhere, repeatedly and without apology, intimidation, or shame, so that a delusional narrative does not 'bulldoze over' the truth through its sheer emotional force, upon which pathology depends.”

Lee then proceeds to empathically describe a number of therapeutic guidelines for dealing with the aftermath of Trump supporters who no longer have their esteemed leader to follow, and her advice is once again wise and timely [15]. Her description is in alignment with numerous accounts that describe cult indoctrination, and in particular cult indoctrination from Trump and Trumpism [16]. Although I believe that Lee's advice about this is noble and the best approach for trying to avoid the worst of the consequences to the United States from the Trump presidency, it requires a state of mind of “forgiveness” that I find challenging to reach. But it also reminds me to continue with my mindfulness meditation practice to try to get there, as I have no doubt that Bandy Lee is right about this, and I will end this part of my essay series with her sage advice [15], pp. 143-144.

“Rather than facts and arguments, other management principles should be followed with Trump supporters, as follows: . . . Reduction of exposure to 'the leader'. . . Reduction of cultic programming. . . . Change of circumstances. . . Emotional support. We begin with one of the key principles of our professional practice: in all matters of health, we triage before we treat, and the removal of the primary offending agent comes first: it is for this reason that our first principle focuses heavily on Donald Trump. His removal from office and the accompanying reduction of exposure that his supporters have to him will automatically release many from his influence. The reduction of exposure will diminish the natural induction of highly contagious symptoms among the population that comes with having a severely mentally impaired person in an influential position: violence, paranoia, fixed false beliefs, and loss of connection with reality.

Following that first intervention, the next treatment principle should be employed in order to effect a reduction of cultic programming, programming which can by itself reform thoughts and inculcate fixed false beliefs. Fox News, One America News Network, and other sites that promote right-wing conspiracy theories, as well as social media that filter information to create functional 'bubbles,' are all forms of programming that work to serve that function. . . . By removing people from the circumstances that rendered them vulnerable to predators in the first place, they can be protected from being exploited again. Steps for bringing about such a change might include: reducing relative poverty and enhancing access to education, health care, and social mobility.

Finally, for future healing, especially of the trauma that will inevitably come with the realization that the person they believed to be their 'savior' was actually their mental and material abuser, Trump followers will need emotional support from friends, family, and others. Genuine human connection and acceptance will provide them with the strength to abandon cherished beliefs and to help hasten their recovery. One must also be prepared for the instance where some or many cases may take a lifetime to recuperate, or do not recover at all. The difficulty depends on emotional investment, length of time of attachment, and degree of trauma one is likely to experience.

Of note, not included here in this assessment are the president's billionaire followers, who are unlikely to reform but instead to look for another 'Donald Trump' and to continue to contrive ways of enlisting deprived and emotionally vulnerable populations in order [to] promote an agenda of increasing power and profits. The intervention for this is proper prosecution of white collar crime and the reduction of inequality or imbalances of power.”

Notes/References

  1. See Paul LeBlanc (2020), Trump Says for First Time He'll Leave Office if Electoral college Votes for Biden. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/26/politics/trump-leave-office-electoral-college/index.html. Note that Trump had actually said in June, 2020 that he would leave office peacefully if he loses the election—see Caitlin Oprysko (2020), Trump Says He'll Leave Office Peacefully If He Loses in November. Retrieved from https://www.politico.com/news/2020/06/12/trump-says-will-leave-office-peacefully-if-he-loses-315736
  2. See Jacob Pramuk (20200, Almost No Trump Voters Consider Biden the Legitimate 2020 Election Winner. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/23/2020-election-results-almost-no-trump-voters-consider-biden-the-winner.html
  3. See Jeff Greenfield (2020), Opinion | Did American Really Hold? Maybe Not. Retrieved from https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/11/25/did-american-democracy-really-hold-maybe-not-440595
  4. See David Neiwert (2020), “Million MAGA March” Saturday Will Commingle White Nationalists, Conspiracists, Trump fans. Retrieved from https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/11/11/1995112/--Million-MAGA-March-Saturday-will-commingle-white-nationalists-conspiracists-Trump-fans; and David Neiwert (2020), Violence Breaks Out After Nightfall in D.C. as MAGA Marchers Bring Thug Tactics to the Capital. Retrieved from https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/11/15/1996002/-After-nightfall-MAGA-marchers-bring-far-right-s-street-brawling-tactics-to-the-nation-s-capital
  5. See Gregory Krieg (2020), 5 Takeaways From Biden's First Wave of Nominations and Appointments. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/23/politics/biden-administration-takeaways/index.html Geneva Sands & Priscilla Alvarez (2020), Mahorkas Could Bring Stability to DHS After Years of Interim Leadership. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/23/politics/biden-picks-mayorkas-dhs-secretary/index.html; and Kate Sullivan (2020), Biden Prioritizes Climate Crisis by Naming John Kerry Special Envoy. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/23/politics/john-kerry-biden-climate-envoy/index.html
  6. See Jordain Carney (2020), Manchin Shoots Down Chance that Senate Democrats Nix Filibuster , Expand Court. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/525236-manchin-shoot-down-chance-that-senate-democrats-nix-filibuster-expand-court
  7. See Ellen Mitchell (2020), Israeli Military Instructed to Prepare for Trump Strike on Iran: Report. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/policy/defense/527542-israeli-military-instructed-to-prepare-for-trump-strike-on-iran-report
  8. See Elliot Benjamin (2020), Integrative United States President Joe Biden: A Journal of the Month Before the Election and the Days That Follow It: Part 1 at www.integralworld.net/benjamin112.html;
    Part 2 at www.integralworld.net/benjamin113.html; Part 3 at www.integralworld.net/benjamin114.html; Part 4 at www.integralworld.net/benjamin115.html
  9. See Kristen Holmes & Jeremy Herb (2020), First on CNN: Key Government Agency Acknowledges Biden's Win and Begins Formal Transition. Retrieved from https://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/cnn/cnn_politics/first-on-cnn-key-government-agency-acknowledges-bidens-win-and-begins-formal-transition/article_c39ea119-1929-53e6-a946-dce111ca9c29.html; Dan Mangan (2020), Pennsylvania and Nevada Certify Biden Wins Over Trump. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/24/pennsylvania-certifies-election.html; and Tucker Higgins (2020), Trump Says His Election Challenges Probably Won't Make It to the Supreme Court. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/29/trump-acknowledges-the-supreme-court-.html
  10. See Benjamin Wittes (2020), How Hard Is It to Overturn an American Election? Retrieved from https://www.lawfareblog.com/how-hard-it-overturn-american-election; Savannah Behrmann (2020), Trump Is Contesting the Election in Several Key States. Here's How Their Electoral Votes Work. Retrieved from https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-is-contesting-the-election-in-several-key-states-heres-how-their-electoral-votes-work/ar-BB1aXljg; Daniel Carpenter (2020), Here's What Pelosi Could Do If Republicans Tried to Manipulate the Presidential Election's Outcome. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/08/05/heres-what-pelosi-could-do-if-republicans-tried-manipulate-presidential-elections-outcome/
  11. See Caroline Kelly & Alison Main (2020), Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey Defends Election Process After Trump Attack. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/30/politics/doug-ducey-defends-election-arizona-trump/index.html
  12. See Evan Perez & Devan Cole (2020), William Barr Says There Is No Evidence of Widespread Fraud in Presidential Election. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/01/politics/william-barr-election-2020/index.html
  13. Jordan Williams (2020), Trump Considering Kicking Off 2024 Run During Biden's Inauguration: Report. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/527817-trump-considering-kicking-off-2024-run-during-bidens-inauguration-repor
  14. See Bandy Lee (2019), The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President—Updated and Expanded with New Essays. New York, NY: Macmillan.
  15. See Bandy Lee (2020), Profile of a Nation: Trump's Mind, America's Soul. New York, NY: World Mental Health Coalition, Inc.
  16. See Elliot Benjamin (2018), The Cult of Trumpism. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net/benjamin97.html; Elliot Benjamin (2020), Social Media Addiction, Cult Indoctrination, and the Coronavirus Pandemic; All in Relation to the Trump Presidency. Retrieved from https://irispublishers.com/oajap/pdf/OAJAP.MS.ID.000577.pdf; Elliot Benjamin (2020), Modern Religions: An Experiential Analysis and Exposé. Winterport, ME: Natural Dimension Publications; Steve Hassan (2019), The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster; Steve Hassan (2018), Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults. Freedom of Mind Press; and Margaret Thaler Singer (2003). Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace (Revised and Updated Version). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.






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