I happen to like Joe Biden. I like him a lot. I’m sure he’s made numerous mistakes over his many years of public service, but so have I and so has everyone I know.
I have a long list of failures and mistakes, but when it comes to predicting what’s going to happen, I’m good, in fact I’m almost always right. It’s just a question of paying attention, often uncomfortably close attention. And right now I feel I’m witnessing a “deja vu.” so powerfully unnerving I have to write about it.
In Early November, 2016
In early November, 2016, I published a post in my Psychology Today Blog “Out Empathic Nature” begging my readers to go out and vote, and warning them about the dangers of Trump, his very contagious paranoid personality disorder, his business associations and history with Russia. I posted it three days before the election. I feared Trump would win, I saw it coming, I was in a panic.
At some point during the build up to the 2016 election, I found myself “questioning” Hillary Clinton, ashamed but it happened anyway.. I kept it close to the chest, this weird, unfounded suspicion.
Later, after we learned what the Russians had done on social media, I realized it had affected me, even though, at the time, I wasn’t aware of seeing or hearing any of it.
It explained the dark suspicions I’d had about someone I trusted. Hillary had been slandered, and it worked. I voted for her and told everyone to do the same. But I only had so many readers.
Slander Comes First, Suspicion Follows
I was watching intently as we grew closer to the 2016 election, breaking into a sweat on occasion…trying to ignore that dark suspicion that’d came out of nowhere. And then — 11 days before the election — when James Comey announced they’d re-opened the investigation of Hillary and her email— I saw something awful happen. Hillary had been running a good campaign, her energy had been soaring, she was winning in the polls.
With Comey’s announcement, I felt the energy drain out of Hillary, and almost mysteriously, it seemed to jump over and into Donald Trump.
He transformed from a bullying demagogue into a wildly energetic and almost convincing candidate running for President of the United States. I voted, trying to ignore my fearful prediction. But I saw it coming, when that energy that comes with power had jumped from Hillary to “the Donald.”
A few days ago those internal warning signals started flashing. Joe Biden, an extraordinarily non-opportunistic and decent man, had been winning in all the polls. Then…
Then — it’s subtle, it’s confusing — some of the more liberal news women and men began to speak darkly about Biden’s age.
Since his early days in political life he’d been famous for his “gaffs,” for on occasion saying things off the cuff that he shouldn’t have said. His gaffs go along with his tendency to be honest; authenticity is obvious if not always politically expedient.
And now, these younger diversity pundits, feeling their oats, are suggesting Biden’s gaff’s are connected to age.
It’s disturbing to see liberals expounding overt ageism, as if they don’t know about the discrimination that hits the elderly. Like the stereotyping that marks racism — and it really is similar to what happens to African Americans, when people make comments, hinting at something “off” about their intelligence.
African Americans, women, people of low socioeconomic status, and the elderly of all genders, ethnicities, religions and races are stereotyped in regards to intelligence.
It’s unnerving — it’s like a mysterious hand’s pulling on the events we’re watching. Ageism has permeated the dialogue, with hints that someone whose older can’t be as “smart” or as “quick” as a younger politician. “He’s slower than he used to be” someone says. Really? What does that mean?
Hearing snide remarks about our thoughts on “whose electable?” as if we’re making a mistake if we believe we should support a man whose been marked as a “moderate” by those who self-promote as the real progressives. Is it progressive to be flagrantly ageist?
The media speaking through the baby pundits, announces: “Isn’t it a mistake to link electability to moderation?” And then…
“Americans go for excitement. We need passion.”
Honestly, right now we’re yearning for calm, we’d love a day not organized by Adderall.
Here comes this weird division in the democratic party, at the very moment we know we need solidarity, we need to support our favorite candidate — the one we’ve come to trust, despite old mistakes that represented the culture of the 1980s. Despite putting his foot in his mouth, a leader needs the support of his people.
This is familiar, we’ve been here before. Pay attention, this shift, riddled with ageism surely as ugly as racism — how is this happening? This is what happened with Hillary, wait, pay attention, that divided democratic party. Is it possible we’re once again falling for the Russians? It’s far too familiar, this feeling, this division in the democratic party, as ageism hovers.
How does this happen? How does a quietly slanderous comment on social media, dropped by a Russian posing as an American activist-type citizen, create impossible divisions in a major political party? How does this work?
What’s the mechanism that turns a brilliant political woman into a submissive weakling, what happens that turns an eloquent and compassionate politician into a hesitant, sometimes forgetful candidate?
Claude Steele, an African American research psychologist, discovered the effects of what he called “stereotype threat.” When a marginalized, denigrated group is negatively stereotyped around specific characteristics or traits, they tend to conform to the stereotypes when threatened by environmental reminders of the negative stereotyping.
For example women are negatively stereotyped in their capacity to excel in math, science, and academics. Most still believe — albeit often unconsciously — that women lack talent in science and other academic endeavors. Women are also stereotyped as submissive, and lacking in the skill and talent for leadership. Women aren’t supposed to be ambitious.
When confronted with a basically sexist audience — a group of people who think women lack the intelligence native to men- a thoroughly competent woman is likely to moderate her comments, speak hesitantly, conforming to the stereotype of the submissive and less than intellectually confident speaker.
Women have been trained to avoid displaying ambition, to hide their competence and skill. Women who speak with assurance are accused of being strident or shrill. In an ordinary business meeting, most women who speak out will be ignored, while a man who makes a comment identical to what was already said by a woman, may be highly praised, even lauded, for his insight.
Stereotype threat is that moment of freezing, of failing to demonstrate the very thing you’re so good at. A white man — despite his famous privilege — may freeze when he gets the ball while playing in a pick-up basketball game, where most of the other players are tall African American men. Stereotype threat is what happens when an elderly man — who speaks fluidly when meeting with friends, suddenly seems to get forgetful or even confused about what he’s saying, when facing an audience of young students who believe the elderly are all on the edge of dementia.
Many older people are blessed with quick intelligence, added to the wisdom that comes from experience.
When Comey announced that the FBI was reopening the investigation of Hillary Clinton and her email, when we all saw the energy draining out of her, when Hillary seemed to grow eerily submissive — “just like a woman,” — we saw stereotype threat in action. Lurking behind the whole crazy focus on Hillary’s email, was the profound suspicion of a woman with ambition. The National Enquirer added age to the mix, running pictures of Hillary that’d been doctored to make her look 30 years older. Hillary was vulnerable because she’s a woman. And older.
We have to face it; ageism and the negative stereotyping of the elderly is on full display in the posturing of those liberal media mavens.
Bernie complained about ageism. But no one says he’s “slowing down” — because they like his politics. Ageism has become a political weapon. So has racism.
It’s surprising to see them, the pundits who’ve recently risen to positions of respect and power, have such miserably low consciousness of their own ageism. Turning their rhetoric around and laying it on them — these pundits, many of whom are themselves marginalized minorities, have become what I can only call a picture of the privileged. This position may be what makes them accepting of the slander I suspect may be initiated by the camouflaged Russians. It feels too much the way it felt when Hillary was mysteriously turning into a villain.
Why are our progressives demonstrating ageism? Is it ignorance? Or is it just the Russians at it again?