Gaslighting: August 23, 2017

Dear Mr. VP,

This morning I was thinking about gaslighting and how it has manifested in both my personal and political spheres.

Gaslighting, as you most likely know, is to manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity. I’ve written about it before, as something I’ve experienced and still deal with the ramifications of, and plenty of people have written about how you and Trump have been gaslighting since the beginning of your joint campaign.

Alex Shephard of the New Republic had this to say after your debate with Tim Kaine:

Over the course of 90 minutes Pence argued, again and again, that Kaine’s invocation of Trump’s racist, sexist, and demeaning remarks against women and minorities and his ignorant comments about foreign policy was typical political smearing. He implied that Kaine was intentionally misleading the American people by simply describing his running mate’s positions and that, by doing so, Hillary Clinton and Kaine were the ones running an “insult-driven” campaign.

Most remarkably, Pence argued that Trump never held any of the positions he has held or said any of the things that he has said. Pence lied about Trump’s immigration proposals, his comments about abortion, his tax policy, his feelings toward (and possible business ties to) Russia and Vladimir Putin. And at every opportunity, Pence said that, actually, it was Hillary Clinton who was close to Russia or was the real boor. (It should be no surprise that Trump’s campaign issued a release during the debate alleging that Clinton has close ties to Russia.) Pence’s strategy was to gaslight viewers and to confuse what have been very clear distinctions between the two campaigns.

And here’s Chris Cillizza, documenting a whole host of gaslighting behavior in Trump’s speech last night in Phoenix.

Further, when I went back to CNN to snag a link to that article, I see he’s now talking about “shared values” and “a shared sense of duty” in a speech to the American Legion, swinging from wildly divisive last night to a bringer of unity today. (Though there’s some dog whistling happening here on top of the gaslighting — he’s stressing the need to protect “the nation’s cultural, moral, and patriotic values” while also praising the Legion for upholding immigration laws. Sounds to me like a message for the white supremacists in the room.) Keeping your target on their toes by swinging from loudly brash asshole to friendly person with shared goals? Textbook abusive behavior.

Then, here’s you, tweeting last night:

Same question, Jodi Jacobson.
I’m sorry, what? The seven months of no progress, no unity, and Nazis marching in the streets will be remembered as the days we began to make America great again?

I saw this tweet and sat for a second and thought “Are things really as bad as I…” and couldn’t finish the thought before my brain yelled “YES. YES THEY FUCKING ARE.” I’ve been conditioned by previous gaslighters to question my response to things — to worry that I’m overreacting and making a molehill into a mountain. But not this time. Things are really this bad, and I’m not going to let you try and convince me otherwise.

So here’s the deal: many Americans have spent the last seven months feeling a weird sense of dysphoria, or agitation, or anxiety, or hopelessness, or any combination of those four things, and it’s because we’re engaged in some sort of collective abusive relationship with our President and you, our Vice President. And I would say this to them: they are not crazy. They are not misjudging, and they are not wrong about what is happening. None of this is okay, and it is most certainly a relationship that needs to end.


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