By RICHARD JOHN STAPLETON
I thought Bernard Sanders would handily win in the 2020 Democratic primary race since Hillary barely defeated him in 2016 and no other candidate in the 2020 primary race was as formidable as Hillary.
Sanders is a visionary with time-tested policies and ideas for curing fundamental USian economic and social problems, with intellectual honesty, integrity, determination, and good ethics demonstrated throughout his public life, dedicated to generally doing the right thing. He’s not perfect but relatively close for a politician, notwithstanding his helping to secure a pork barrel F-35 fighter plane base to help the economy near Burlington, Vermont, creating horrendous noise, as these poorly-designed incredibly expensive new US Air Force planes zoom through the air, disturbing the peace of mind of citizens for miles around.
Sanders’s votes and advocated policies for the US on social issues in my opinion however are about as good as you can get, Medicare for All, free tuition for college, forgiveness of student debt, maintaining Social Security, reforming the banking and financial system, cutting military spending, creating infrastructure jobs in the domestic economy, and, perhaps of greatest significance, stating in public debates he would fight global warming and climate change from day one after being elected and sworn in. He was the only Dem candidate with enough intellectual honesty and guts to make a major issue of fighting global warming and climate change.
And best of all he’s not bought and paid for. He was the only candidate in the 2020 presidential race who did not accept campaign donations from large corporations and was therefore free to work in the interests of middle and lower income people.
Had he been elected president of the US if he could have gotten just one-tenth of his plans accomplished he would have done more for middle and lower income people than any president since Franklin Roosevelt.
Bernie came across in the primary debates with vim and vigor expressing his plans in clear straightforward easy to understand language, almost never missing a beat with his flow of words and sentences formed with correct grammar, his mind sharp as a tack.
Joe Biden, the so-called winner of the Dem primary race, is almost a polar opposite, a man with little or no plans or ideas of his own for curing anything, a long-time Dem politician who will bend with any political wind that is good for him, a supporter of the establishment, not the common man or woman, a bought and paid for lobbyist-type politician for the defense industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the credit card industry. Sanders confronted him with a direct question in the last Dem primary debate in full public view of millions about whether or not he said five times during his career in Washington that he would cut Social Security. He merely looked down with his head bent, made no direct response to the question, and took off on another tangent with another rambling jumble of words and sentences. He has had frequent memory lapses during his primary campaign and in debates that indicate he is suffering from dementia or some sort of neurological disorder, as countless people have pointed out on the Internet and elsewhere. He also has some sort of character or personality disorder, having been charged by numerous women with groping.
The voting started off about like I thought it would for the 2020 Dem primaries. Everything was fine for Sanders in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. I thought he was headed for an easy win. But along came South Carolina and Super Tuesday and then Sanders got drubbed in the Deep South.
I was surprised and dismayed by those results, having thought Sanders would win in almost all states. I thought ordinary people everywhere had seen enough facts and reasoning in the primary debates to cause them to vote for Sanders.
It was obvious to me in the Dem primary debates that the Democratic National Party establishment had somehow convinced CNN to tout Biden as the “frontrunner” despite polls clearly showing he was not even close to being the winner of the debates in the eyes of USian citizens at large watching the debates. In fact according to polls about the debates I saw Biden was not even close to being the best, usually ranking no better than fourth, with a much smaller percentage of the overall count than Sanders.
But when Biden also won in Illinois, Michigan, and Washington, it dawned on me how wrong I had been. The social messages in the debates were like water running off a duck’s back for millions of Dem voters, and most of the respondents of polls I saw must not have been ordinary Dems. The silent majority discounted the significance of what they saw and heard. The social words and reasoning they should have heard counted for little.
I thought most Dem voters would rebel against their overlords in the Dem Party and choose Bernie; but they did not: they went along with their masters, or naturally agreed.
What mainly counted were the unexpressed silent ulterior psychological messages they saw and imagined. It seems to me most Dem voters do not have psychological permission to vote in their own best economic interests.
I thought Trump defeated Hillary in the 2016 general election because of her legal troubles over several decades; her excitement and satisfaction displayed on TV discussing the killing of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya; her warmongering tendencies as Secretary of State; her judgment problems causing her to decide to install a computer server in her home to do State Department, or whatever, work; and her taking speech money from big banks for promising to support their interests rather than those of the common people.
Regardless, I thought Hillary would easily defeat Trump. She was intellectually superior, better educated, and better qualified for the job.
But in her case too unspoken psychological ulterior messages did her in in the 2016 general election. Millions of voters discounted her abilities and experience and chose a lesser man for psychological reasons, thanks to the abominable Electoral College cut in stone in the US Constitution, after she won the popular vote by three million votes.
A similar thing happened to Al Gore running against Bush II in 2000. Gore was intellectually superior and more experienced than Bush II, another clownish bumbling dissolute sort of human being, largely devoid of plans, goals, and ideals for the US or anything else as a whole; but yet he too won, thanks to psychological messages causing millions of voters to discount reality and choose a lesser candidate, in a basic tie in the vote for the job of US president, given the job by a right wing 5-4 Supreme Court decision about counting chads on ballots in Florida.
It seems being the brightest and best has become a liability in USian presidential politics since about 1980, starting with a movie star president, Ronald Reagan. Barack Obama in 2008 appeared to be an exception to the rule, narrowly defeating Hillary in the Dem primaries, before he won the general election against the heroic but bumbling old man John McCain and the nitwitted but sexy Sarah Palin; and then Obama caved in to the military industrial establishment and Wall Street banksters, doing their bidding after being sworn in as president.
While I thought Hillary should have handily beaten Trump in the 2016 general election, her 2016 primary race against Sanders in my opinion should have been closer than Sander’s 2020 primary race against Biden, with Sanders the winner, since Sanders has a better record relative to Biden than he had relative to Hillary in 2016. But, alas, Sanders was defeated by Biden in the 2020 Dem popular primary vote by a wider margin than he was by Hillary in 2016.
So how exactly did this happen? Is it because Hillary is female and Biden is male and most voters prefer males as presidents in a patriarchal USian culture?
Or is it what The Preacher in Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible said, “The race is not to the swift.”
Or is it what George Carlin blurted out in one of his Broadway Shows, “Stupid people vote for stupid people. It’s as simple as that.”
An organizational theory known as the Peter Principle sheds some light on the question. This theory developed by Laurence J. Peter suggests that competent people because of doing an outstanding job at one level eventually get promoted one level too high, to a level requiring skills and abilities greater than they possess relative to what they should know; so incompetent people sooner or later populate most levels of hierarchical organizations. The theory asserts that competent people rise in organizations but their rising counter-intuitively and ironically eventually causes poor performance in the organization as a whole.
Another organizational theory, irreverently called the Inverse Peter Principle, avers that only the incompetent rise, because truly superior performers are so knowledgeable, skilled, and productive at their current level that the organization cannot afford to promote them. So the higher up you go in an organization the less knowledge and analytical and creative skill supposedly superior superiors have relative to what they should know, finally reaching a level, as you ascend up organizational chain of command ladders, like Jack climbing his fairy tale beanstalk, where you encounter someone at the top level like Donald J. Trump, who barely reads, who does not do any kind of competitive analytical or creative work, but who can bullshit, pop off “decisions”, bellow orders, and hire and fire people at will, and somehow survive in the organization, so long as he has a majority of electoral votes or owns a majority of the voting stock. Thus, based on this line of reasoning, almost anyone should be competent enough to be president of the US, the highest-up job of all up Jack’s beanstalk in USian culture, since real competence as most people think of it is almost irrelevant at that level, where the main “skill” is having the right and power to hire and fire people, where the big cheese rarely has proof a major decision he makes is “right”, with most operating decisions at his level for good or ill having been made by underlings afraid of losing their jobs. This organization theory proposes that only incompetent people rise, and this too causes organizations to become incompetent as a whole.
This raises the question of whether there can ever be a truly competent large organization, such as a large corporation, a Pentagon, or a US government? Probably not, for long.
As a certified transactional analyst with professional experience dealing with psychological Games in organizations, I think the best explanation for why so many less knowledgeable and lesser-skilled and accomplished people are often promoted in organizations rather than better qualified people is that such decisions are determined by human scripts and psychological Games, that all organizational stakeholders play to vie for a greater share of the whole pie generated by organizations, including not only money but recognition, structure, and stimulation, to satisfy their ego needs.
There are basically two kinds of scripts people have to act out in organizations to keep their jobs or get promoted: psychological scripts and social scripts.
Psychological Scripts are programmed into children by virtue of being constantly exposed to and dependent on their parents before the age of eight. Almost as if by osmosis parents psychologically script their children not to feel, think, and do certain things in various ways and degrees, largely non-verbally by how they respond to a child, by how they get mad, glad, sad, or scared, or not, when the child does something or when various things happen in the environment. Psychological scripts are automatically “introjected” into the personalities of children during early childhood, and most children wind up pretty much like their parents, with the same accents, and the same kinds of feeling, thinking, doing, saying, and living patterns. Transactional analysts call these basic “don’t” requirements injunctions.
There are some generic “do” script messages called counter-injunctions such as brush your teeth, study hard, make something of yourself, work hard, etc. that are socially overt and spoken, but they are not as significant or powerful over a lifetime as psychological script injunctions.
Injunctions and counter-injunctions wind up creating a life script that includes a life position for people. There are four basic TA life positions: I am OK and You are OK, I am OK and you are Not OK, I’m Not OK and You are OK, and I am Not OK and You are Not OK; and there are three basic TA life outcomes: Winner, Loser, and Non-Winner.
The bottom line is that most people are what they are and can only respond in adult life in certain ways because of their life scripts that cause the life positions and outcomes. Some people are more flexible and adaptable than others, but most people in order to make a living and achieve some satisfaction in life have to find a slot, niche, and level in an organization in which their life script is considered congruent.
Social scripts include the sum total of do’s and don’t’s required for a person to be successful dealing with others in a particular job or role in any organization to make a living. These scripts include the algorithmic steps required to do the specific job you are paid to do and required words and phrases to say to others and how to respond to people around you, up, across, and down the organizational chain of command, including playing the psychological Games people around you like to play.
Restaurant scripts for greeters, servers, and customers require more conformity than most, requiring these words to get the show started: “How many?”; “Two”, or “Four”, or whatever number in the party; and “Right this way please”.
All organizations have generic and peculiar social scripts for all participants requiring certain words and phrases that have to be memorized and used. Almost nobody can be her or his true self most of the time making a living in an organization. Most employees have to act out scripts created by the organizaton. Organizations such as DisneyWorld are the most scripted of all. Employees there are required to wear costumes and “go on stage” after they clock in for work, pretending while on the job to be characters like Donald Duck or some fairy tale person dealing with customers, parroting memorized lines.
Most people who get fired for cause in organizations are fired because of psychological scripts thought to be inappropriate in an organizational culture, and for being unwilling to act out social scripts, not for not being able to perform the required algorithmic steps of the job.
Psychological Games are a way of getting stimulation, recognition, and structure as one goes about one’s business of surviving and making a living. Basically they involve trying to gain certain satisfactions dealing with others, such as by making yourself or someone else feel comfortable or by causing a loss of some sort for others, or by making a fool of someone. Psychological Games entail people discounting problems, opportunities, and people, and the significance of someone or something. All psychological Games entail players acting out one of three roles on a Drama Triangle: Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer.
Common psychological script injunction are Don’t Be Excellent and Don’t Be Important, among about fourteen kinds of Don’t feel, think, and do injunctions generally recognized by transactional analysts, widely transmitted in family scripting. I have covered them in detail in my books Business Voyages and Born to Learn , easily found on the Internet. Why would any parent tell a child not to be excellent or important? Well, no rational parent would socially. They do it psychologically largely outside of conscious Adult ego state awareness mainly because they too did not have psychological permission to be excellent or important when they were children. People play psychological Games by “cathecting”, or turning on, all three of their ego states, including their Parent and Child ego states to create and maintain stimulation, recognition, and structure similar to what they experienced earlier in life, and in most cases they are not aware of what they are doing.
I have described and explained the dynamics and significance of ego states, psychological Games, and scripts in my books, as they were first described and explained in a large gush of books and papers written by Eric Berne, MD (the originator of transactional analysis), and others, published since the 1960s that are still in print and offered for sale on the Internet. The International Transactional Analysis Association has published an excellent collection of refereed scholarly articles on transactional analysis quarterly in the Transactional Analysis Journal since the early 1970s. I studied and trained in transactional analysis at the Southeast Institute at Chapel Hill, North Carolina during 1975-1978, passing written and oral comprehensive exams on transactional analysis in 1978 administered by the ITAA.
Two major purposes of TA are to help people become more authentic and script free so as to gain more satisfaction from life in general and to see social scripts for what they are in organizations to help people learn how to adapt and flex to them to make a living.
Sorry about the digression into TA, but it was necessary to explain my major point in this article, which is, political races are rife with psychological Games producing psychological satisfactions for all stakeholders—vested interests, candidates, and voters.
Why vote in the first place? Well, the best Adult ego state reason would be to take social satisfaction in helping select the best leader for an organization or group to achieve rational goals and objectives for everyone. Lesser Parent and Child reasons would be to create satisfying psychological Game payoffs for yourself and to secure psychological structure, recognition, and stimulation similar to what you experienced with your parents, friends, and others in your early life, and in adolescence, that supported the psychological, social, economic, religious, political, and moral states of affairs of organizations such as your family, school, church, and political party.
Once psychologically scripted most people do not rebel over a lifetime. Red states stay red and blue states stay blue, regardless of the logical Adult ego state reasoning of idealistic super-OK presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders, a hard-headed intellectual more interested in changing the whole system to optimize the functioning of the whole system to benefit everyone, rather than play psychological Games with people.
I remember a TV interviewer in 2000 asking an attractive woman who ran a bar and grill why she intended to vote for Bush II. “Cuz he’s a good-lookin’ man” was her quick response.
There are several psychological Games people play in political races; but it seems to me dealing with presidential races on the Internet and elsewhere, listening to comments people make on my Facebook news feed timeline and elsewhere, most politicians play to some degree a psychological Game called Rapo by transactional analysts, since one of the surest ways to get votes in our narcissistic USian culture is to be considered good lookin’.
There are three degrees of psychological Games: First Degree Games are basically compliments, insults, discounts, jokes, and body language displays designed to build up or tear down someone’s self-esteem, or gain or lose some sort of psychological advantage; Second Degree Games entail more serious discounts and payoffs, threatening someone, firing someone, getting divorced, etc.; Third Degree Games are sometimes called tissue-tearing Games with payoffs such as getting into physical fights, going to war, winding up in a morgue, etc.
A Rapo Game starts by someone psychologically promising some sort of satisfaction to someone for responding to her or his sexual attractiveness. There are various social and psychological transactions that can bring this about, social transactions being spoken and overt, psychological transactions being unspoken and covert. The payoff for a Rapo player is not a real sexual liaison but making a fool of a mark or sucker who will be punished or humiliated in some way if he or she responds to the psychological sexual messages. Not all psychological Games entail sexual messaging but a lot of them do. All psychological Games involve a con artist of some degree taking advantage of the vulnerabilities and weaknesses of a mark or suckers, promising things the Game starter has no intentions of delivering. Most of the promises of first-degree Games are insignificant and inconsequential. These Games are ubiquitous and most people play them at various times. Sometimes they have to to survive in organizations. It’s no secret that one of the best ways to be a successful Rapo player is to be considered good lookin’.
Psychological Games and scripts are what make folk tales and fairy tales (such as Cinderella, Jack & Jill, Humpty Dumpty, Snow White, and Hansel and Gretel) interesting and dramatic.
Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Bush II, Obama, Hillary, Trump, and Biden won some big races largely because of being successful psychological Game players, having physical and psychological characteristics that enabled them to transmit non-verbal psychological messages to voters that they would deliver to them psychological and social satisfactions if they voted for them, somehow providing them with various sorts of desired or fantasied psychological stimulation, structures, and recognition. Whether these politicians did indeed produce for their voters the psychological and social satisfactions the voters sought would be difficult to prove, just as it would be difficult for these voters to prove voting for these politicians actually produced the economic satisfactions they socially sought. Any president during the last forty years would have a difficult time proving he produced significant tangible economic benefits for middle and lower income people, regardless of how much psychological and social satisfaction he produced for them.
Unfortunately, once again a dissolute mediocre good-ole-boy party-line-loyal Dem politician, Joe Biden, who has told the establishment that nothing will change if he is elected, has defeated the well-qualified highly-intelligent visionary man with plans Bernard Sanders, who could have caused significant economic changes for the better for middle and lower income people had he been elected in the 2020 Dem primary race and in the 2020 general presidential election.
How did this happen? Well, it seems to me the short answer is that Biden is the better psychological Game-player in the eyes of a majority of Dem voters, by virtue of physical and psychological characteristics he inevitably and accidentally inherited having nothing to do with being able to do a good job as president of the US.
The Biden campaign lately has been posting cameo pictures on my Facebook news feed timeline showing Biden and his attractive younger blonde second wife and his stately oversized German Shepard dog, leisurely sitting in wicker chairs on their large high-ceiling front porch with white columns, with Biden flashing his perfect white teeth. Another frequent post is of Biden just standing there in an open space, possibly an airport, apparently looking at something in the distance in his nice blue suit and tie as he adjusts his sunglasses (one of his favorite objects for photo opportunities, to channel Ronald Reagan), sort of like a corporate honcho might look who has just taken over something and has just arrived at the airport in his private jet, ready for action. His gleaming perfect white teeth, one can’t keep from noticing, make me wonder if he had his teeth capped just for the 2020 election, to draw attention away from his almost-bald head. It seems unlikely to me that he would have natural teeth at his age that look better than those of aging USian TV game show hosts.
Don’t laugh. Cosmetic procedures like this work in USian presidential politics. If Trump hadn’t fixed his hair and face as he did he wouldn’t have had a prayer running against a good lookin’ woman like Hillary. How many red-blooded USian women would vote for a bleached-out almost bald old fart like Trump really is? Ronald Reagan couldn’t have gotten elected if he hadn’t dyed his hair. Bush II spent more time pumping iron in the White House than he did reading reports and thinking about world problems. Not one of these presidents ever wrote and published anything of any general intellectual significance. James Garner said Ronald Reagan never had an original thought and someone had to tell him what to do and say when he was president of an actor’s guild in Hollywood. Trump now spends most of his time in the White House fixing his hair and face, eating junk food, and watching Fox so-called News, CNN, MSNBC, and other infotainment media, occasionally bullshitting with his hired and not yet fired lackeys.
Almost certainly this same sort of unproductive time structuring pattern will be true in the case of Joe Biden if he can defeat his even more dissolute and incompetent competitor, Don Trump, in the USian 2020 presidential election, assuming the DNC does not completely destroy sham USian democracy by setting aside the decision of a majority of Dem voters in their 2020 primary by autocratically installing, as has been widely suggested on the Internet, the telegenic and articulate Governor Cuomo, which is probably unlikely, since the real reason why DNC insiders and the USian Deep State like Joe Biden so much is that they know they can trust him to do what they say, because he cannot do anything but that; so they can spend US taxpayer money and Federal Reserve System funny money on themselves without compunction, however much this harms the long-run interests of Dem middle and lower income voters, as well as all USian lower and middle income citizens.
At the end of the day, as it were, in the 2020 Dem primary election, Joe Biden’s unfortunate successful political victory over Bernard Sanders is largely due to him and his campaign, consciously or unconsciously, playing with voters first-degree psychological Games, including a Game called Big Bad Wolf, that garnered them millions of votes from downtrodden psychological Victims looking for a psychological Rescuer playing their time-honored psychological Games since childhood, including a Big Bad Wolf complementary Game— Little Red Riding Hood.
It’s not so much that stupid people vote for stupid people, as George Carlin said; the underlying problem is that people with Don’t Be Important and Don’t Be Excellent script injunctions vote for politicians with the same sorts of psychological script injunctions. Why is that? It makes them feel more comfortable and secure since they psychologically feel and think they can trust people like they are to take care of them, better than excellent politicians would.
They could be right about their psychological needs, however wrong they are about their social and economic needs. Will they ever learn that they were played for suckers as Victims in a psychological Game?
It’s not that mediocre or below performers in organizations and life are necessarily less intelligent than excellent performers. In many cases they wind up where they are because of script injunctions such as Don’t Be Important and Don’t Be Excellent that cause them not to do what it takes to achieve excellence in their studies, careers, and lives.
I know of what I speak. I was a C student in grade, junior, and high school despite scoring three or four grades ahead of myself in all subjects in the eighth grade on so-called “achievement tests” administered by the county. I made mostly B’s in undergraduate school, a little better than mediocre. I had trouble figuring out what to do for a living after I graduated from college the first time. I got accepted by two law schools, SMU and the University of Texas, but never went. I tried working in family businesses but couldn’t get along with my father. I started some small businesses of my own but got bored with it. I interviewed with large corporations and learned I was getting turned down because of scoring too high on certain parts of aptitude tests. I decided I had some sort of learning block, so I consulted a psychiatrist, Jerome Smith, MD, at Lubbock, Texas.
After some psychotherapy I wound up graduating with almost all A’s and no C’s in a doctoral program at Texas Tech. I can tell you it’s not easy to learn how to violate psychological script injunctions automatically transferred to you by parents psychologically telling you to be like they are if you psychologically bought into their script injunctions as a kid. And the hell of it is it all happens by accident.
As Earthian biological, psychological, social, economic, and political life goes on, for how much longer nobody really knows, with humans suffering from and threatened by Covid-19, collapsing USian and Earthian economic systems, nuclear war, and human-caused global warming and climate change, confined and isolated for nobody knows how long in their houses and apartments, if they have one, quarantined ….
In the immortal words of the Great One, Jackie Gleason, winding up one of his episodes on his TV show “The Honeymooners” way back in the 1950s and 1960s, back in the days when we had some really good adult comedy programs to watch on USian TV,
“How sweet it is.”
Richard John Stapleton, PhD, CTA is an emeritus professor of entrepreneurship, organizational behavior, and business policy, and is a certified transactional analyst. He is a founder and owner of Effective Learning Company as shown at the top of this page on the masthead of this blog.