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There have been many diaries today about the Republican collapse. Notably, here and here.

These diaries (and the sources they link to) suggest that the causes of the Republican meltdown are scandals, corruption, incompetence, arrogance, American exceptionalism, and the desire to retain power at all costs. I'd like to suggest that those are symptoms of a deeper failure, and that if we don't look to the nature of the Republican decision-making process, we are in danger of repeating their mistakes.

We all know how the Bush administration has punished whistleblowers (even to the point of endangering national security by outing a CIA agent who is the wife of someone who said that their reasons for going to war in Iraq were bogus), actively discouraged dissent in the media, gone to war unilaterally, disparaged the value of the United Nations, kept protesters under surveillance and restricted their rights to assemble on public property, fired officials who voiced opinions that differed from their own (e.g., Colin Powell), kept Democrats out of the legislative process in the House by manipulation of the rules, focused on rewarding their supporters, and made being an unquestioningly loyal Republican just about the only criteria for top positions (e.g., Heckuvajob Brownie).

As they acted to consolidate power for themselves, they bought into a deeply flawed way of operating that doomed them to failure from the very beginning. It was not so much their ridiculous ideas about government and the role of America in the world that doomed them. If there had been a sound decision-making process at work within the administration and within Congress, many of those ideas would have fallen under their own weight or been laughed out of the conversation. What doomed them, IMHO, was groupthink.

There's an interesting article on the website of the Psychologists for Social Responsibility about groupthink. Groupthink is a kind of peer pressure that occurs when a group separates itself from others by its unilateralism, has problems dealing with ambiguity, and focuses on a very limited number of options and opinions. I would add mistrust and fear into that mix.

Groupthink makes it easy for people to reach conclusions and to abdicate personal responsibility--often attractive and even seductive payoffs. But it usually leads to poor--and sometimes disastrous--decision-making. Anyone who has, had, or was a teenager knows what I mean.

According to the article, there are 8 symptoms of groupthink:

1. Illusion of invulnerability--Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.
2. Collective rationalization--Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.
3. Belief in inherent morality--Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
4. Stereotyped views of out-groups--Negative views of "enemy" make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.
5. Direct pressure on dissenters--Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group's views.
6. Self-censorship--Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.
7. Illusion of unanimity--The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous.
8. Self-appointed "mindguards"--Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group's cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions.

I'm assuming that you're thinking what I'm thinking: "Hey, that sounds like the current administration!" Yep.

Groupthink can survive only when new ideas are excluded, when there is demonization of "the other," when ambiguity is discouraged, when easiness and lack of accountability are offered in exchange for the hard work of hashing through information and possibilities, when the identity of a group is its dogma, when the survival of the group depends on its resistance to change, when there is a willingness to punish dissent, and when membership in the group becomes more valued than the diverse perspectives of the members themselves.

Let's see what 8 symptoms of non-groupthink (Democracythink? Connectthink? Diversitythink? Webthink?) might be:

1. Acknowledgment of vulnerability--Creates realistic risk assessment.
2. Collective awareness--Members heed warnings, assimilate new information, and reconsider their assumptions.
3. Belief in universal values--Members believe in the values they share. They gauge decision-making by how well their decisions express those values and by whether the consequences of their actions are congruent with those values.
4. Acceptance of diversity--All perspectives are valued, listened to, and taken into account. People are seen as basically good and worthy of support.
5. Openness to dissent--Members are encouraged to question and to express arguments against any of the group's views.
6. Facilitation of growth and learning--Members engage in a reciprocal process of learning and sharing and give each other constant feedback on their progress.
7. Direction--A general positive direction is agreed on that provides a vision of the future. The details of the vision are less important than the direction. The aim is better, not perfect.
8. Leadership--Members take leadership roles in their areas of expertise, help to set direction, and respectfully remind the group when they are not adhering to their own values and/or vision.

And like that. Please add your own thoughts. But I think we would do well as Democrats to ponder the possibility that our own disgust and anger at the mess the Republicans have made will turn into a notion that it is Republican ideas--rather than the way those ideas were isolated from any other ones during decision-making processes--that have failed this country. If that happens, if we reject all Republican ideas as unworthy of consideration, then we will find ourselves repeating their mistakes and the cycle will repeat.

Let's rejoice in the inevitable meltdown, but after the partying and when the hangover has worn off, let's remember E Pluribus Unum and invite the Republicans to rejoin the rest of us in conversation about our political future as a unified nation.

Originally posted to sunflight on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 09:11 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip jar (18+ / 0-)

    I might not be awake for much longer, but I'd appreciate any comments and will respond as I can tomorrow.

    You can make it if you focus on connections, not on differences.
    -7.00, -6.77

    by sunflight on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 09:15:02 PM PDT

  •  Chicken and the Egg (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sunflight, docangel, kraant, ejbr

    Good diary, the Republicans certain are guilty of all eight points outlined above. But, I also think they have many bad ideas. I can't say whether the group think enhanced already bad ideas or the group think made good ideas bad, I would guess the former.

    I also tend to think that at the top levels, most Republican officials know exactly what they are doing, and conciously put their own power and wealth ahead of the good of the country. Group think helps Republican voters go along with it.

    I don't think we are at risk of ignoring Republican ideas. As I tried to state in a previous diary the Republican politicians don't believe in fiscal responsibility, national security, and open and accountable government, but Democrats do.

    "George W. Bush in the right man to lead us in the era of post-whatever horrible calamity he leads us into next." John Oliver

    by aprichard on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 09:33:29 PM PDT

    •  thanks for your thoughtful comment... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aprichard, docangel, kraant, ormondotvos

      and also for your own diary (which I linked to, of course :)

      Republican politicians don't believe in fiscal responsibility, national security, and open and accountable government, but Democrats do.

      What I see as problematic about statements like that is that they are generalizations that demonize the "other." We don't really know that Republicans don't believe in those things, we only see the results of their flawed decision-making process and their desperation to cover up its results. I can no more believe that Republicans don't care about national security than I can believe them when they say that about Democrats.

      I'm not sure if that made sense. I really do need to go to sleep.

      You can make it if you focus on connections, not on differences.
      -7.00, -6.77

      by sunflight on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 09:52:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  good point (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        docangel, kraant, ormondotvos

        I should have said, "Republican policies haven't supported fiscal responsibility, national security, and open and accountable government."

        I think all voters (not necessarily all politicians) believe in these things. But Republicans have somehow managed to own these concepts while not actually supporting them. Really what you need to look at are policies, not ideas. The Democratic policies have led to good results, Republican policies have been a failure.

        "George W. Bush in the right man to lead us in the era of post-whatever horrible calamity he leads us into next." John Oliver

        by aprichard on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 10:01:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Also (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sunflight, kraant

        I also wanted to add that I agree with your larger point that bipartisanship is crucial for good government, I just don't know how we get to that point under the current circumstances. I think it will take Republicans of conscience taking back their party.

        "George W. Bush in the right man to lead us in the era of post-whatever horrible calamity he leads us into next." John Oliver

        by aprichard on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 10:03:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Nice (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sunflight, kraant

    This is one of the things Pelosi mentioned during one of her sit down interviews: having more bipartisanship. Tit for tat is infantile and, as you pointed out, dangerous. Nice diary.

    "There are probably four or five venereal diseases that are more popular right now than Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush!" Paul Begala

    by ejbr on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 09:39:00 PM PDT

  •  there is a fairly good instructional film (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sjersey, sunflight, docangel, ormondotvos

    called "Groupthink" that I reviewed for my HR department. It is based on the Challenger disaster and how groupthink was the culprit.
    It seems it should be shown at the White House.
    Here's the link - there is a free preview version.
    Thanks for the diary - I recommended it.
    Caution: Democrats coming into power soon should also watch it and learn - we do not want to fall into the same trap.

    "A great revolution is never the fault of the people, but of the government." — Goethe

    by tonyfv on Mon Oct 09, 2006 at 08:36:55 PM PDT

  •  attribution and fantasy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sunflight, docangel

    i believe attribution...such as assigning magical powers to leaders and repeating and spreading reasons they have for doing things that have no evidence to support them is also a characteristic of group think; bush acts from his faith in god, bush has the conviction of his beliefs, bush channels god to us and us to him, bush does things that cause pain to some but he knows in the long run it will benefit the many and so on are some examples. also the group fantasy is a characteristic of group think. bush suffers the pain of the families of the war but won't show it in public, bush is really very smart, bush is a man's man, bush feels like we do ( nascar fans, gun owners, ranchers, etc. )

    •  and the good news is... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, docangel, gkn

      that those attributions, fantasies, and projections have helped to bring about the implosion of this administration. It's like trying to sell cans filled with air. Sooner or later, people figure out there's nothing there.

      You can make it if you focus on connections, not on differences.
      -7.00, -6.77

      by sunflight on Mon Oct 09, 2006 at 09:06:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs, Cuban and groupthink (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aprichard, sunflight, docangel

    A film on groupthink suggests this has lead to several notoriously bad decisions--Bay of Pigs, Vietnam (the stay the course decisions made by LBJ). But the film also shows how Kennedy learned from the Bay of Pigs mistake and had devil's advocates in place to guide the country through the Cuban missile crises-- to result in wise decisions.

    Thus, JFK learned from his mistakes. Bush....not so much.

    Great diary-- I wrote a piece  on this before the Iraq invasion suggesting groupthink was a key factor  (but the NYTimes wouldn't publish it)

    •  thank you! (0+ / 0-)

      If you know the name of that film, I'd love to be able to suggest it for our film series.

      If you were writing about this before Iraq, you saw the coming disaster. It's hard to get people to take an answer seriously before they feel the need to ask the question :)

      You can make it if you focus on connections, not on differences.
      -7.00, -6.77

      by sunflight on Mon Oct 09, 2006 at 09:33:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Irving Janis's original groupthink work (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sunflight

      was on the Bay of Pigs.

      I read that book and wrote a paper on it for a college seminar probably in 1980. I still think it is one of the most important books I have ever read.

  •  Our devil's advocates are called trolls. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sunflight

    It's interesting to me how closely one can assign parallels to many of the emergent characteristics of any group that comes into being to do a task, and then forgets to "wither away" because the task isn't perfectly done.

    Will DailyKos wither away someday, and for what accomplished goal?

    Humanity's niche is its own culture. We change our world as it changes us. Evolution or devolution? -7.63,-3.28

    by ormondotvos on Mon Oct 09, 2006 at 09:49:14 PM PDT

    •  yes, many trolls I've seen have been provocative (0+ / 0-)

      rather than angry or nasty. I had a hard time being a TU because I thought that disagreement was a good thing. My view didn't seem to be shared by a lot of other TUs (sigh). I often found myself in the minority, wanting to err on the side of inclusion.

      I'm not sure I understand your point about withering away. Could you say more?

      You can make it if you focus on connections, not on differences.
      -7.00, -6.77

      by sunflight on Mon Oct 09, 2006 at 10:16:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Some are trolls, but some are the opposite (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sunflight

      Some trolls attempt to shut down discussion by ridiculing it. They also stereotype their opposition. Trolls come in a variety of forms.

  •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sunflight

    the points we discussed in my Psych class this summer. Almost a word for word transcription from the book.

    •  what I wrote... (0+ / 0-)

      other than what's in the blockquote, is original. If your psych book and I say the same thing, maybe it's because I'm a professional counselor... or maybe it's because whoever wrote that book is very very smart :)

      You can make it if you focus on connections, not on differences.
      -7.00, -6.77

      by sunflight on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 09:58:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bipartisanship is great... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sunflight

    ...when both parties are honest.  

    That is certainly not the case today.  Democrats will have to be honest on their own.

    •  groupthink (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Big River Bandido

      encourages people to not be honest. It's not about the parties as such, it's about cutting off one party from the other.

      You can make it if you focus on connections, not on differences.
      -7.00, -6.77

      by sunflight on Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 10:02:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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