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.
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.