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Stages of grief trope pushed by Obama supporters considered toxic

WKJM started running the "stages of grief" trope on Hillary supporters way back in February--you know, from anger, through denial, bargaining, depression, to acceptance. It's an easy riff to run, even for bad writers, so it's been all over the Obama blogs, and I won't trouble linking to it; I'm sure you've all read it. The ones that ooze sympathy for Hillary supporters, and urge that we be "given time" (say, two weeks) are the ones that I savor.

In fact -- and I know some will find this hard to believe -- I had a brief moment of self-doubt the other day, and, in retrospect I'm surprised that none of our resident Obama trolls played gotcha with me! By asking the question "And we get?" had I moved into stage two: Bargaining?

Fortunately, no. The Stages of Grief trope is a mindfuck. It's not appropriate for the context of this primary election, and here's why:

1. None of these oh-so-sympathetic posters ever mention that, in the classical model originated by Kübler-Ross, following acceptance, you die. So the Stages trope is really a sophisticated variant of the calls for Hillary's death--and by extension, those of her supporters.

2. Further, the Stages trope is also a variant of the "inevitability" trope; after all, "the math" of a human life always adds up to a death, right? (Cf. Ps 90:12) And just as Obama's nomination, given "the math" was inevitable, so to must be the reaction to the inevitable "loss" by Hillary's supporters.

3. Worse, the trope frames the reactions of Hillary's supporters to Obama's presumptive nomination as primarily driven by emotions, which must then be managed, in the way recommended by the Obama supporters, using the Stages. ("You know how women Hillary's supporters are.") Importantly, that's not the reaction Hillary recommends:

The dreams we share are worth fighting for.

I entered this race because I have an old-fashioned conviction: that public service is about helping people solve their problems and live their dreams.

In fact, the Stages coping strategy is only one of many possible: Ghandi's "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win" is another possibility. The fact that the Stages reaction is passive and disempowering, unlike Ghandi's, may offer a clue to why Obama's supporters are recommending it to us so heartily. Eh?

3. Finally, the context is inappropriate for the model. We're not talking about "loss" in the sense of "Sorry for your loss," here; the context is not a death in the family, but an electoral loss.

Consider Bush's seizure of power after stealing election 2000 in FL. Is the Stages reaction at all appropriate? I'd say no, because the final stage, acceptance, was recommended by Scalia: "Get over it." Personally, I don't see a reason to accept Florida 2000, or Bush v. Gore, at all. Why would I? (And that the Democratic establishment did and does isn't my problem, but theirs.)

Similarly, tepid Obama voter that I am, there are plenty of things about this primary that I do not accept, and wish to remedy, not out of emotion, unless a burning sense of injustice done be one such emotion. And if it is, let's make the most of it....

I'm with Ghandi, not Kübler-Ross.

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BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

This trope is also self-serving because it allows the Obama supporters to avoid asking themselves why Clinton supporters are so angry. If they think it's just because Obama won and Clinton lost, then they really have created their own reality.

And as you say, lambert, it's disempowering. Anger isn't always a negative emotion, it can be used in empowering ways to motivate fights for change.

Acceptance is almost always disempowering. Because if you accept something, you're less likely to fight against it.

jackyt's picture
Submitted by jackyt on

Kuebler Ross's stages of grief are predictable responses to an existential crisis, i.e. "life is not fair".

I'm angry about dishonesty. I'm angry about hypocrisy, I'm angry about misogyny. None of these are in the "life is not fair" realm. All are real, preventable, correctable phenomena. We are witness to the unfairness of the Media; the unfairness of the Obamachine; the unfairness of the DNC. Anyone who dismisses my anger does so at his own peril.

Denial, bargain, depression haven't visited my house.

Acceptance? Yeah, I accept that the Media and the DNC have appointed Barack Obama to fill the top Dem slot on the ballot this fall. So what?

The Obamaroids are not looking for my acceptance. They are looking for my capitulation. Nahgonnahappen!

Four years of "process" isn't worth my getting out of bed on election day.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

That's NYCweboy's take on the push for Unity:

As I've struggled with what to say about yesterday's speech (the You Tube, and a relatively interesting discussion out of it, are over at Ezra's), it seems clear that "Come Together... Now" is the order of the day, a kind of peaceful reunification... as long as we don't bring up any of those unpleasant, tense things. You know, like a family Thanksgiving where we all try to pretend that Uncle Bud isn't soused and disruptive. Or something.

And, of course, if we just move to acceptance, Uncle Bud's drunk and disruptive every year, why bother talking about it, then we'll all be one big happy family.

But I tend to agree with NYCweboy that it's not going to be that easy, especially with so many seeking Unity through brickbats:

It's instructive, I think, that in covering the speech yesterday, we got nothing from the likes of Josh Marshall and Markos Moulitsas, both of whom farmed out real-time coverage to surrogates on their sites; and that the one unrepentant "can't stand her" viewer of the event, Andrew Sullivan, couldn't begin to be generous or restrained in his evaluation of it. We're supposed to unify... but too many people, I think, plan to approach "unity" with swords still drawn (and yes, I do mean "swords" in every sense).

The stages of grief is just another theme on the idea that it's up to Clinton and her supporters to unify the party. We have to work through the five stages. Obama and his movement? They don't have to do anything.

BTW, if I have to read one more post outlining how McCain is trying to woo women voters that doesn't even mention there's a reason why McCain sees an opening to win women and that maybe Obama and the Democrats have some work to do, I'm going to scream. Because we didn't just end up here.

Submitted by lambert on

And yes on the "One more post..." As you see.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Card-carrying_Buddhist's picture
Submitted by Card-carrying_B... on

[wiggles fingers next to her ears]

I have a feeeling that CDS may be incurable.