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Are GOP Senators Victims of Coercion?

Fear of public humiliation might fuel code of silence.

GDJ Pixabay
Source: GDJ Pixabay

“Republicans Largely Silent as Trump Refuses to Concede" (CNNSotu, November 21, 2020)

While reflecting on the GOP Senators stance to not speak their truth to power, a therapy client and survivor of intimate partner abuse, said in a recent session, “Never again should we hear the startling question, ‘Why doesn’t she just leave.’ Most GOP Senators seem to have come under a similar disempowering influence from an individual who beyond the power of the presidency, seems to entwine coercion. The means our President has used to coerce political rivals, something not unlike what a controlling partner does to gain power over their intimate partner.

Tactics of Coercion to Achieve Submission

Coercive tactics are recognized as powerfully persuasive especially when used in a situation where others are perceived as less than. Gaslighting and public humiliation have been on display in recent years in our own federal government.


Never before have we heard the term “gaslighting” used by mainstream media to describe behavior we have witnessed during the current presidency. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation, a tactic that uses distorted or outright false statements to coerce and persuade the targeted person or persons, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment. Gaslighting is often buttressed by strong feelings of conviction in the orator.

In the realm of intimate partner abuse, it’s commonly used by the one seeking power over the partner to render into submission. In time, gaslighting creates self-doubt in the recipient where they become vulnerable to believing the lies and distortions, and in doing so, they lose agency over their own life.

With the GOP Senators, it’s difficult to comprehend that they have entirely come under the influence of a President who is recognized for thousands of untruths learned through daily fact-checking. How do they fail to see his distortions? If only victims of domestic violence had this fact-checking regarding their partner’s behavior to assist them with reality checks and validation.

However, by the presidential attacks on the media as “fake news” (an example of gaslighting), some GOP Senators appear persuaded or perhaps compliant when we see those same untruths reiterated. Even so, gaslighting alone doesn’t seem to be the explanation for their deafening silence.


“People in power use humiliation as a form of social control; it is a common tool of oppression. The fear of humiliation is also a powerful motivating force." (Emotional

Humiliation occurs in a situation that illustrates unequal power in a relationship where one is perceived as inferior and unjustly degraded. Many types of humiliation exist such as ridicule, rejection, decline in rank, betrayal, manipulation, unfair treatment, dominating control, threats, abuse such as verbal name-calling, psychological, physical, sexual, mockery, portrayed as stupid, false accusations, publicly shamed and disrespected.

Humiliation is injurious with serious consequences. It is known to cause low self-esteem, social isolation, fear, abuse, depression, powerlessness, etc.

Among persons with abusive partners, many identify humiliation by their spouse as incredibly painful behind closed doors and particularly in public. They can find themselves in a group of friends who have become a captive audience for their spouse who is expounding degrading untruths about them. Eventually, to stop the painful public degradation, they curtail participating in social gatherings only to become isolated–revealing the true purpose of their partner’s humiliation. At times, just the threat of humiliation can be enough for the coerced person to comply.

“The fear of humiliation appears to be one of the most powerful motivators in individual and collective human behavior.” (Donald Klein, Ph.D., 1991)

We know only too well from the media coverage that forms of degradation and public humiliation are common with this President. Remember watching the 2016 debates where our President “picked off” one by one his fellow contenders using at times name-calling and degrading statements? For example, he bullied Ted Cruz when he implied his father killed JFK and compared Ben Carson to a pathological killer. “Now those targets account as Trump’s most faithful servants,” Jonathan Chait reported in a recent New York magazine column.

Code of Silence

“Persistent humiliation robs you of the vantage of rebellion.” (M. Silver/Emotional Competency)

Degradation and humiliation have a powerful impact on the targeted person and those who witness such behaviors that they identify within a group. Now GOP Senators know all too well what might befall them. It’s not hard to comprehend how GOP Senators may have developed a serious self-consciousness–about what to do and say–to avoid public degradation and humiliation at all cost.



Klein, D. 1991. The Humiliation Dynamic. The Union Institute.

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