University of Texas fraternities are legendary for drinking bouts that sometimes lead to tragedies such as the time an inebriated Beta Theta Pi fraternity member fell to his death from the roof of his Austin frat house in 1990. The former Trump administration can be likened to a wild frat house teeming with the inexpert, the inept, the entitled, the egomaniacal and the cruel. Trump’s impeachment trial begins Feb 9 and promises to be hotter than a summer revival in Wichita Falls as tensions boil over the charges of incitement of insurrection and the general egregious conduct of the past administration.
As a 2017 University of Texas at Austin social psychology study noted, denigrating and insulting other groups is one way to achieve Big Man on Campus status. This research postulates members of a defined group are motivated to demean those in other groups as a way to signal their exclusive membership in a superior “in” group. When Trump labeled dead veterans as suckers, women as p#!%* and countless White House resigning/fired staff as stupid losers, those still left in his orbit reinforced his actions with effusive public shows of groveling approval. So the aspersions he cast at other groups were more than attempts to distract us from other issues, as some media have suggested. BMOC Trump was signaling his frat crew to express their loyalty or risk being put “out” of his select “in” group.
As clubby, drunk-on-power Republican elites in the past Congress and Cabinet vied for approval from BMOC Trump, they jostled, punched and outrivaled each other by performing outrageous, dangerous stunts (i.e., enacting inhumane, destructive policies) in part to remain members of his select “in” group. The rest of us (the “out” group) were the sleepless folks living next door to this frat house. With growing dismay and frustration we called authorities to shut down their raucous marathon beer keggers. Only it took the cops four years to arrive and stop the Republican mayhem. Our resulting PTSD (Post Trump Stress Disorder) will be barely manageable this week as we sift through the trial evidence.
This UT study also points out the insults being hurled are not for the insulted, but rather for the frat group calling out the abuse. This should really chap our chaps. So Trump’s cruel words and brutal policies were a means of closely uniting his group around him. We, the scorned, were just the expendables being trashed. But we survived. With their BMOC gone, the Republican Party may not endure.
As Trump’s insults became more erratic and vociferous the last months of his term, even his closest advisers were confused about whether they were “in” or “out” of his group. His volatile, transmuting temper on full display, he fought with his White House fraternity and broke emotional ties until he was virtually alone. Then he turned for consolation to his faithful followers on social media, repeated the Big Lie and called them to war on the Capitol. The disastrous results will be clearly examined during the upcoming trial — a murderous rampage that made a shambles of our Capitol.
Republicans on the Hill still refuse to accept their minority status or to break completely from their pitiless ex-BMOC. They are a headless fraternity sleepwalking in the past. Will they awaken from their somnambulism? Or will they continue as obstructionists? To ad lib with a cautionary old nursery rhyme: Humpty Trumpty took a great fall from a (border) wall. McConnell fell down and broke his crown. How many Republican Senators will tumble down Capitol Hill after them?