How the GOP went ‘Psycho,’ and how to fix it

June 5, 2015
Camera crews set up for Universal Studios' "Best Psycho Shower Scene Scream" contest at the Bates Mo..

Bates Motel from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” REUTERS/Archives

It is hard to describe just how bad things are for the Republican Party. Each day it looks more and more like the Bates Motel from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film Psycho.

More precisely, the GOP is actually most like the central character who owns the motel: Norman Bates and his alter ego, “Mother,” a.k.a. Norma. Norman appears to be a polite, sincere young man, if strongly dominated by Mother. But so what if he’s idiosyncratic, even eccentric, with a mother fixation? As a private individual, he has the right to be odd.

Mother, meanwhile, wants absolute control over her son. She prefers the status quo — just like the GOP establishment. Consider the senior GOP leadership’s embrace of the National Security Agency’s enveloping surveillance activities. Mother is always spying on Norman. And Norman, when in the grip of his alter-ego, spies on private citizens.


Anthony Perkins. WIKIPEDIA/Commons

The real Norman is akin to the Tea Party. As played by Tony Perkins, Norman is peaceful, an individualist if a bit naïve. He just wants to be left alone.

Norman is not a killer. It is Mother who is the killer. She is particularly out to get those who bring new ideas and individuality to the Republican Party.

The GOP’s corrupt, corporatist Washington insiders are now playing the role of Mother — lacking principles and remorse, interested only in power and control. She just can’t leave Norman alone. Mother gets upset when Norman  tries different experiences or meets different people. Mother is a control freak.

Moreover, strong GOP candidates check in at the Bates Motel, only to disappear. The party establishment has lined up behind former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. It has no interest in Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) or a real outsider like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who took on and brought down his state’s public employee unions.

Like Norman and his Mother, the GOP is at war with itself, and one side or the other will have to surrender or leave. Otherwise, they might become entangled in a timeless death struggle, with neither side gaining a permanent advantage.

This psychological struggle mirrors the GOP’s internal struggle between the Bushies and the Reaganites.

Bushism, or “compassionate conservatism,” has pretty much been rejected by the GOP’s conservative base, though much of the party establishment and some cable commentators still cling to it. The rest see it as a free-spending, government-growing philosophy. Meanwhile, Reaganism, a philosophy based on small government and individual liberties, remains favored by Tea Party advocates, much of talk radio and most of the conservative movement. Yet GOP elites still deride the legacy of Ronald Reagan, don’t remember Dwight D. Eisenhower and have clearly never heard of John Locke or Thomas Paine.

Even Jeb Bush seems conflicted and confused, one day defending his brother’s presidency, the next day sidling away from it.


‘Mother’ in the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic ‘Psycho’ (1960). WIKIPEDIA/Commons

Today, the GOP’s only unifying philosophy is to be anti-Obama. Opposing President Barack Obama fuses together much — if not all — of the party. Yet many of the GOP’s elite Washington insiders probably agree with Obama more than they do the party’s base on issues ranging from “free” trade to healthcare to matters of government spying on U.S. citizens.

There are so many aspirants for the 2016 GOP nomination in part because they perceive the party wants to be unified once again as a populist, outsider, reformist party.

Only a few — particularly Jeb — want to make the party all Mother. Because the Bushes are essentially heirs to a European form of conservatism, a High Toryism. In other words: Motherism.

The Mothers of the GOP support trade deals, for example, and are ready to grant Obama vast new powers for wider surveillance. Some are “reformicons,” who advocate an activist foreign policy and an expanding and intrusive federal bureaucracy.

Others like talk radio hosts, conservative bloggers and strong populists frankly think they need a good shrink.

So the GOP’s image has become “do-nothingism.” The Mothers of the party want the federal government to expand its powers, and have implemented programs like Common Core and the invasive USA Patriot Act. The Normans of the party, however, want to send authority back to the states and localities. They reject the new world order and galloping federal authority.

Hence the party’s views looks conflicted and contradictory. It’s both Mother and Norman — confused and confusing.

One might even call it crazy.


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Nice piece. Now please do one on how Bill Clinton caused the housing/banking collapse with his making mortgage a racebaiting vote-buying scam, removing Glass-Steagal and ordering Fannie/Freddie not to require credit history.
And a sister piece on how Hillary Clinton REPEATEDLY tried to STEAL VALOR, stating that she “ran from snipers in Bosnia, now that is what happened.” until caught by an actual reporter with morals and video proof that she was lying, then she covered up with more lies “I misspoke.”

Posted by LetBalanceCome | Report as abusive

crazy is embracing the worst lunacies of one’s most radical base, deliberately offending everyone else, and wondering why national elections and trends leave you behind.

Posted by lazman | Report as abusive

The Republicans are also crazy because they are the branch of the Capitalist party in the US that supports failed policies.

The Democrats, the more reasonable branch of the capitalist party are a bit more pragmatic………

Maybe its time for the Republicans to rethink about where they stand on certain issues

Posted by No_apartheid | Report as abusive

Interesting analysis. I see the struggle as the inverse, however. In my mind the Tea Party has been much more obstructionist and ‘motherish.’ When the Grand Bargain was in sight, there was no compromise from the Tea Party dominated caucus. We need the bookholders of Right and Left, but progress will be found in the middle. The Republican Party has been much more about saying no than trying to find common ground on key issues that need movement. Immigration, tax reform, etc. I do not respect a policy of No.

Posted by DaveUSA | Report as abusive

The GOP is experiencing the inevitable political consequences of its embrace of Friedmanesque economic theory and policy. The contradictions are built-in and require massive amounts of energy to paper over.

Posted by Wardness | Report as abusive

It’s not as much an analysis as an analogy, albeit incomplete. Don’t you remember that “mother,” while physically still around, ended being long dead and mummified with “Norman” having absorbed her personality? What you’re saying, then, is that there is no Tea Party but just one GOP with multiple personalities.

Posted by jantsch | Report as abusive

Republican party is doomed. They are an aging party, and you know what happens when the old people die off faster than new ones sign on.

Their own strategists know this is happening. I go to the meetings :)

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

It’s surprising that Reuters would publish adolescent diarrhea of the pen such as Craig’s psychedelic creation. Conservatism is far more Aesop’s fables than Norman Bates mother.

Posted by MarcMc | Report as abusive

They should look at how well the Conservative Party did in the recent election in Great Britain by sticking to a center-right platform. They had to be concerned about the Tea Party-like UKIP on the right and the Labour Party (to the left of U.S. Democrats) on the left, and they ended up doing phenomenally better than pundits and pollsters had predicted. The Labour Party, by contrast, played strongly to its leftist base and did phenomenally worse than pundits and pollsters had predicted.

If you need to get 51% of the vote, then you have to get the center because you’re not going to get 51% by taking 25.5% from the right and 25.5% from the left. If you don’t have the center, you’re out of the game. And if you don’t think you need the center, you’re a poseur.

Posted by Bob9999 | Report as abusive

Refreshing. Good to see this insight come from a former Reagan campaigner.

Not sure how far he’ll succeed, but Trump seems to take-up China head-on in favor of local jobs as campaign promise.

Posted by Mottjr | Report as abusive

I am sure Republicans will rely on Reuters “journalists” for advise! Next, they will ask Nancy Pelosi on how to improve the GOP!

It cracks me up when liberal reporters look at the GOP and see nothing but problems, and then look at the Democrat Party, and instead of seeing a party that is at its most uniform and most extreme in terms of leftism, they only see moderation!

Posted by GuittaDabe | Report as abusive

Crazy perhaps is believing there is much difference in Dem/Rep. Perhaps there would be (difference) if not feeding from the same trough. Give me a
second political party to make true changes.

Posted by ekr | Report as abusive

But Norman WAS a murderer, not his mother; his mother was in fact murdered by Norman. So either Tea Party extremism will murder establishment Republicanism, or establishment Republicanism—which if Mother is only a figment of a deranged mind—will take control. Either way not a great choice. The Democratic Party also has its own psychotic structure. Hey, you get the government you deserve!

Posted by mustafaspeaks | Report as abusive

This article must be the most definitive one on GOP, as long as big money (i.e. Lobbyist), control the decision making in the senate with their power of money, nothing will change.
Both parties dems/gop/ are guilty of the same crime, democracy remains an illusion. Question is when will change come? Till this dreaded “Bates Motel” (corrupt politicians) are admonished nothing will change.

Posted by Political | Report as abusive

GOP has lost 62% of its market share among new voters (18 – 35) since Reagan’s time. And pills can only keep those wrinkly foxnews viewers alive for so long. More of them die every day.

You don’t think the republican strategists are sweating this? Think again. I am one. And I’m liberal :) I infiltrated the state GOP here in Colorado in 2008. All the racist and homophobic jokes I could ever want to hear :) I keep my phone at the ready too.

GOP is doomed. Us liberals have infiltrated deeper than the British secret police infiltrated the IRA. Which is pretty deep.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

GuittaDabe, I just have to ask, after reading your diatribe…..did you even READ the piece?

Here are a few hints:

1. It’s an OP-ED piece, not a journalism piece.

2. It was written by a CONSERVATIVE, not one of your hated liberals. The author was part of both Reagan campaigns and is president of a conservative public affairs/PR firm.

I know reading comprehension is a difficult thing; maybe if you’d paid attention in school, you’d understand what is being written, by whom, and why.

Posted by Jeff61 | Report as abusive

This would be less retarded if there were Democrats who actually opposed NSA spying on citizens

Posted by BBERDUDE | Report as abusive

The GOP as Norman Bates & his mother … or rather The Manchurian Candidate & his mother?
Not so much a matricidal necrophiliac, but rather a murderous hypnotized brain-dead zombie, a violent musth-driven were-pachyderm, at that.
Just an old-fashioned bull elephant at hormone time, trampling on everything in sight as per the “coaxing” of its unseen mahout.

Posted by MossyMorse1118 | Report as abusive

The GOP as Norman Bates & his mother … or rather The Manchurian Candidate & his mother?
Not so much a matricidal necrophiliac, but rather a murderous hypnotized brain-dead zombie, a violent musth-driven were-pachyderm, at that.
Just an old-fashioned bull elephant at hormone time, trampling on everything in sight as per the “coaxing” of its unseen mahout.

Posted by MossyMorse1118 | Report as abusive

If the GOP becomes more unified and practical, our society will suffer a serious blow to entertainment quality.

Live turkey bleedings, re-cleaned clean kitchenware, discussions with chairs, shotgun photo conspiracies — all such things would be lost.

Posted by nln | Report as abusive

This might just be the stupidest piece I’ve ever read. The Tea Party aren’t crazy, they just express themselves poorly (as angry people are wont to do); the Republicans are no more corrupt than the Dems so to bring that up as a ‘point’ is extremely weak. If you want to say that you don’t like any of the GOP candidates, well that’s valid – none of them seem to have much merit. But does that mean we need to roll-over and vote for Mrs Clinton who is a disgusting opportunist and liar, or Mr Sanders who is an out-and-out socialist (all things in moderation Mr Sanders) nearing 80. Frankly, there is not a single decent candidate even on the horizon because no candidate worth a damn wants to come anywhere near politics anymore, possibly because media cretins and 3rd party moneyed interests filter completely what the public sees. A candidate CANNOT speaks his/her mind, CANNOT go off script, CANNOT take actual initiative to improve the country – that person would be branded a weirdo BY THE MEDIA!! unless they agreed/conformed 100% to what that individual media writer ‘believed’.

Just for fun I’ll add that Baltimore has been run by (mostly black) Dems for at least three decades, yet the people rioting still blamed whitey and Republicans for all their ills. Wonder where they got that idea…

Posted by DeckHero14 | Report as abusive

Interesting piece. Basically sees the establishment GOP as being little different than democrats while trying to create space between the governing philosophy’s of Reagan and Bush 43, space that only appears if one ignores history (maybe its history that derides Reagan’s legacy?). Tellingly, the toxic social positions and ideological purity demands of the base are ignored.

Posted by NoVaCRE | Report as abusive

Yes, and the fox boobs channel is the voice inside norman’s head telling him to conform and keep status quo – ignore the sweetness and hope – and above all ignore the hypocrisy of the message.

Posted by rocknrollstar | Report as abusive


Posted by JWKGRR | Report as abusive

This column leaves off the most apt part of the analogy – “Mother” and “Norman” are in fact one and the same, simply different faces that a single person puts on at different times. Which is exactly like the modern Republican party – the TP wing is not really anti-corporate, and the establishment wing is not really less focused on restricting abortion and gay rights. Strip away the surface rhetoric, and their policy positions are essentially identical.

Posted by RobertHoward | Report as abusive

Good article and I’ll echo the comment below from UTC. It is amazing how the media has totally ignored Bill Clinton’s role in destroying our economy. He, along with the Democratic Party leadership, not only laid the groundwork for the housing market collapse but also undermined the advances in our economy brought on by the tech revolution of the 1990’s. As soon as our economy started to boom, Clinton sided with big business Republicans and Democrats and allowed our tech jobs to be shipped to China and India. We are now faced with a monster in Asia that is flexing its muscles and increasing the odds of a major war.

Posted by KG2015 | Report as abusive

This was one of the silliest analogies I’ve read in a long time – except that I see how the GOP/Tea Party is the psychotic, murderous, misogynistic, schizophrenic Norman Bates. That part makes sense.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive

It’s certainly time for the likes of John McCain and Lindsey Graham to retire; those two individuals, in particular, were instrumental in calling for arms and munitions to be supplied to anti-Assad forces in Syria, including the Islamic State, back in 2013.

Posted by JacKHorton | Report as abusive

Why bother.

Posted by MarcMc | Report as abusive

@ LetBalanceCome

Maybe you should read the consitiution, the president can not create a bill

The republicans created the crash

The republicans FORCED throught he deregulation of the banks by saying and promising that if you only deregulate everything, then everything will be so good

They were the ones who removed Glass-Steagal

AND they also included a provision to raise the minimu wage

The billw as passed by a majority and could not be vetoed, so If the president had made a symbolic veto, the republicans would have used that forever to say, look even Clinton was against raising the minimum wage

The republicans created the problems, not the democrats

Posted by TheTruth123 | Report as abusive

There is no other factor having a more destructive impact on the American middle class today than the current explosion of mass-immigration.

When the white man originally came to America, his immigration utterly destroyed the American native Indians. So immigration can be a terrible thing for those on the receiving end.

Today, the American middle class is being quickly destroyed by the largest wave of immigration in history.

Posted by AdamSmith | Report as abusive

Republicans must realize that there is no other factor having a more destructive impact on the American middle class today than the current explosion of mass-immigration.

When the European white man originally came to America, his immigration utterly destroyed the American native Indians. So immigration can be a terrible thing for those on the receiving end. Today the American descendants of those white Europeans are being destroyed in turn by a much, much larger wave of immigration. Republicans take note.

Posted by AdamSmith | Report as abusive

Unprecedented immigration today is destroying the American culture. Where are the immigrants coming from?
– Mexico
– Haiti
– Nigeria
– China
– Indonesia
– Central America

Republicans should realize that the American middle class needs a cohesive culture, and our once-cohesive culture has now been wiped out by immigration on a scale never seen before in world history, assisted by the internet, cell phones, and the immigration lawyer industry.

Posted by AdamSmith | Report as abusive

Dear Reuters, regarding this article, bull%#@&. Stay out of US politics where you obviously know nothing.

Posted by Matthew73 | Report as abusive

It’s the party of GOPply Goop.

Posted by hkrieger | Report as abusive

Americans are basically fed up with both parties. All recent Gallup polls suggest that 29% of voters consider themselves Democrats, 24% Republicans . . . and to the dismay of most media journalists, 47% consider themselves Independent.

Hey, guys in the media. We are not lock-step culture like the Nazis or old Communist countries despite what many in the media want. When reputable polls are taken, most voters, including those who vote in lock-step with either the Democrats or Republicans, are far more heterogeneous thinkers . . . except when they are in the voting booths.

Now more than ever, press freedoms need to be balanced with responsible reporting. Hardly any present-day media pundit (left or right) would receive a passing grade at any reputable journalism school with the garbage that they present as fact.

Posted by neilc23 | Report as abusive

come on reuters! its crystal clear you’re sided with democrats. republicans built America.Jeb will throw your favorite Hillary out of race.

Posted by diegolee | Report as abusive

diegolee explains: “republicans built America.”

Hahaha. Yeah in Iraq maybe. And you can see what that 3 trillion dollar project looks like. Rubble and a home for ISIS. Republicans won’t seat a President for another 30 years. No one trusts them.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

The analogy is cute but a little confused. “Mother” supports “common core”? And the relatively sane Norman wants to return authority to the states?

The writer is dead right about one thing, though.

“Today, the GOP’s only unifying philosophy is to be anti-Obama.”

Posted by RMax304823 | Report as abusive

I would reverse those roles. It’s the Tea Party that is mired in the past and unwilling to compromise on something new.

Posted by DennisMyers | Report as abusive

I think Craig Shirley is the one who has gone psycho.

Posted by DennisAOK | Report as abusive