by Travis Mateer
When you work with people in the messy realm of human services you become familiar with certain dynamics, like codependent relationships. Here is a little snapshot of how a codependent relationship functions:
Codependents become a rescuer for their loved one and, in making excuses for them, they do not allow any consequences to take place which may otherwise change the inappropriate behavior. This can be seen in abusive relationships, such as when the abused individual makes excuses for their abuser, or when a parent makes excuses for an out of control child.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to apply this concept of codependency to politics. In fact, thanks to the recent actions of Democrat Jon Tester, we get to see how a partisan caught in an abusive relationship with Tester exhibits signs of codependency, like making excuses for their beloved politician in order to not allow the consequences of being a sellout to change the behavior.
The two most recent examples of sellout behavior from Tester is his vote to help kill a $15 dollar minimum wage and his support, along with Republican Steve Daines, to reauthorize the Keystone XL pipeline.
To help shield Tester from the ideological blowback, here is partisan-rescuer Don Pogreba exemplifying how codependency keeps one locked in a toxic relationship:
We can respond to Tester’s vote against a dead-on-arrival minimum wage hike in a couple of ways. We can gain the self-satisfaction of proclaiming our refusal to ever support him again, or we can work to persuade him that he should be fighting for a substantial hike in the minimum wage as soon as possible. I know some will take Tester’s vote as a sign that there is no difference between the two parties, but, given that one party literally just voted unanimously that Americans don’t need expanded unemployment benefits or any direct support as the pandemic drags on, that’s little more than willful ignorance.
First, Pogreba rationalizes the bad behavior of voting against a minimum wage increase by explaining the politics of posturing. Then Pogreba preemptively frames the predictable outrage as “self-satisfaction” so that anyone with enough self-respect to call out the behavior can be made to look selfish. Then, to cap off the excuse making, Pogreba throws in a little example of how the REAL abusive Republican party rolls in order to distract from his own abusive party’s calculating behavior.
For people stuck in toxic relationships, here are some things one can do to start healing:
Those in a codependent relationship must learn to recognize their own needs, establish appropriate boundaries, and learn how to say “no” to their loved one when necessary. A lot of self-exploration is needed to look at the system that has established itself within your family and how it is affecting you as an individual and your relationship with your loved one.
Just replace the word “family” with “party” and I think you have a pretty solid analogy for what’s going on with a partisan enabler like Don Pogreba.
I woke up to the toxic power relationship Tester has with his own party years ago and because of that awakening I haven’t voted for him since 2006. Here is me modeling non-codependent behavior in 2015 when Tester blatantly lied about logging litigation.
Jon Tester continues abusing the ideological aspirations of his constituents because gatekeeping codependents like Don Pogreba can’t do the difficult self-exploration required to break the cycle of enabling and excuse-making.
If codependents don’t grow a backbone and start setting some boundaries, then abusers have no reason to change. I think the 15 year relationship between Senator Tester and Partisan Pogreba exemplifies that dynamic and the need for a different approach.