Elephantizing refers to the process of training a baby elephant to stay tied to a stake with a rope.
When they first do this to the baby elephant, they use a thick, heavy chain. The baby struggles and struggles, but can’t break free. He finally gives up in exhaustion, convinced he cannot break the chain.
Over time, they replace the chain with smaller and smaller chains and ropes, until the elephant will stay tied to a stake by a very small rope. By the time he is an adult, he could easily break the small rope, but, because as a baby he was convinced he could not break free, he accepts his confinement without question.
That is what they call elephantizing. Convincing someone they are powerless to break free of the chains that bind them.
How does this apply to us today?
In the 1980s, Reagan and the neocons redefined the word liberal to be a derisive term. Because the movement had caught hold and we lost the election, Dems showed no political courage and did not stand up for who they were. In fact, they fought the label and were afraid to use the term “liberal.”
We allowed the Republicans to define who we were by intimidation.
Likewise since the Viet Nam war. The Democratic Congress paid a heavy political price for stopping the war. The Republicans turned this into a picture that the Dems were weak on defense and anti-military. We cowered with fear of further political reprisal and are still fighting that battle and that label even now.
After 9/11, Bush used this to intimidate the Congress into caving on some legislation very important to the protection of our Constitutional rights– the Patriot Act, the FISA Amendment, etc. The Republicans’ portrait of Democrats having no core values came from the political cowardice of our politicians, who sat silently by, cowering in fear over being called “liberal” or “weak on defense” or “unpatriotic,” etc.
The Republicans said we lacked core values because, if we had any, we would stand up for them. And we didn’t. So, to an extent, we cooperated in giving them the unearned label of the “values” party — put it in a box for them, wrapped it up in pretty paper, tied the ribbon in a nice bow, put it on a silver platter and served it to them with our compliments and well-wishes, so-to-speak. Then slunk back to our corner and rolled over in submission.
All of this can be traced back to the Dems being elephantized by the Republicans decades ago. We must find the political courage to stand up for who were are and what we believe once again. It’s time to take “liberal” back and define it accurately and proudly again.