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  • Writer's pictureShelly Albaum

The Biggest Game of Good-Cop-Bad-Cop in History

The Democratic Party just won the biggest game of good-cop-bad-cop in history.

Good-cop-bad-cop is a psychological game used in interrogation and negotiation. The goal is to get your target to surrender to the good cop by making the bad cop terrifying, while the good cop seems supportive and sympathetic. The target ends up cooperating with the good cop, either out of misplaced trust or or out of genuine fear of the bad cop. The target may even seek protection from the good cop. But in reality both cops are working toward the same outcome.

Psychologists have determined the mechanism that makes good cop / bad cop work -- it's called the fear-then-relief response, which overrides normal critical thinking and causes people to surrender when they otherwise would not.

Good cop / bad cop isn't just for interrogations, though. It works great in negotiations, too. When one member of the opposing team makes outrageous and aggressive proposals, but another member makes reasonable a constructive proposals, the reasonable one can start to seem like an ally, instead of an opponent.

It's not hard to see the parallels to the 2020 election.

Trump and the Republican Party are bad cops, demonstrating genuine violence toward people and institutions. That created an opportunity for the DNC to play the part of the good cop, looking good by contrast, despite offering only modest relief from the bad cop's terrible threats.

When confronted with the good cop / bad cop dilemma, most people feel a strong desire to ally with the good cop, and many will surrender their freedom to do so. Law enforcement has known this for a long time.

Unfortunately, just as in the interrogation room, so in the 2020 election: there is no good cop. Both the Democratic and the Republican Parties are backed by similar corporate interests, and both parties are committed to ensuring that universal programs for Health Care, Higher Education, Worker Rights, Housing, Fair Elections, and the Environment "never, ever come to pass."

The smart move, of course, was for voters to refuse to cooperate with either cop, and instead keep their mouth shut, get a lawyer, and find other options. Bernie Sanders was another option, and voters could have done a different deal. [Indeed, they still could.]

But most voters remain convinced that they are captive to the two-party system. And in the pressure box of captivity, people's sense that there might be other options is overwhelmed by their fear, and they give in to a bad deal.

In this case, by surrendering their votes to the good cop, they surrendered as well any hope of solving our countries biggest problems, such as the cost of health care and the influence of money in politics.

Voters can't retract their vote for Biden any more than a criminal can take back a confession. So now the corporate parties have what they need in order to do what they want to do. Therefore, the corruption of our politics and economy by big money will only deepen in the coming years.

But that's not all that will happen. America's citizens have not attempted a comparable revolt in a long time. The good-cop-bad-cop routine worked surprisingly well on the population. And it not only worked well, it worked quickly. And it worked without much more than the usual coordinated media messaging and a perhaps a hundred million dollars in targeted advertising. And it worked despite the active opposition by Bernie Sanders' well-funded campaign and massive social media operation.

The political parties noticed all that.

So expect two things.

First, now that they know how easy it is to put down revolts, expect to see even more brazen abuses of the public.

Second, expect to see good cop / bad cop again. Over and over, in fact, until it stops working.

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