DeMaio Deconstructed, Part III: The Psychology of a ‘Political Sociopath’

by on May 14, 2012 · 8 comments

in Economy, Election, Labor, Popular, San Diego

And What This Means for San Diego

Two little stories that have appeared in Voice of San Diego over the past month provide the kernel for the insight that candidate Carl DeMaio might be something more—and not in a good way– than the ‘reformer’ he likes to portray himself as in his TV ads.

The first story was a blurb by Andrew Donohue plugging Donna Frye’s guest host appearance on ‘VOSD Radio’. Frye, despite her enviro/liberal credentials, was the person on the City Council who tried the hardest to work with Carl DeMaio in his early years on reform issues. Eventually she gave up, as just about everybody who’s tried to with him has. During her turn as host at VOSD radio, she went so far as to call him a ‘political sociopath’. (We’ll come back to what that means in a few sentences.)

The second story appeared in a plug by VOSD editor Scott Lewis in the non-profit’s drive to recruit 5000 ‘members’ a la NPR and increase its base of financial support:

 [DeMaio]… told me I’ve lost credibility so many times that I must actually be in a credibility debt by now. The collection agency will soon come calling.

 But then, he dropped the hammer. He said that there was a group of people who were murmuring that I was in the tank for his rival, Nathan Fletcher, because of money VOSD got from the “Jacobs family.” This made me pause. The Jacobs family? But Irwin Jacobs supports District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

 No, he said, the Jacobs family, as in Irwin’s sons, like Paul Jacobs, the CEO of Qualcomm. Unfortunately, Paul Jacobs and his siblings are not Voice of San Diego members or sponsors. We’ve gotten a lot more from DeMaio supporters. In fact, members and sponsors of Voice of San Diego are well represented in all of the endorsement lists of all of the four mayoral candidates.

 I told him that and we moved on with our evenings.

 If nothing else, this little exchange demonstrates the willingness of candidate DeMaio to operate in an environment devoid of facts.  But when a colleague reported to me last week that DeMaio was still spinning this yarn, it occurred to me that there might be a great deal more substance to Donna Frye’s ‘political sociopath’ label.

In the mental health world, as it turns out, the word ‘sociopath’ is not considered a valid descriptor of any state of mind. The word we’re looking for is Psychopathy, defined as an abnormal lack of empathy combined with strongly amoral conduct but masked by an ability to appear outwardly normal. I think that term is a proper adjective to describe the political modus operandi of Carl DeMaio.

“If we can show reform in San Diego, it becomes a model nationwide.”  — Carl DeMaio

 Understanding candidate DeMaio’s motivations necessitates revisiting those formative years in Washington DC.  Young Carl, in his associations with the Heritage, Reason, and Cato foundations, along with his fellow travelers Virginia Thomas (wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas) and Newt Gingrich was in the midst of the formation of an ideological jihad.

From modest origins in the 1970s in a small number of fringe think tanks backed by corporate and extreme right funders like the Koch brothers, this movement to reverse decades of progressive reform at the state and local level developed into a dense complex of think tanks, foundations, media capacities, consultant and lobbyist networks, legal organizations and integrated political operations.

The face of this jihad has come to be Grover Norquist. Unlike other conservative leaders, Norquist refuses to be distracted by ‘family values’ issues. For him it’s all about economic issues. He and his movement colleagues developed the political strategy of achieving permanent dominance for the right wing by destroying, neutering and defunding the main pillars of progressive politics in 20th century American society — the labor movement, mainline religious denominations, civil rights, feminist, consumer and corporations regulation movements, and the infrastructure they have created over the past 80 years.

Every program, plan and strategy that Carl DeMaio has publicly embraced stems from this ideological legacy.  None of his “so-called” reforms is anything more than a “cut and paste” modification of similar groups’ efforts around the country.  The difference here in San Diego is that DeMaio’s unrelenting political drive and his willingness to use any means necessary to achieve his goals have made our City into a demonstration project for other right wing groups around the country.

As their leader Grover Norquist famously said, “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” This obsession with shrinking government has, at its core, an open desire to eliminate the social contract notion of government’s role that arose starting with the great depression. Norquist and his followers openly admit that their goal is take our country back to where it was at the start of the 20th century.

Some how all the egregious corporate behavior that spurred more government involvement, like the scandals in the meatpacking industry for instance, is no longer of importance. What is central to followers of this school of thought is that we return to an era when citizens were unprotected against the excesses of monopolists and organized criminal elements in industry. In the delusional world of Carl DeMaio and his ilk, any two bit hustler willing to label himself as an entrepreneur and make generous campaign donations will be encouraged by government to exploit their fellow man.

Economic and social crises like the ones we’re been through over the past few years bring the worst impulses of capitalism to the fore; all it takes is a demagogue who can ignite a people scared by demagogic imagery to bring paternalistic and authoritarian impulses to the fore under the guise of ‘reform’.  Carl DeMaio, with his willingness to engage in amoral conduct in his quest for power and his complete lack of recognition or empathy for the harm he seeks to inflict upon the not-so-rich and those unfortunate enough to have chosen public service as a career, is then by definition exactly what Ms. Frye described. Use whatever word you’d like to describe his state of mind; the fact remains that his black and white delusion of reality seeks to inflict harm to a great many people in the service of a few, wealth individuals.

Putting Lipstick on a Pig

If you look at any of DeMaio’s crusades, whether it’s Proposition B, his campaign for Mayor or the much vaunted “Roadmap to Recovery” two things stand out in common:

The necessity to demonize: whether it’s the city “bureaucracy”, “downtown insiders” or “unions”, the most important premise of DeMaio’s campaigns is the need to create, misrepresent or exaggerate about a semi-mythical enemy that only Carl Demaio can save us from. No falsehood is too great, no misrepresentation is too grand and no bounds can be placed on the limits of his imagination when it comes to demonizing this opponent. While there may be kernels of truth buried in his crusades somewhere, the reality is that at the end of the day all these so-called “enemies” and “boogie-men” are human beings that can be negotiated with. But it’s important for Carl that these situations be portrayed in hysterical terms and for people to think that everything needs to be understood in black and white terms only.

Facts are irrelevant:  When in doubt, simply make up facts to fit the narrative. One example would be the outrageous pensions frequently cited by DeMaio in his quest for ‘reform’. Without exception every one of the high pensions cited by DeMaio were being drawn by retired city management employees which were not negotiated by unions and will not be affected by any part of Proposition B, his reform initiative. This is not to say that there weren’t and aren’t big issues with the sustainability of San Diego’s pension system. It is to say that he flat out lied at every opportunity and is using the issue to whip up resentment against city workers. We’ll get to why this is necessary in Carl’s delusions in a moment.

Another example of simply twisting facts, misrepresenting the issue or flat out lying is the infamous “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” mailer sent to registered democrats throughout San Diego by the DeMaio campaign. In that publication, Nathan Fletcher is attacked for voting for an “all-cuts state budget that slashed social programs” and “slash (ing) classroom spending by 14.5 billion.” Fletcher did vote that way. So would have DeMaio had he been in the State legislature. It was the GOP’s party line vote on those issues. But the voter is supposed to garner the impression that DeMaio is somehow more socially responsible when, in fact, the opposite is true.

And, as we demonstrated earlier, DeMaio’s able to justify what he deems as a lack of supportive coverage in the Voice of San Diego, by saying that they’re in the bag for candidate Fletcher because of their nonexistent relationship with the Jacobs family. The problem with all of this is that Carl’s told these lies so many times that he no longer recognizes them as falsehoods.

DeMaio wouldn’t know truth if it bit him on the ass. Lying is a way of life for Carl.  You have to know this to understand him. For an excellent rundown of some of his other delusions, see this CityBeat story.

Biographer Jeff Walker, who chronicled the life of conservative theologian/hero Ayn Rand, found a journal entry that she wrote at age 30 that characterizes DeMaio’s role in this situation perfectly: : “One puts oneself above all and crushes everything in one’s way to get the best for oneself. Fine!”   This is nothing more than contempt for your fellow humans. Forcefully pushing your impulses at the expense your society is not normal behavior.  It destroys human bonds. It corrupts community.  It destroys trust. It is sociopathic. Or whatever you want to call it.

What ‘Could Be’ for San Diego Under Carl DeMaio

 Let’s imagine for a brief, if scary, moment that candidate DeMaio becomes Mayor Demaio.  The year is 2019, and he’s well into his second term. What is described below is all purely fantasy and conjecture. None of these things would happen literally as described, but they could happen if DeMaio’s ideas on governance are followed to their logical conclusion.

 Just think, if this was being written by somebody in the DeMaio organization, we’d be promising you that this would be happening for sure. The idea is to start you thinking about what this campaign is really proposing and where it could lead.

 You’ll be driving to Ocean Beach on the O.B. tollway.  The concept of selling off infrastructure is central to the ideological forces driving his campaign.  While DeMaio was at the Reason Foundation, for instance, they produced a study funded by AECOM, a global design and management corporation; Granite Construction, a builder of roads, tunnels, bridges and airports; and Nossaman Guthner Knox Elliott, a lobbying and law firm specializing in land use and infrastructure development litigation that made its way into a Federal Highway bill. Using the mechanism suggested by the Reason study of making free roads less attractive by inserting “noncompete clauses” whereby governments cannot fix free roads unless there is a compelling safety issue, other highways in San Diego became so poor that motorists were forced to use the newly privatized OB Tollway.

O.B. Elementary will be come the newest location for WalMart minimarkets opening throughout California.  With building codes effectively gutted and the mechanisms for community input neutered by the DeMaio administration’s “streamlining program”, it will be no problem for his administration to force the hand of the City schools in selling off this valuable location.

Police and Fire Services will be privatized. Didn’t pay your fire services protection assessment (not a tax) for 2020? If your home catches fire, you’ll have to wait for one of the three remaining publicly funded fire houses to send a broken down truck out your way. Neighborhoods up on Point Loma will be allowed to create security zones, complete with privately funded armed guards and gates. Don’t worry, Newport Street will have its own force, funded by the Merchants Association. If you happen to live on Longbranch Avenue, service from the County Sheriffs may become available in 2021, provided that the administration successfully negotiates a contract with the county.

Restaurants in the City of San Diego will be inspected on a tri-annual basis. Under the terms of the City’s “business permit streamlining” deal with the County, restaurants within the city limits will be inspected every three years or if they lose more than six food poisoning lawsuits in a two year period.  Yelp!’s cleanliness ratings will become vital information for tourists and visitors. Although main thoroughfares like Newport Avenue will retain an orderly appearance, side streets and sidewalks will be jammed with a rag tag array of new “enterprises” operating under the city’s reduced permitting and enforcement program.

There will still be lifeguards on the beach, however.  Under the DeMaio “Summer Jobs” program local high school students who can pass a swimming test will be paid minimum wage to patrol the beaches. They’ll be trained by the DeMaio volunteer senior citizens’ Tiger Training Program. Funding for emergency equipment and supplies will be dependent on the City’s co-op advertising fund.

Trash Collection for Non-Commercial Areas will be Centralized… Dumpsters will be installed on North-South streets at three block intervals for residents to dispose of their household trash under San Diego’s newly privatized garbage collection system. Street cleaning will be available for a fee for neighborhoods that can afford it.

Get the picture?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

observer of Carl Demaio May 14, 2012 at 10:01 am

For more insight into Carl’s psychology, consider this, from wikipedia: “His mother died in 1990, two weeks after his father abandoned the family. DeMaio [a teenager then] was taken in by Jesuit priests and enrolled in boarding school at Georgetown Preparatory School.”

This kind of childhood trauma can have lasting negative impact. Think of the movie Citizen Kane… to survive emotionally (and perhaps even physically) the child may adopt defense mechanisms that distort reality, and these mechanisms may live on when the child matures to adult. Red flags include indications of a loose grip on reality, such as persistent lying.


JMW May 14, 2012 at 10:04 am

Keep on pounding. Your voice is so strong, I can hear you in Riyadh.


Ernie McCray May 14, 2012 at 11:26 am

My biggest problem with Carl DeMaio is he’s just flat out not a nice person.


Andy Cohen May 14, 2012 at 11:53 am

This dude is just so dangerous to our fair city………I mean, really, the guy is truly frightening. He only wants power for power’s sake, and his sole goal is to literally privatize the entire city.

If you’re considering voting for Carl DeMaio, you have to ask yourself this question: Why would someone who so detests government as DeMaio does want to be in a position to run government? What possible motivation would he have? The only logical conclusion is so that he can dismantle government from within in order to hand all governing responsibilities over to the private sector, which would not be a good thing for the average San Diegan.

And to anyone who didn’t get the meatpacking industry Doug referenced, I highly recommend you read the American classic “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair. In it Sinclair deconstructs the inner workings of the Gilded Age mecca of the meatpacking industry, Chicago. It was a book that so appalled the reading public that it eventually led to the formations of unions and the institution of better food safety laws and working conditions for employees. That is the world that DeMaio and those like him are so desperate to return to. The guy passes himself off as a crusader for the average San Diegan; that he cares about the people he governs. But I seriously doubt that Carl cares about anybody but Carl DeMaio.

Elect Carl DeMaio as mayor and you’ll get what you deserve, San Diego. Think Mike Aguirre, but with far more power.


Ernie McCray May 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Andy, you just told it like it is.


Arthur Salm May 14, 2012 at 5:04 pm

You may call the O.B. tollway and privatized fire and police services fantasy and conjecture, but anyone who has tracked DeMaio’s scorched-city career arc will recognize it as the future.


Anna Daniels May 14, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Arthur is right- this is NOT fantasy. DeMaio has a Mini-Me in acolyte Lorie Zapf. At tonight’s budget hearing she noted that our skateboard parks don’t even have city staff. The shock, the SHOCK! She opined that if the city can’t staff these functions, we can either put a lock box on them or find a corporation that can operate them.
Behold the brave new world. “Find a corporate entity that can operate them.”
It is not only DeMaio.


Richard Tibbitts July 13, 2014 at 3:34 am

It’s a couple of years later, and the eternal buffoon has surfaced again. Unfortunately for his mentors, he represents an aspect of so-called government that most people dislike – the selfish, grasping, what’s-in-it-for-me outlook that justifies anything one does to amass wealth and power, regardless of the consequences their actions may have on other people. In the immortal words of Steely Dan, “They don’t give a f**k about anybody else.” And it shows. Vote Scott Peters instead for Congress from the 52nd.


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