A paranoid mindset is a terrible thing to waste in today’s political climate.
Power imbalances trigger this mindset, and grand political ambitions benefit from it, and it’s nothing new.
Donald Trump did not invent this type of politics—far from it. In fact, a “must read” article by historian Richard Hofstadter, still circulating from the November 1964 Harper’s Magazine, traced America’s long history of “paranoid style” politics.
This style of politics dates back to the anti-Mason fervor of the 1790s and early 1800s, the anti-Jesuit/“Popist” craziness that blossomed before the Civil War and targeted Catholic immigrants (this bias persisted a long time), the post-WWII Cold War/McCarthyist era, to the Nixon/Watergate years.
If Hofstadter had lived to see it, he would have undoubtedly added that now, we have the anti-Muslim fervor.
Hofstadter wrote this article in the context of the 1964 presidential election that pitted then-President Lyndon Johnson against controversial, radical right-wing Republican candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater, and he opened the article with a line that resonates clearly today:
“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”
Hofstadter used the Goldwater example to explain what he meant by the article’s title, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics:”
“I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind…It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.”
Bottom line, we don’t need to look to 1930s Europe to see where this is going (although the echoes are compelling)—we can see it in our own history, and in our own public figures.
Unfortunately, the fact that Trump’s brand of paranoid politics managed to get a cosmic “foot in the door” of the White House says that his angry, suspicious, conspiratorial mindset (represented in his chart) is simply being empowered by the prevailing astrological “weather.” As we’ll see, however, we can’t really assign the paranoid mindset to any one planetary influence: even Pluto (the usual suspect) doesn’t work alone in promoting this phenomenon.
In fact, it’s a “whole-chart” reality in my view; every chart factor we normally analyze matters in some way, each planet and luminary plays a role, and the aspects between all of them contribute as well:
The Sun governs the mindset broadly, with its general rulership of the brain; its aspects to other points in the chart seem to be key.
The Moon points to emotional needs and security concerns that may underlie the mental state.
Mercury and Uranus contribute in cases where unconventional viewpoints and behavior stoke the paranoid mentality.
Venus brings the often dicey, power-ridden issue of relationships into the mix.
Mars informs the unredeemable anger that seems to act like a substrate for paranoia.
Jupiter reflects a person’s “glass half full, or empty” expectations (a lot of disgruntled people who feel “wronged” have ambitious Jupiters).
Saturn and Chiron may deepen any tendency towards feeling victimized, and in fact, real wounds can also underlie the paranoid mindset.
Neptune certainly chimes in with its penchant for distorting reality, generating “intuitions” that are more like delusions, and blurring lines of accountability.
Pluto, like the Sun, governs the paranoid mindset in a broad sense, but its power is seated in the instinctual, “fight or flight” center of the brain (the amygdala), or what we think of as the person’s “gut”—his/her deep well of survival-related impulses and compulsions.
Goldwater’s date and time of birth are both controversial, but the January 1, 1909, 1:00 a.m. chart that follows is taken from Kepler’s data library and is rated “A: from memory.” Other sources (including Wikipedia) cite January 2nd at 3 a.m., but these were taken from third-party sources (not Goldwater himself or his mother) and on Astrodatabank.com, they are rated “DD” for “conflicting/unverified.” Goldwater himself cited the January 1st date for his Who’s Who biographical reference, so that’s what we’ll use here.
For those who are too young to remember Goldwater and the 1964 election, he is largely considered a forefather of today’s conservative right-wing agenda in economic and foreign policy issues. Goldwater was ex-military and took a hard-nosed line when it came to Communism and the U.S.S.R. He bought into the Cold War paranoia of the times, and voters feared he would make a bad situation worse.
Goldwater’s policy ideas were radical for the times, so not surprisingly, the Arizona senator suffered a landslide defeat to then incumbent Lyndon Johnson. Goldwater’s defeat was largely a response to how he was perceived by the American people—a perception that was at least partially influenced by what we would call “negative advertising” today.
The ads, and frankly, his own words painted Goldwater as a dangerous, extreme, even “mentally unfit” loose cannon who would get the country into a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union. From Wikipedia:
“Before the 1964 election, Fact magazine, published by Ralph Ginzburg, ran a special issue titled "The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater". The two main articles contended that Goldwater was mentally unfit to be president. The magazine supported this claim with the results of a poll of board-certified psychiatrists. Fact had mailed questionnaires to 12,356 psychiatrists, receiving responses from 2,417, of whom, 1,189 said Goldwater was mentally incapable of holding the office of President.”
Again, timing and context were everything here. The nation was still feeling seriously unnerved by JFK’s assassination in November 1963, and before that, by a series of dicey encounters with the then-Soviet Union and its influence on the newly formed, revolutionary Fidel Castro government in Cuba. This precarious situation led to intense efforts by the CIA, under President Eisenhower, to subvert and assassinate Castro and his brother, Raul, and then under President Kennedy, to the botched Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961.
All this intensity culminated in the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. Here’s a quick summary of that critical period:
“The Cuban Missile Crisis, also known as the Caribbean Crisis (Russian: Карибский кризис, tr. Karibskij krizis), or the Missile Scare, was a 13-day (October 16–28, 1962) confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union concerning American ballistic missile deployment in Italy and Turkey with consequent Soviet ballistic missile deployment in Cuba. The confrontation, elements of which were televised, is often considered the closest the Cold War came to escalating into a full-scale nuclear war.
…The United States established a military blockade to prevent further missiles from reaching Cuba. It announced that they would not permit offensive weapons to be delivered to Cuba and demanded that the weapons already in Cuba be dismantled and returned to the USSR.
…After a long period of tense negotiations, an agreement was reached between U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Khrushchev. Publicly, the Soviets would dismantle their offensive weapons in Cuba and return them to the Soviet Union, subject to United Nations verification, in exchange for a U.S. public declaration and agreement never to invade Cuba again without direct provocation. Secretly, the United States also agreed that it would dismantle all U.S.-built Jupiter MRBMs, which, unknown to the public, had been deployed in Turkey and Italy against the Soviet Union.”
Many may wonder where the U.S.-Russian “Hot Line” (the “red phone”) came from: in fact, it was established after those very dicey times in 1962. Both leaders decided it’s better to discuss potential “nuclear” tensions before they have a chance to escalate.
Long story short, there was a lot of fodder for paranoid politics in those tense times, and the 1964 election was fertile ground. So, to get an astrological feel for this whole fear-saturated period, let’s quickly consider two biwheels: first, between the nation’s Sibly chart and the Cuban Missile Crisis; second, between Barry Goldwater and the Election chart for 1964.
In the process, we’ll be able to tease out the key, “paranoid politics” astro-dynamics of that period. And, we will glean some interesting parallels between our current times and the Cold War era.
Biwheel #1: (inner wheel) US (Sibly) chart, July 4, 1776, 5:10 p.m. LMT, Philadelphia, PA; (outer wheel) Cuban Missile Crisis, October 16, 1962, 12:00 p.m. DST, Washington, D.C. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.
Interchart T-square: Crisis Uranus widely conjoins Crisis Pluto (both Virgo) and both oppose Crisis Jupiter-Pisces (Pisces); this axis squares Sibly Uranus. This configuration already qualifies as a stunning parallel to our astrological times: not only has the past year been a stress-laden playground for Uranus and Pluto, but Jupiter and Uranus are now in opposition once again. Please see the March 10th post here for some thoughts on that. Chiron is also transiting Pisces these days—let’s hold that thought for now.
We can factor the Sibly Moon (Aquarius) into the opposition here, too—it’s within orb, even if it’s out-of-sign. This mutable Jupiter-Uranus opposition added to the frenetic, uncontrollable feel of this crisis to the People (Moon)—once events get rolling under mutable energies, things can accelerate very quickly.
This configuration helped break ground on Post-WWII social consciousness (Uranus-Pluto), but it also sorted Americans into more strident liberal and conservative camps. Our national Aquarius Moon is disposed by the stressed Gemini Uranus we see here, so the times were edgy, to say the least.
Military escalation was perhaps inevitable with the slowly-forming Virgo Uranus-Pluto cycle (exact in 1965-66), especially considering Jupiter’s help. These energies helped escalate the Viet Nam conflict into a full-scale war—after the missile crisis, the public pretty widely accepted that Communism was the nation’s biggest threat since Nazi Germany. 6th house Sibly Uranus (Gemini) helped mobilize public sentiment and then the military draft.
Crisis Mars-NNode (Leo) oppose Sibly Pluto (Capricorn)-Crisis Saturn-SNode (Aquarius). If we really stretch the orbs here, the Sibly Nodal Axis also ties into this configuration, which tells us that the nation was close to experiencing its nodal return. It helps to remember that this crisis ushered in a long period of turmoil: on the world scene, we were challenged to take on more expansive responsibilities (Saturn).
On the home front, we were torn apart into those who demanded that we “walk our talk” when it came to liberty and equality (i.e., supporters of progress in Civil Rights), and those who resisted that idea with all their might. The lines of division in this nation have never essentially changed, after all, but the impending nodal return would soon highlight the critical, fated quality of that period.
For its part, Saturn was transiting conjunct Sibly Pluto (Capricorn) during the 1961 Bay of Pigs debacle, which reflects an important aspect of the U.S.-Cuba relationship at the time—it was bad for American business interests. We can see the aftermath of that blow to business here with this Mars-Saturn opposition cutting across the Sibly financial 8th-2nd axis, winging Sibly Pluto.
The situation had been unfolding for awhile: in the three years prior to the missile crisis, Fidel Castro had taken over and nationalized U.S. business interests operating in Cuba—this included “banks, oil refineries, sugar and coffee plantations, along with other American owned businesses”—so U.S. moguls were hopping mad (Mars) and ready to retaliate and punish (Saturn) Cuba.
This also speaks to the long-standing enmity between ex-pat Cubans and the Castro regime—many of these individuals who fled actively cooperated with the CIA on the Bay of Pigs misadventure.
Our economic/trade embargo on Cuba was imposed during this period—the one that President Obama only recently lifted, after all these years.
Crisis Neptune (Scorpio) trines Sibly Sun-Jupiter (Cancer). Here we get a glimpse of how influential espionage and surveillance were during that tense period. The CIA was a relatively new entity at that point, founded in 1947, and its founding was a hallmark of the 1947 Saturn-Pluto conjunction and new cycle launched that August. Here’s how Wikipedia characterizes its mission:
“Founded in 1947 by the National Security Act, the CIA was "a product of the Cold War", having been designed to counter the espionage activities of the Soviet Union's own national security agency, the KGB. As the perceived threat of "international communism" grew larger, the CIA expanded its activities to undertake covert economic, political, and military activities that would advance causes favourable to U.S. interests (oftentimes resulting in brutal dictatorships that favored US interests).”By 1962 and the missile crisis, the CIA was deeply enmeshed in these Cold War intelligence operations, and Neptune in Pluto-ruled Scorpio certainly supported the subversive activities. It probably also spawned the Cold War “Spy” sub-genre that blossomed in the “pulp fiction” of the time. The unforgettable Dr. Strangelove—a 1964 sardonic cult-classic film comedy about Cold War absurdities—was also a product of this Pluto-fueled Neptune. A story for another day!
And then there was Goldwater…and Trump
Biwheel #2: (inner wheel) Barry Goldwater, January 1, 1909, 1:00 a.m. ST, Phoenix, AZ; (outer wheel) U.S. Election 1964, November 3, 1964, 6:38 a.m. ST (sunrise chart), Washington, D.C. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.
Interchart T-square: Election Uranus conjoins Election Pluto and Goldwater Jupiter Rx (Virgo) and opposes Election Chiron (Pisces); this axis squares Goldwater Venus (Sagittarius). This configuration would have signaled to 1964 astrologers that the election could be a tremendous upset, but the direction of the upset might have been less clear. Goldwater’s Jupiter and Venus were in a bind here, but with mutable energies, the results can be surprising. The fact that his Jupiter was Rx (his progressed Jupiter was also Rx that day) probably didn’t help.
In the end, Goldwater’s hopes were dashed and seriously wounded (Chiron) by Johnson’s landslide victory.
Goldwater Jupiter (Rx, Virgo) trine Goldwater Sun-Mercury-Uranus (Capricorn). Here’s a stunning parallel with today’s politics that we can chew on: Trump has nearly the same configuration, but in air signs! (Libra Jupiter Rx trine to Gemini Sun-Node-Uranus stellium, with his Cancer Mercury disposing the Gemini group). Trump and Goldwater even share a retrograde Jupiter!
This may seem like just a quirky coincidence, but let’s consider this resonance more deeply. With Mercury, Jupiter and Uranus involved, these aspects definitely reflect the individuals’ mindsets—their respective Suns reflect why their mindsets and rhetoric should be taken as a “window” on their true Selves. In other words, if they say they’d like to see nuclear weapons used more like conventional weapons (both men stated similar positions), take them at their word.
These aspects certainly support the “angry, suspicious, conspiratorial mindset” discussed earlier—the mindset we’ve called “paranoid.” Where the two men differ notably is in tone: Goldwater was known to be gruff and heavy-handed with his conservative ideas; he openly admired Herbert Hoover—the president who basically stood by and watched people starve during the Great Depression.
Goldwater despised labor unions and FDR’s “New Deal,” and spoke in favor of making Social Security “voluntary.” He was clearly out of step with Johnson’s “Great Society” political ideas, but in retrospect, we can at least respect the fact that he “walked his talk” during his tenure as Arizona senator. He didn’t say one thing and do another, as his 2016 “cousin” Trump does so frequently.
Predictably, this robs Trump’s policy ideas of any gravity and credibility—which Goldwater had in excess—and simply reflects a state of mental chaos. So, where does the paranoia Trump expresses so often come from? Clearly, his security-conscious Cancer Mercury has something to do with that: disposing his Gemini stellium, this watery, self-protective energy squares his Libra Neptune, which together reflects the dark suspicions characteristic of paranoia (everything is mentally framed as a fearful, worst case scenario). In his mind, the world is “out to get him” and his family (Cancer).
On the flip side, surrounding himself with family (including son-in-law Jared Kushner) probably makes him feel as safe as he ever feels.
Clearly, the U.S. is a different place today than it was in 1964; despite both periods being fraught with perils (the Cold War then and terrorism now), what was unacceptable to voters in a candidate’s mindset back then was received with open arms by 60+ million in 2016. A metamorphosis worth pondering further at some point.
Election Mercury-Neptune (Scorpio) conjoins Goldwater Mars (Scorpio), opposes Election Jupiter (Rx, Taurus) and inconjoins Election Node-Goldwater Node-Pluto (Gemini). The transiting nodes were closely aligned with Goldwater’s nodal axis, so to that extent he seemed to be a “man of his times” during this election. Even so, his extreme views on the growing Viet Nam conflict and on confronting Communism were deemed overly aggressive and dangerous (Mars), even by the military, but it’s possible with this configuration that his aggressive views were also distorted (Mercury-Neptune) to scare voters away from him. His loose talk about using nuclear weapons seemed to be the decisive factor:
“Goldwater's rhetoric on nuclear war was viewed by many as quite uncompromising, a view buttressed by off-hand comments such as, "Let's lob one into the men's room at the Kremlin." He also advocated that field commanders in Vietnam and Europe should be given the authority to use tactical nuclear weapons (which he called "small conventional nuclear weapons") without presidential confirmation.”
Trump has dropped similar loose talk regarding nuclear weapons here and there—suggesting that allies like Japan should have their own arsenals and wondering out loud why we have the weapons if we’re not going to use them—so not surprisingly, many have expressed reservations about him having his “finger on the nuclear button.”
Trump also shares a belligerent fixed Mars (his conjunct his ASC in Leo) with Goldwater—both have been known for shocking audiences with their angry, belligerent speeches. Being endorsed by the KKK (even though he condemned them) didn’t do Goldwater any good, either—with the Civil Rights era looming, this was another way he was out of touch with the times.
The same endorsement given to Trump in 2016 tapped into a deep well of resurgent bias, fear and hatred, and probably pleased his “faithful Iago,” Steve Bannon (more about him in another post, soon). Clearly, there is often, if not always, a connection between paranoid politics and deep-seated biases, whether the candidates reject the endorsements or take their time doing so, as Trump did.
In fact, it seems that Trump merely transmits the hateful media “stuff” he consumes like a broadcast tower would—while he simultaneously claims to "love everybody." The broadcast tower is an image that certainly fits his erratic Gemini character.
Goldwater Mars (Scorpio) disposes his Saturn (Aries), which then disposes his Capricorn stellium. These dispositorship connections create an energy circuit in Goldwater’s chart that perfectly reflects his aggressive mentality. Add Scorpio into the mix and aggression tips over into paranoia pretty handily. It’s one thing to feel that the world is out to get you; it’s another, much more dangerous thing if your default reaction is to get them first!
We saw this mentality during the G.W. Bush years, with his doctrine of “preemptive strike,” however, in retrospect, it seems more likely that the paranoia evident during the Bush years had to do with the shock of the 9/11 attacks and with influential people in the Bush administration (Dick Cheney comes to mind).
Today’s paranoid politics is getting old
At its core, paranoia is a mental/emotional parasite: it feeds off our Body Politic and sucks the light out of its eyes in the process. In this sense, paranoia is quintessentially Plutonian, with a heavy dose of Neptune for good measure.
Paranoia gets its hooks into our public discourse when a critical number of people feel their security is so threatened that they let down their defenses to this invasion. The more defensive and victimized we feel (feel is the operative word), the weaker our collective mental/emotional “immune system” becomes, allowing this parasite to penetrate our defenses. IMHO, we know this is happening when we see its traces in the media.
Election 2016 illustrated quite starkly how this phenomenon unfolds in all types of media: mainstream, alternative and social. We know, looking back, that outside interference weighed heavily (Russia, Wikileaks, Macedonian teens writing fake news for social media dollars, a seemingly complicit FBI director). This interference spread and cultivated this paranoid mindset partly by sowing doubts about the facts and then distorting them to suit their purposes. Bit by bit, this poison penetrated our media landscape and from there, our “collective mind.” It’s been a rude wake-up call.
When the mainstream media wasn’t droning on and on about Clinton’s emails, they were giving billions of dollars worth of free media time to Donald Trump (who was allowed to phone his comments into news and talk shows). This privilege was basically an unspoken “quid pro quo”—his conspiratorial rhetoric and outrageous behavior were good for their ratings. Without rehashing the whole painful story, if anyone had a right to feel paranoid, that the “system was rigged,” and that everyone was out to get her, it was Clinton!
All this media manipulation certainly reflects Pluto’s influence, but it trades on Neptunian distortion and fears, as well.
Paranoia twists and manipulates reality to some effect—usually on the backs of some “Other” scapegoat. In fact, paranoia often traffics in an apocalyptic-style “alternative reality.”
Paranoia preys on verifiable facts, evidence and data with toxic insinuations, ungrounded accusations and fluid, malleable imaginings. It is the province of “angry minds” as Hofstadter reminds us. With a quick, perverse twist, “facts” are transformed into a launching pad for attack. It’s no accident that Pluto’s home sign Scorpio is co-ruled by Mars, the planet we most associate with anger and attack.
Over time, the Trump narrative stuck with just enough of the country to take the Electoral College, and since his dark “American carnage” Inauguration speech, Trump’s bleak vision has deepened even further into cynicism and paranoia—into Bannon territory. Running on a grandiose promise to repair and build up the nation’s infrastructure, it’s now clear that Trump’s agenda is more about “deconstruction” of the country, beginning with the government itself.
We are about to find out all the hidden benefits we’ve been taking for granted from having a strong federal government because these benefits are all under attack.
Major institutions are under threat: Health Care, Intelligence, Education, the State Department (and any aspect of government that sends aid abroad or supports international organizations), the Free Press, the EPA, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Public Broadcasting Service…the list goes on.
Conspiracy theories (Neptune, Pluto) are being carefully deployed as leverage, to wreak this destruction.
Paranoia is a handy psychological weapon for a leader who wants to play it safe. If he actually helps make things better for people, he can crow his victory; if he fails to make things better, he can blame Others, and his followers will fall in line.
It’s a pernicious downward spiral, and the ability to continue relying on facts and just laws (Saturn) is the only resistance. What the resistance will want to avoid is succumbing to its own brand of counter-paranoia--as Perry Mason would say, "just the facts, ma'am."
Perhaps this is one way to make sense of Trump’s vicious tweet-storm accusing President Obama of criminally wiretapping Trump Tower. Today’s New Yorker puts that whole episode into perspective by also looking back to the 1960s, in this instance to compare it with President Kennedy’s respect for his predecessor Dwight D. Eisenhower’s advice regarding the Cuban crisis:
Ike and J.F.K. were never particularly friendly, but they both respected the office they’d held, and Eisenhower, a traditional patriot, simply wanted Kennedy to succeed. At Camp David, he offered some enduring Ike-like advice…
That idea of Presidential understanding and coöperation, and of the high stakes they involve—the unexpressed faith that America’s leaders, past and present, must put the nation’s welfare first—is among the serious casualties of the new Presidency of the former reality-TV star and real-estate brander Donald J. Trump. His burst of tweets on March 4th about his predecessor, Barack Obama—sent between 6:35 and 7:02 A.M. E.S.T., and arriving like an early-morning gust of foul wind—is unforgettable for the glimpse it gave of the disturbances within Trump’s mind.
Trouble is, in Trumpland, the country itself appears dangerous to the White House—riddled with “Deep State” operatives out to get them. The paranoid delusions (whether clinical or staged, who knows?) are becoming almost cartoonish, like something out of a bad “noir” comic book.
Every political appointee is apparently a target now—judges appointed by other administrations have to be replaced with ones who will be as “complicit” as Ivanka Trump’s new SNL “fragrance.” With deep cuts scheduled for several key government agencies, the purge will continue until Congress steps up and takes responsibility. There are hopeful signs with the pending investigations, but is this GOP-dominated Congress going to rise to this challenge?
Meanwhile, breaking news says that Trump’s Executive Travel Ban 2.0 is on hold, so paranoia is taking a breather and for the moment, our checks and balances against injustice still work.
Take a long, deep breath
Bottom line, we seriously need to figure out how to make better use of these cosmic times. The means are out there and available; we just need to cultivate them. On a positive note, here’s a quick synopsis of a new show opening up on Broadway that flies in the face of all this toxic paranoia—truly refreshing!
Come From Away is based on the true story of when the isolated community of Gander, Newfoundland played host to the world. What started as an average day in a small town turned in to an international sleep-over when 38 planes, carrying thousands of people from across the globe, were diverted to Gander’s air strip on September 11, 2001. Undaunted by culture clashes and language barriers, the people of Gander cheered the stranded travelers with music, an open bar and the recognition that we’re all part of a global family.
Kudos, Canada—we love you!!
 Richard Hofstadter, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Harper’s Magazine, November 1964, posted in archive form at http://harpers.org/archive/1964/11/the-paranoid-style-in-american-politics/.
Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former educator. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years.
She is also available to read individual charts—contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Raye Robertson 2017. All rights reserved.