Good morning. Please answer the following questions. Give them some thought, they are serious questions.
- Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: independence or respect for elders?
- Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: obedience or self-reliance?
- Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: to be considerate or to be well-behaved?
- Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: curiosity or good manners?
If you answered respect for elders, obedience, well-behaved, and good manners, you will, in all likelihood, be sorely uncomfortable around these parts. The reason is that those answers are highly correlative to individuals who are wired as authoritarians.
Authoritarians seek obedience, structure, top-down hierarchical structure, and selectivity in human interaction. In other words, you will be exceedingly uncomfortable here at TW so “click on Garth.”
Those four questions were developed by a social scientist named Stanley Feldman. They don’t reveal anything about parenting; they are a way to identify people who fit the authoritarian profile.
Humans who desire authoritarianism also seem to account for the rise of Donald Trump as well as the disintegration of the Republican Party.
This revelation comes from the Vox article: The Rise of American Authoritarianism. It is a long read. I won’t attempt to “book report” it, but it is an article that summarizes some enlightening empirical research. I will borrow from the article heavily.
The long and short of the research suggests Donald Trump is the symptomatology, not the disease affecting the body politic and the Republican Party in particular. The disease is a new Americanized version of authoritarianism. The social science research around authoritarianism dates back to just after World War II and continues today.
The essence of these discoveries is to forget gerrymandering, legislative logjam, the obscene sums of money in politics or any of the other causes so often recited by the punditocracy. According to the research, political polarization is due almost entirely to a surprisingly large, heretofore overlooked, electoral group – authoritarians.
Who are these authoritarians?
Authoritarians are thought to express much deeper fears than the rest of the electorate, to seek the imposition of order where they perceive dangerous change, and to desire a strong leader who will defeat those fears with force. They would thus seek a candidate who promised these things. And the extreme nature of authoritarians’ fears, and of their desire to challenge threats with force, would lead them toward a candidate whose temperament was totally unlike anything we usually see in American politics — and whose policies went far beyond the acceptable norms.
A candidate like Donald Trump.
Authoritarians prioritize social order and hierarchies, which bring a sense of control to a chaotic world. Challenges to that order — diversity, influx of outsiders, breakdown of the old order — are experienced as personally threatening because they risk upending the status quo order they equate with basic security. Threats coming from outside are met with much more ferocity than domestic enabled threats.
Authoritarians are not rare. The first thing that jumped out from the data on authoritarians is just how many there are. The results found that 44 percent of white respondents nationwide scored as “high” or “very high” authoritarians, with 19 percent as “very high.”
The key thing to understand is that authoritarianism is often latent; people in this 44 percent only vote or otherwise act as authoritarians once “triggered” by some perceived threat, physical or social. But that latency is part of how, over the past few decades, authoritarians have quietly become a powerful political constituency without anyone realizing it.
In other words, authoritarians are the Manchurian candidates of American politics. Authoritarians are “triggered” to act and vote in accordance with these tendencies. The trigger is fear of the loss of the status quo – whether it is from immigrants, terrorism, or social issues. If the issue impinges upon a sense of security, there is a concomitant desire for an authoritarian. It is the ultimate “Father complex.”
Since these authoritarians skew heavily toward Republicans, they have created another party within the Republican Party itself. In other words, it might be too late for the Republican Party to reform itself. Viewing the “Republican Establishment” through this lens means traditional establishment goals of tax cuts, entitlement cuts, regulatory abolishment, are a distant concern to eradicating threats. For instance, this is what authoritarians, particularly Trump supporters, want in terms of policy:
- Using military force over diplomacy against countries that threaten the United States (Obama bad, Bush/Cheney good).
- Changing the Constitution to bar citizenship for children of illegal immigrants (anchor babies bad).
- Imposing extra airport checks on passengers who appear to be of Middle Eastern descent in order to curb terrorism (stop Muslims at the gates).
- Requiring all citizens to carry a national ID card at all times to show to a police officer on request, to curb terrorism (papers please).
- Allowing the federal government to scan all phone calls for calls to any number linked to terrorism (Edward Snowden can continue to enjoy Russia).
The recurring theme is a sobering one for a constitutional democracy because each of these “asks” run contrary to any semblance of constitutional law with guaranteed minority protections.
One last thought: Outside of providing health care to 15 million poor people, a Supreme Court case allowing marriage equality, saving the economy from the Bush Great Recession, saving the auto industry, the fewest number of executive orders of any President this side of FDR, no appreciable change in gun control, and a robust use of military force against terrorists – how has the first black President challenged the status quo giving rise to this authoritarianism? Perhaps it was nothing more than his inherent blackness that challenged the status quo and triggered the complete breakdown of what we have suffered through for the past eight years.
If that is the case, you can bet a President with scary lady parts will incite similar reactions.
Take this conversation in any direction you might like.
62 Responses to "Daddy, Please!"
Comments are closed.