The Widdershins

Daddy, Please!

Posted on: March 2, 2016

Good morning.  Please answer the following questions.  Give them some thought, they are serious questions.

  1. Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: independence or respect for elders?
  1. Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: obedience or self-reliance?
  1. Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: to be considerate or to be well-behaved?
  1. 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_Trump_support.0

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 AuthoritarianismIt 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.

Authoritarian_risk.002.0Who 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.”authoritarians_policy.001.0

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:

  1. Using military force over diplomacy against countries that threaten the United States (Obama bad, Bush/Cheney good).
  2. Changing the Constitution to bar citizenship for children of illegal immigrants (anchor babies bad).
  3. Imposing extra airport checks on passengers who appear to be of Middle Eastern descent in order to curb terrorism (stop Muslims at the gates).
  4. 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).
  5. Allowing the federal government to scan all phone calls for calls to any number linked to terrorism (Edward Snowden can continue to enjoy Russia).

authoritarians_policy.002.0The 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!"

Really excellent post, Prolix. A few years ago, I wrote about the authoritarian Conservative phenomenon, which was well-documented in “Conservatives Without Conscience”, by John Dean.

The studies quoted in that book concluded that conservatives make their decisions based on fear. Conservatives are more terrified of, well, everything, because they have enlarged amygdalas in their teeny tiny brains. (Okay, the science doesn’t support the “teeny tiny brain” thing. It just seems obvious.) As you mentioned, Prolix, a very large proportion of conservatives are Very High or High Authoritarians. QED, Der Trumperer and his success with all the most odious whackadoos in the Republican Big Tent. David Duke? Come on in – the bologna sandwiches on white bread are divine.

I think that conservatives/authoritarians also fear change, i.e., the change of a mostly white America to a rainbow-hued America. This is the cause of their hysterical overreaction to Barack Obama’s presence in the Oval Office, and their inability to get past their racism, sexism and homophobia. hey just want to know the rules and follow them, and all the changes that the world is going through scare the h*ll out of them. Obama, Hillary, same-sex marriage – those are all new! Why can’t the world just stay the same…or go back to the fake 50’s in their heads? Make America White, er, Great Again!!!

@1, I started following this line of research from the anatomical aspect. In my consulting career, I followed the MRI research on the effects of the amygdala in decision-making as it affected brand alignment and consumer decisions. We actually incorporated some of it into survey models on loyalty measures.

What I’m waiting for is an overlay of this authoritarian research on the medical causation of fight or flight. Progressives may very well be predestined to be more evolved on all matters of social issues. That really isn’t a stretch looking at where this race is.

That questionnaire bothers me if that’s really what they’re using for the authoritarian scale.

The problem is that the choices aren’t really opposites, depending how you define the words. Unless “respect for elders” = “slavish obedience to elders,” it’s not the opposite of independence.

Obedience vs self-reliance. Okay, that one is close to passing muster.

Considerate vs. well-behaved? Say what? Good behavior is based on consideration. The two are the opposite of opposites. Yes, I know what the question is supposed to be asking. “Do you prefer a fake goody-two-shoes or someone who cares about people?” But the terms aren’t defined. So somebody defining it as I do and not translating from the questionnaire-ese could wind up answering like an “authoritarian.” Is there any attempt to compensate for that in the study?

Curiosity vs good manners. Again, I know what they’re trying to ask. But the two attributes are not actually mutually exclusive. You don’t, for instance, have to be a short-fingered vulgarian to be curious.

So, anyway, I’m hoping that you (prolix) can expand a bit on the methodology of the study since, unlike me, you’ve actually read it. I’d heard about it before, and it makes perfect sense, but I didn’t realize it might rest on such shaky ground.

Ben Carson has left the race. Rumor down here is that he has been promised Marco’s senate seat.

@3, These are the four questions that most directly correlate with authoritarianism. In doing this type of research, hundreds of questions are tested. These four most closely correlate.

In doing the research, these weren’t the only questions when testing the overall thesis on authoritarianism. From the article:

We put together five sets of questions. The first set, of course, was the test for authoritarianism that Feldman had developed. This would allow us to measure how authoritarianism coincided or didn’t with our other sets of questions.

The second set asked standard election-season questions on preferred candidates and party affiliation.

The third set tested voters’ fears of a series of physical threats, ranging from ISIS and Russia to viruses and car accidents.

The fourth set tested policy preferences, in an attempt to see how authoritarianism might lead voters to support particular policies.

The final set of questions was intended to test fear of social change. We asked people to rate a series of social changes — both actual and hypothetical — on a scale of “very good” to “very bad” for the country.

If the research were right, then we’d expect people who scored highly on authoritarianism to express outsize fear of “outsider” threats such as ISIS or foreign governments versus other threats. We also expected that non-authoritarians who expressed high levels of fear would be more likely to support Trump. This would speak to physical fears as triggering a kind of authoritarian upsurge, which would in turn lead to Trump support.

In social science research, the scientists or at least the great ones, spend years testing hypotheses with variable questions to construct the most efficient questionnaires. When I say the most correlative, this is over great samples — if you walked into a bar and asked individuals the questions, it very well might not have the predictive validity that it has with greater samples. That is how these questions came about. Over years of testing and tens of thousands of administrations, statistically, they were determined to be the most valid indicators of authoritarianism.

For instance, I was personally involved in creating a workplace engagement survey tool. The iterations to reach the final tool spanned four decades through numerous scientists. Four decades to create twelve questions — the questions didn’t seem to relate at all to workplace engagement, i.e. I have a best friend at work, but those twelve questions were scientifically proven to predict engagement.

@4, Japanese scientists are ahead of us in studying this phenomenon. It is really amazing, but the Japanese scientists, on a regular basis, for this type of research will throw thousands of people into MRIs over years to draw correlations. I think it is fascinating.

@5, what is Marco going to do to feed his brood? Turn back to his life of crime and skulduggery?

@8: I guess there’s always this.

@5: Does Carson live n FL?

Prolix, thanks for that very thorough answer. I’m a bit boggled that they can spend so much time coming up with questions and — to my ear — they sound so misinterpretable. But I doubt very much I’m the target audience! The questions obviously do work, since they made a fairly clean sweep of identifying Drumpfers. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. And, man oh man, what a pudding this election is!

@11, Q, those questions would not catch any of us around here. It makes me feel better about never having ever considered being a Republican.

@10: He lives in West Palm Beach.

I understand where Quixote is coming from with her questions about the questions. 😉 but yes no one here at TW would not be caught by them as Prolix said.

@13: Oh aren’t y’all just so fortunate.

Lady Lindsey is saying to get the fainting couch and smelling salts ready because he thinks Cruz may be the only way to stop Trump.

The establishment loathes Cruz, but they may reconsider if faced with a binary choice between Trump and Cruz. “Cruz is not my favorite by any means … but we may be in a position where we have to rally around Cruz as the only way to stop Trump. I’m not so sure that would work,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on CBS. Asked if he would recommend rallying behind Cruz to stop Trump, Graham said yes. “I can’t believe I would say yes, but yes,” he said.

Did anyone happen to catch this little dialogue between Van Jones and Jeffrey Lord on CNN last night?

Quixote, I had the same thoughts about the questions, so don’t feel bad. I don’t really get the premise of the article. While I can certainly see some strains of authoritarianism running through the repub base (I’m thinking of Kentucky Kim for some reason), I always thought of authoritarianism as being more like Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron.” I know a lot of conservatives and if there is one thing above anything else that they would hate, it is being told what to do. I’m thinking of all of the repubs I know (family, friends, neighbors, work mates), and they all hate Bush Cheney, the Patriot Act and a bunch of the other stuff you’re talking about. Maybe they’re more like the Eisenhower republicans? I don’t know, I wish I had more time to delve into it, but must get some work done.

Oh, back to questions, I picked the “correct” questions fwiw, but what is really most important to me for my kid is that he is happy, and has character. He’s had a tough childhood, has a lifetime of pain to deal with and a supposedly shortened life span at that, so are the things that matter to me. Why do psych’s always want to fit everyone into a little box?

The tricky thing about social science is that it’s not very scientific. 😄 In other words, it deals with behavior and feelings and squishy factors like that.

I liken those questions Prolix presented to the MBTI personality questions. They aren’t really presenting the reader with opposing choices; they’re trying to capture a leaning towards one personality type or another, and discover where you are on that personality type’s scale.

Prolix, let me know if I helped or confused the matter. 😇

Hello Shinners 🙂 – Prolix, these questions were met by me with the same answer: “Well, it depends on…,” and then I gave up.

Came back from the brand new Hillary campaign office, what a nice welcome from Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Have to say the Big Tent is alive and well for Hillz. I saw every kind of human being there at it was wonderful. They are in a small area in the basement of the historic Cuban Club in Tampa (which is epic, considering the Cuban-Florida-Republican thing.)

I am holding up a Hillary sign in a green shirt to the left 🙂

SM, is that you in front of the guy wearing the red polo shirt?
(waves at SM!)

They guy with a red shirt and a navy blue collar? Yes, dats me 🙂 HI FREDSTER 🙂

Yay SM! How cool is that?

@18, that makes sense, but I think I like it better if there is a “not applicable” box so they don’t force you to pick one you aren’t sure about.

Hi Socalannie! It was really awesome to see the diversity and good mood int he crowd, we all like: FINALLY! Mostly phone banking and canvassing. And for the record, it was not a swanky operation, this was all grassroots, real deal, old-school and new-school joining together.

Here’s another point I thought of regarding the article. socalhubbie works for the 2nd largest school district in the country. They have tens of thousands of employees and a budget in the billions (bigger than many states). I have always considered them to be a liberal entity; they are strongly union, for liberal causes and liberal education and the libs vote to give them money and the conservs would like to see them get less $ and have less power. Anyway, they actually spy on their employees. Hubs has to carry a district cell phone with him WHEREVER he goes which tracks him 24/7. They give their employees a [crappy] laptop computer to send in their tons of daily reports and they actually spy on employees through the built in camera!!! Hubby has been in the headquarters and seen an office full of people watching an employee who is out working in the field, and often snickering or making fun of them instead of actually being at their own desk and getting their own work done and minding their own bloody business. Hubby rarely touches his laptop and like many others, put a strip of tape over the camera. This is the kind of bs I have always thought of as authoritarian.

yep, that’s the guy I meant


Looks like a very happy enthusiastic crowd there.

SM, that’s wonderful. I’ve only been in Tampa once, but we thought it was beautiful and the people were so nice. Our rental car broke down on the freeway, and we could not believe how many people pulled over to offer assistance. Some of them waited around with us for the tow truck and rental car company. And the people in the restaurants were so nice.

So annie, did hubbie ever get in trouble with taping over the camera on his laptop?

Ms. Socal, if you ever plan to come, please let me know! Tampa’s really come around after we were able to release her from the Republican stronghold and have Dems in big positions. Mayors Pam Iorio and Bob Buckhorn, as well as State Senator Arthenia Joyner and Rep Kathy Castor have helped the area come around 🙂

LOL!! Y’all have to go read this and see the tweets from the bernie folks attacking Elizabeth Warren and sayin she’s responsible for Bernie’s loss in the state. It’s just pitiful.

Prolix, great read here and the Vox link. It’s fascinating and frightening how many people are so gullible to fall for the Trumps of the world, while having no idea what it really is and why they are. The questions threw me too because they are so apple and orangey. (new word)

“Respect” for elders has always bothered me. You can teach a child the meaning of respect, but you can’t force anyone to respect someone who doesn’t deserve it. Respect is earned. I would certainly teach a child to behave and be polite to their elders.

The other thing is independence IS self-reliance. A considerate child would be, by default, well behaved and have good manners. But, being considerate goes far beyond that to empathy, even people you don’t know, and animals, all other living beings, nature, etc. I’ve never known a child who wasn’t curious. It would be a terrible life to have no curiosity.

The worse thing about the Trump phenom is there’s not much that can be done about it. These people are too far gone to ever come to their senses.

I love that picture in the Vox article with the sign “Thank You, Lord Jesus, for President Trump” and he’s squeezing the baby’s cheeks. I saw a photoshop of that with the sign changed to “Eat the Baby!!”

@16 fredster, that Van Jones/Jeffery Lord video was great. I clicked the video linked at the end and watched their follow up on CNN’s New Day, too. It was 20 minutes, but worth watching. I was alternately LMAO and screaming at Lord through the screen.

@33: GAgal, that was very intense to watch live. I was hoping someone would put it on youtube.

Fredster, once Elizabeth was their choice against Hillary as the “if I’m going to vote for a woman, it’ll be Elizabeth.” It’s disgusting. Now let’s see how the BernieBroSisters get a whiff of that freshly cooked sexism.

And now, the BernieBros are not just burning bridges with Elizabeth, they are claiming fraud because Big Dawg was visiting Jamaica Plains (an area that is predominantly AA, West Indian and Latinos) My home state is not all snow white Vermont on the eastern side from Merrimack Valley down to New Bedford.

SM: I really, truly, highly doubt that the BernieBros would have ever voted or supported any woman candidate.

@37: The mind boggles at what’s going on at the RNC HQ.

@28, no not yet! He could retire tomorrow if he wanted, and they don’t want to lose him, so I doubt if they’ll bother him over that. He’s thinking of retiring in the Fall, and mulling over other job opps in the private industry.

@29, I will!

@31, good points! I had a lot of the same thoughts.

Going to check out some links.

@1, MB, meant to say earlier that I have also noticed that conservatives seem to fear change, and I think that has a lot to do with the Trump phenom. He keeps saying that stupid “Im gonna make America great again!” I don’t even know what that means. Anyway, I think that happy people can roll with the changes in life.

@37, love the Onion!

@35, is it possible that berniebros are worse than the obamabots?

annie, sorry to leave you here solo, but I ate some soup earlier and it’s not agreeing with me. It was Progresso Chicken and Sausage gumbo and I might have eaten it too late in the evening. Anyway, I just took a zantac and I’m going to call it a night.

And about the berniebros? Yeah, I think they’re just as obnoxious.

Members of the “Republican national security community”… dump Trump

This debate is excruciating.

@45: That article is delightful.

The FBI has been busy rounding up some more Bundys. Remember that sniper guy on an overpass with his gun aimed at FBI agents? They got him, too.

Good heavens. Now Trump has been endorsed by the KKK and Putin, scolded by the Pope, and has campaign workers who have not only been taken into custoday by the FBI but also believe that Pope Francis is the antichrist? This is way too much fun for one week!

@49, this week has been crazy, that’s for sure! Both our mac & pc have been screwed up, so I missed a lot of it, but still can feel how tense and wild its been. I’m hoping the pc is ok now.

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend.

And Fredster, hope you’re feeling better.

@48, wow! That’s interesting. They took so long though, I’d forgotten about that guy.

Hey annie. It’s not that I’m feeling much better but I’ve found out what it is. Wasn’t any spicy soup. Tree pollen count here is sky high and that’s what’s making me feel icky and crappy. Even with the meds I’m just sneezing my head off and draining like crazy. Ug. 😦

Poor Fredster. We also get bad allergies during Spring and Fall. Where’s Prolix this week? I hope he’s not sick.

@53: Haven’t heard from him today.

So if the idea of living in the good ole U.S.A. under a President Trump is too much for you to bear, then Mashable has a list of five countries or territories with fairly easy immigration processes and policies.

Personally, I’m giving Svalbard a pass.

Me, too. Folks, life is OOC today – again,. I promise a post for tomorrow. Bear with me.

Well we now know about the “ties that bind” between Chris Christie and Trump.
Apologies to Robert Mapplethorpe.

me@57: Thinking about the post title, that pic could have really have been a case of “daddy please!”. 😆

Now, that’s the best laugh I’ve had in days. Thank you.

Christie sure does look like the sub there, doesn’t he? 😆

I’m going to put up a post shortly concerning some of the current events of the past few days. If you “follow” the blog you’ll get an email notice that a new post is up.

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