Authoritarianism. The word itself sounds scary. The dictionary describes it as “the enforcement or advocacy of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom.” Of course, authoritarians don’t use that word to describe themselves. They instead talk about things like “safety” and “defending the homeland.” They talk like…Donald Trump.
Trump is the most authoritarian candidate in recent times, perhaps in history, to be put forward as the nominee of a major American political party. Republican voters and right-leaning independents are eating up his promises to “make America great again” by using any means necessary to defeat our enemies, in both the military and economic arenas. Pundits scoffed for months, saying that Trump would never be the GOP nominee. But primary voters were wooed by his message, and here we are.
Vox has produced a new video that explains why Republican voters love the orange-tinted real estate mogul. But it also explains something else that should have Republican party elders trembling in their boots: the GOP may be doomed to a series of presidential candidates cut directly from the Trump mold.
Richard Nixon’s former lawyer, John W. Dean, brought up the subject of the “authoritarian personality” some ten years ago, in his book, Conservatives Without Conscience. Here is what New York Times book reviewer Nick Gillespie wrote about that book in 2006.
The book draws heavily on the work of the social psychologist Bob Altemeyer, the creator of a scale for measuring ‘right-wing authoritarian’ (R.W.A.) tendencies. Dean writes that Altemeyer is ‘not given to hyperbole in his scholarly work,’ yet quotes him as saying that many ‘High R.W.A.’s’ would ‘attack France, Massachusetts or the moon if the president said it was necessary for freedom.’ Altemeyer says it’s ‘a scientifically established fact’ that political, religious and economic conservatives are High R.W.A.’s, and Dean concludes that our government ‘is run by an array of authoritarian personalities” who are ‘dominating, opposed to equality, desirous of personal power, amoral, intimidating . . . vengeful, pitiless, exploitive, manipulative, dishonest, cheaters, prejudiced, meanspirited, militant, nationalistic and two-faced.’ The estimated 20 to 25 percent of High R.W.A.’s among us, he warns, ‘will take American democracy where no freedom-loving person would want it to go.’
Ten years later, Altemeyer and Dean’s predictions are coming true. The average Republican voter is now someone who is looking for a strongman, a person whom he or she believes will “make America great again” and put an end to things like terrorist attacks and Chinese domination of consumer markets.
Vox takes the same ideas advanced by Dean and looks at them in the context of Donald Trump. What they found should concern every American who truly loves liberty, and not the type of “liberty” defined by people like Trump and many Republicans.
Reporter Amanda Taub says, “The 2016 Republican presidential nominee disregards the norms of adult behavior. He disregards the norms of American democracy as we know it.” She explains that as the GOP has shifted its political focus over the years, those with authoritarian personalities, who had been pretty evenly split across the political spectrum, have gravitated to it. This has been instrumental in the rise of Trump. But what’s even scarier, is that the research presented in this video suggests that Trump is going to be just the first of a string of Republican candidates who will be just like him.
If this scares the hell out of you, it should. We all need to do something about this now, while we still can, and that thing is VOTE.
Here’s the video, via Vox:
Featured image via Vox screen capture