Is authoritarianism America’s juggernaut political movement?
This article got me going: The One Weird Trait That Predicts Whether You’re a Trump Supporter, published in Politico by Matthew MacWilliams, a seasoned political analyzer and currently a PhD student. The piece attributes Trumps rise in the US to authoritarianism, rather than parameters such as ‘gender, age, income, race or religion’.
Authoritarianism is not defined in the story. Genres often defy strict definition when put under a research microscope, but the traits of those with this tendency are illustrated, such as:
Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened.
And they’re not partisan to one party, he adds. They can be found in Democratic groups as well as the Republican household, though as MacWilliams states they’re not a significant stat in the Democrats.
Intriguingly, political scientist Marc Hetherington, the article reports deduced from his own data that authoritarians moved from the Democrats to Republicans decades ago as Democrats embraced freedom and equality rights.
Democrats crossing the floor to become republicans? Some evidence to that can be gleaned from history and the shape-shifting of values. Remember James Strom Thurmond, a democrat turned republican. In 1948, he wanted to become a presidential candidate for the Dixiecrats ( a breakaway Democrat party) which supported racial segregation and Jim Crow laws.
No empirically well-researched data, significant enough to reflect national trends, should be eschewed, so MacWilliams’ piece invites reading and to be taken seriously. If it cracks open a discourse comparable to Drew Western’s The Political Brain and how politicians, particularly Republicans have become adept at zoning in on voters’ emotions to win election, it’ll make for a riveting read when fully published.
Yet the article, for what it points to in Phd studies as a new contribution to knowledge, posed immediate questions, which are unanswered. It could be the result of its relative brevity compared to a PhD thesis.
MacWilliams data (not published) shows that you’re strongly authoritarianism if as a voter you see it important to have a child who is respectful or independent, rather than obedient or self-reliant, well-behaved or considerate or well-mannered or curious.
This may strike parents who see discipline as key to rearing their children to be conscientious citizens as odd. The common sense inference (not always valid in research) is you’re likely to be an authoritarianism if you believe in such values. This is not a stretch for the imagination.
Perhaps, it’s the word, ‘authoritarianism’ that requires further delineating as well as the parameters used to shape this deduction. Fear as a component of politicking is mentioned in the article and is a well-known variable within the canon of political science with the work of Edward Bernays and various US presidencies e.g. Truman
Across the globe, reverberations are being felt by established political parties to the outsider phenomenon e.g. Greece, Canada, Spain and the UK Labour party electing Jeremy Corbyn. At face value it appears to be the electorate tiring of Chomsky’s framing of practiced democracy explained in Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda — You elect us and we control you. If anything it seems anti-authoritarianism. But that’s why academics conduct research. I’m looking forward to reading this thesis.