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Neo-fascism

2016-06-04

 

From yesterday:

The results of this travesty of democracy have been a complete loss of confidence for the American people in the political system.  Lacking confidence that the system will support them, they vote for the candidates who promise to “Make America Great Again.”  They don’t care about democracy and the protection of human rights as much as they care about government that works.

To continue:

What part of government does the destabilized American still trust?  Social Security and Medicare.  The average American in his or her sixties takes Social Security as an earned right, not a favor; a part of one’s life savings built up over years of working and paying taxes.

 

A new factor brought into the analysis: a long post in VOX [a political website? orientation uncertain]

 

Feldman developed what has since become widely accepted as the definitive measurement of authoritarianism: four simple questions that appear to ask about parenting but are in fact designed to reveal how highly the respondent values hierarchy, order, and conformity over other values.

  1. Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: independence or respect for elders?
  2. Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: obedience or self-reliance?
  3. Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: to be considerate or to be well-behaved?
  4. Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: curiosity or good manners?

Feldman’s test proved to be very reliable. There was now a way to identify people who fit the authoritarian profile, by prizing order and conformity, for example, and desiring the imposition of those values.

The first was Hetherington and Weiler’s insight into partisan polarization. In the 1960s, the Republican Party had reinvented itself as the party of law, order, and traditional values…

The second [insight] was Stenner’s theory of “activation.” In an influential 2005 book called The Authoritarian Dynamic, Stenner argued that many authoritarians might be latent — that they might not necessarily support authoritarian leaders or policies until their authoritarianism had been “activated.”…

The third insight came from Hetherington and American University professor Elizabeth Suhay, who found that when non-authoritarians feel sufficiently scared, they also start to behave, politically, like authoritarians.

The VOX article points out that, with the survey questions quoted, it is possible to reliably measure the number of people with “authoritarian” attitudes without having the measurement contaminated by political issues because the questions are frankly nonpolitical.

The article points out three insights that explain, in part, the rise of Republican ideologies recently.  The first is the Republican painting itself as being on the side of law and order in the late 1960’s, the police union, traditional moral values, and the status quo in general (while in fact they are not in favor of laws that restrict them from plundering and defrauding ordinary citizens, or moral values that include charity and benevolence.)

The second insight involves the activation, over the last twenty years, of a number of people with authoritarian personality types that have been latent up until now.  Activation occurs when a latent authoritarian feels threatened by social changes.  The third insight is closely related to the second: people with non-authoritarian basic personalities, when they are sufficiently frightened, act out in authoritarian ways.  There is a distinction between physical threats, such as terror attacks, and psychological threats, such as social changes.  The non-authoritarian types are not changed by psychological threats, but they become authoritarian in practice when they are sufficiently frightened by physical threats.

The authors used the questions above as part of a survey study shortly after Trump was in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary and scored a victory.  The results were shocking, but not surprising.  Fully 44 percent of the nationwide white respondents came out as “authoritarian” or very  much so, and 19 percent were highly authoritarian.  These findings lined up well with those of other studies of authoritarian tendencies.  More than 65 percent of those who scored high or very high as authoritarians were signed on as Republicans; more than 55 percent of Republicans scored high or very high in authoritarian thinking.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, almost 75 percent of those who scored as most non-authoritarian were Democrats.

It hasn’t always been that way.  In the 1960’s, the Republican Party made a shift in policy to attract disaffected Democrats who opposed the civil rights bills pushed by President Johnson (who was committed to follow President Kennedy’s path.)  Republican party officials positioned themselves as pro-law and order and against social change, that is, against integration.  The Republicans backed those who opposed the changes demanded by African-Americans for social justice and placed themselves as in favor of “law and order” against the disruptions promised by “uppity niggers.”  The Democrats became associated with social change, disruption of the established order, and elevation of African-Americans to positions of responsibility.  This distinction between the two parties did not begin until after Eisenhower’s presidency; the fight between Kennedy and Nixon marked the onset of this right/left demarcation and the Johnson/Goldwater fight in 1964 made the line between left and right clear.

The work of Johnson to pass Kennedy’s civil rights bill and to inaugurate “the Great Society” threatened some poor whites as well as Ku Klux Klan supporters and incited a fierce rear guard reaction.

During the early 1960’s, radical changes were taking place, partly due to the US government’s efforts.  First, NASA was working to send a man to the moon.  Second, the Army, Navy, and Air Force were committed to overpowering the Viet Cong and the “North Vietnamese” after the French military had been beaten by the same Vietnamese patriotic force.  NASA was successful; the American military was not.

Johnson gave up the fight against Vietnam in March 1968 as a result of great personal distress from the losses; at almost the same time, McNamara quit the fight when he saw a protester setting himself on fire in front of the Pentagon.  After this realization by American leaders, the secret strategy of the US was simply to get out of Vietnam as quietly as possible.  Nixon’s bombing of North Vietnam was purely a cover to force the North into a truce during the American withdrawal.

The election between Nixon and Humphrey was decided at the Democratic Convention; the demonstrations were a partial factor in this debacle.  The Democratic Party was in a shambles after the convention, making it relatively easy for Nixon to beat Humphrey in the general election.  Ever since Nixon consolidated his control of the Republican Party, it has been one dirty trick after another, beginning with the identification of the Republican Party with the status quo and traditional morality as well as fiscal prudence, reduced taxes and reduced spending.  Whether any of those identifications were true or not was a matter of debate.

Democratic presidents have in fact been associated with greater economic growth and prosperity than Republican presidents, and only one presidency is associated with a reduction to zero of our yearly deficit: Clinton.  Republican presidents have tended to reduce taxes on wealthy people and increase the yearly deficit, while Democratic presidents have reduced the yearly deficit, including President Obama, who has reduced the deficit every year from over a trillion dollars to less than five hundred million dollars.

The greater and greater infusion of money into elections has reduced voter’s perception of their influence on who is voted into office and led to a more authoritarian mindset.  This is the basic influence that has created the popularity of Trump and Trumpism.  There is an acute danger that Trump will be elected president on the basis of American’s feeling that they have lost control over their elected representatives.

 

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