The Rise of Authoritarianism in America

Ideas and Issues

Authoritarianism3reBaton Rouge   You know when we’re in hard times, when a random neighbor stops in front of your house on a Sunday morning and over the din of your faithful Australian shepherd barking to protect your body and soul, asks if he can send you an article and see if you agree with its arguments. The piece turned out to be “The Rise of American Authoritarianism” by Amanda Taub in the on-line news-explainer, Vox. We already knew there were frightening surges in the body politic, but Taub puts some sharper points to it.

A group of political scientists specializing in this formerly fringe scholarship in watching contemporary developments in the United States has begun to connect the dots, and it’s disturbing. The found that…

The first thing that jumped out from the data on authoritarians is just how many there are. Our results found that 44 percent of white respondents nationwide scored as “high” or “very high” authoritarians, with 19 percent as “very high.” That’s actually not unusual, and lines up with previous national surveys that found that the authoritarian disposition is far from rare.

They also herd people with them. When they are afraid of terrorism for example, the convictions behind their fear are so compelling that they drive others into the herd who would normally resist such panic pedaling.

When it comes to policy and leaps over to consideration of Donald Trump, his impulses and candidacy, they found:

Authoritarians generally and Trump voters specifically, we found, were highly likely to support five policies:

1. Using military force over diplomacy against countries that threaten the United States

2. Changing the Constitution to bar citizenship for children of illegal immigrants

3. Imposing extra airport checks on passengers who appear to be of Middle Eastern descent in order to curb terrorism

4. Requiring all citizens to carry a national ID card at all times to show to a police officer on request, to curb terrorism

5. Allowing the federal government to scan all phone calls for calls to any number linked to terrorism

Similarly, the New York Times in the “Upshot” column noted the geographic variables behind Trump’s rise finding the following voters were wildly attracted to him:

· White, no high school diploma
· People who report on census documents that their ancestry is “American”
· People living in mobile homes
· People in “old” economy jobs
· People with a history of voting for segregationists.

We’re facing votes in another Super Tuesday in Ohio, Florida and others states and the outcome will tell us a lot about the next couple of months, but we also may be entering a period where it makes sense to take a closer look where the roots lie that are growing these gnarly trees.