Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What's So Appealing About Donald Trump?

A political scientist polled 1,800 registered voters across the country during the last week of December. In addition to "the typical battery of demographic, horse race, thermometer-scale and policy questions," the 1,800 were also asked these four questions which are rarely included in political polling:
1. Is it more important to have a child who is (a) respectful or (b) independent?
2. Is it more important to have a child who is (a) obedient or (b) self-reliant? 
3. Is it more important to have a child who is (a) well-behaved or (b) considerate?
4. Is it more important to have a child who is (a) well-mannered or (b) curious?
Trump supporters overwhelmingly answered "a" to all four questions.

The researcher found no other consistent, single "statistically significant variable" that identified Trump supporters -- not education, income, gender, age, ideology, or religiosity. No, what united them were the "a" answers to the four questions above ... an indication of authoritarianism.

Time out for a dictionary definition:
authoritarian: of, relating to, or favoring blind submission to authority; of, relating to, or favoring a concentration of power in a leader or an elite not constitutionally responsible to the people (Merriam-Webster)
Since World War II, the opinions and behavior of authoritarians have been exhaustively studied by social scientists. As Matthew MacWilliams writes, "Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened. From pledging to 'make America great again' by building a wall on the border to promising to close mosques and ban Muslims from visiting the United States, Trump is playing directly to authoritarian inclinations."

The jokes that Trump acts like a strutting "Trumpolini" ... those aren't jokes. Those are warnings.
So, those who say a Trump presidency “can’t happen here” should check their conventional wisdom at the door. The candidate has confounded conventional expectations this primary season because those expectations are based on an oversimplified caricature of the electorate in general and his supporters in particular. Conditions are ripe for an authoritarian leader to emerge. Trump is seizing the opportunity. And the institutions—from the Republican Party to the press—that are supposed to guard against what James Madison called “the infection of violent passions” among the people have either been cowed by Trump’s bluster or are asleep on the job. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's important to remember that Trump, like the Koch brothers and Art Pope, inherited a great deal of wealth and have spent their lives not having to listen to anyone tell them "no". They have lackies who they hire to shield them from criticism and the outside world. Over time, they become blind to anything but their own little world view. From an early age, they've been taught that there are two kinds of people in this world - those who screw and those who get screwed.

The Republican party has been cultivating authoritarian voters for decades - people who think they're at the mercy of "the government", a vengeful "God", or "others" that are pushing them around. They're looking for a strong "daddy" figure to protect them from threats.

Usually, these people don't vote or take little interest in politics, unless they're motivated by intense fear. Just listen to rural voters or those in Appalachia - they have a world view that they can change little or nothing about their lives - they say "that's just the way it is".

That's the danger of a Trump candidacy. While he might be rejected by the larger electorate as a crackpot, he might just motivate enough of these fear-oriented occasional voters to turn out on election day to put him over the top.