This is a must read for those with an interest in contemporary political affairs. Dean, a Goldwater Republican, is interested in authoritarianism within the conservative movement. He begins by looking for a definition of conservatism. This is no mean feat, as the definition is as variable as the people who supposedly ascribe to this ideology. In the preface, for example, (p xxxvii) he quotes Robert Vaughn, a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, who defines democracy and authoritarianism in terms of information policy. “Authoritarian governments are identified by ready government access to information about the activities of its citizens and by extensive limitations on the ability of citizens to obtain information about the government. In contrast, democratic governments are marked by significant restrictions on the ability of government to acquire information about its citizens and by ready access by citizens to information about the activities of government.
Dean looks at the research of several folks in the field and brings their work to this wider forum. What makes an authoritarian person. He looks at leaders and followers, their characteristics, their beliefs. He looks at the history of authoritarian conservatism in the USA, beginning with Alexander Hamilton. He looks at some examples in detail, J. Edgar Hoover, Spiro Agnew, Phyllis Schlafley, Paul Weyrich, Pat Robertson.
[Conservatives looking to American history for a historical tradition to their beliefs faced a considerable challenge:] given the liberal tradition of this country, and in fact, nothing in America’s founding, or the creation of the United States, was of a conservative nature.
One [conservative:] scholar suggested conservatives should claim that, in fact, the Declaration’s egalitarian ethos had not been carried over to the Constitution; rather that the Declaration was just that, a declaration and not a governing document…it was ultimately decided to “stress the compatibility” of both the Declaration and the Constitution with conservative views, although that compatibility was created by brazenly reinterpreting the founding events and documents. Accordingly, for conservatives the clause “all men are created equal” would be construed to apply merely to equality under the law and not to “some misty ‘pursuit of happiness’ [as:] the true foundation of our polity” and certainly not to the brand of egalitarianism favored by liberals. Most conservatives, in fact, oppose equality, and there is ultimately no clearer underlying distinction between conservatives and liberals that their views on this issue….in a variety of ways, conservatives sought to drain the Declaration of its explosive [liberal:] rhetorical potential.
[quoting researcher Bob Altemeyer, re authoritarianism. He developed a scale called the RWA or right-wing authoritarian scale to measure the tendency:]
When I started out, and ever since, I was not looking for political conservatives. I was looking for people who overtly submit to the established authorities in their lives, who could be of nay political/economic./religious stripe. So in the Soviet union, whose Communist government we would call extremely “left-wing,” I expected right-wing authoritarians to support Communism because that was what the established authorities demanded, and they did. SO when I use “right-wing” in right-wing authoritarianism, I do not mean the submission necessarily goes to a politically “right-wing” leader or government, but that it goes to established authorities in one’s life. I am proposing a psychological (not political) meaning of right-wing, in the sense that the submission goes to the psychologically accepted “proper,” “legitimate” authority.
Now it turns out that in North America persons who score highly on my measure of authoritarianism test tend to favor right-wing political parties and have a “conservative” economic policies and religious sentiments…Authoritarianism was conceptualized to involve submission to established authorities, who could be anyone. But it turns out that people who have “conservative” leanings tend to be more authoritarian than anyone else.”
Altemeyer learned that there are two kinds of authoritarian personalities, followers and leaders. He found identifying qualities for each:
P 53 [followers:]
Submissive to Authority – By “submissive,” Altemeyer means these people accept almost without question the statements and actions of established authorities, and they comply with such instructions without further ado. “authorities” include parents (throughout childhood), religious officials, government officials (police, judges, legislators, heads of government) military superiors and, depending on the situation, other people like bus drivers, lifeguards, employers, psychology experimenters and countless others. High-scoring right-wing authoritarians are intolerant of criticism of their authorities because they believe the authority is unassailably correct. Rather than feeling vulnerable in the presence of powerful authorities, they feel safer…but their submission is shaped by whether a particular authority is compatible with their views.
Aggressive Support of Authority is a “predisposition to cause harm to” others when such behavior is believed to be sanctioned by authority. Authoritarians are inclined toe control the behavior of others, particularly children and criminals, through punishment. They have little tolerance for leniency by courts in “coddling” criminals. Targets of right-wing authoritarian aggression are typically people perceived as being unconventional, like homosexuals. Research finds that authoritarian aggression is fueled by fear and encouraged by remarkable self-righteousness, which frees aggressive impulses.
Conventionality – they tend to be fundamentalist…religion influences their attitudes – believe themselves the country’s true patriots – travel in tight circle of like-minded people – thinking is based on what authorities have told them rather than on their own judgments – harbor numerous double-standards and hypocrisies – hostile toward minorities, while unaware of their prejudices – see the world as a dangerous place – appoint themselves guardians of public morality – think of themselves as more upstanding and moral than others.
Social Dominance Orientation and “Double Highs”: the Leaders
These are people who seize every opportunity to lead, and who enjoy having power over others. Felicia Prato and Jim Sidanius developed social dominance theory and a social dominance orientation scale. Double-Highs are people who scores high on ALtemeyer’s test and on the SDO.
P 68 – characteristics of social dominators
Oppose equality – desire personal power – amoral – intimidating or bullying – faintly hedonistic – vengelful – pitiless – exploitive – manipulative – dishonest – cheats to win – highly prejudiced – mean-spirited – militant – nationalistic – tells others what they want to hear – takes advantage of “suckers” - specializes in creating false images to sell self – may or may not be religious – usually politically and economically conservative./Republican
P 110 –
A partisan judiciary does not deliver justice, and conservative Republicans are again acting as authoritarians in packing the federal courts.
Are we [b:on the road|6288|The Road|Cormac McCarthy|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/21E8H3D1JSL._SL75_.jpg|3355573] to fascism? Clearly we are not on that road yet. But it would not take much more misguided authoritarian leadership, or thoughtless following of such leaders, to find ourselves there.
What has driven this book is the realization that our government has become largely authoritarian. It is run by an array or authoritarian personalities, leaders who display all those traits I have listed—dominating, opposed to equality, desirous of personal power, amoral, intimidating, and bullying; some are hedonistic, most are vengeful, pitiless, exploitive, manipulative, dishonest, cheaters, prejudiced, mean-spirited, militant, nationalistic, and two-faced. Because of our system of government, these dominators are still confronted with any number of obstacles, fortunately. Yet authoritarians seek to remove those complications wherever they can. They are able to do so because the growth of contemporary conservatism has generated countless millions of authoritarian followers, people who will not question such actions.