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Friday, January 22, 2016

"Authoritarianism" Trumps Other Factors

We hear a lot lately about the threats that Donald Trump poses to this country.  We hear about his racism, his attempts to be tough acting like a Putin, his outrageous attacks against Muslim refugees, his narcissism and his bluster about negotiating with other nations (all of which his latest endorser, Sarah Palin, supports!).  On the other hand, we hear from those who don’t share his views to any degree that if he is elected, they plan to move to Canada.

I totally empathize with their concerns and fears, but I have to say that Donald Trump’s views and bluster are not necessarily the only concern about which one must be energized or exercised.  Personally, I am very worried about the people who are supporting him and especially those who have come to support him from a position of uncertainty or fear.  Who are they?  How are they being pulled-in? 

First, it appears that some of his supporters are those who are basically associated with the original Tea Party.  This group began as an antidote to those Republicans in Congress who were advocating their conservatism, but not following through in terms of their votes or their legislation. Abandonment of ideological purity on the part of these neo-conservatives came forth especially during budget negotiations and in cases where legislation prevailed that favored progressive values.  

The Tea Party emerged around 2009 generally opposing excessive taxation and government intervention in the private sector while supporting stronger immigration controls. Encyclopedia Britannica tells the story of their ascendancy within the Republican Party and here are some of the highlights that remind us of their questionable positions: 

  • The catalyst for what would become known as the Tea Party movement came on February 19, 2009, when Rick Santelli, a commentator on the business-news network CNBC, referenced the Boston Tea Party (1773) in his response to Pres. Barack Obama’s mortgage relief plan. Speaking from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Santelli heatedly stated that the bailout would “subsidize the losers’ mortgages” and proposed a Chicago Tea Party to protest government intervention in the housing market. The five-minute clip became an Internet sensation
  • Spurred on by conservative pundits, particularly by Fox News Channel’s Glenn Beck, the generally libertarian character of the movement drew disaffected Republicans to the Tea Party banner, and its anti-government tone resonated with members of the paramilitary militia  movement. Tea Party ranks were swelled by “Birthers,” by those who considered Obama a socialist and a ‘secret’ Muslim.
  • The Tea Party’s first major action was a nationwide series of rallies on tax-filing day April 15, 2009, that drew more than 250,000 people proclaiming that “Tea” was an acronym for “Taxed Enough Already.” The movement gathered strength throughout the summer of 2009, with its members appearing at congressional town hall meetings to protest the proposed reforms to the American health care system, particularly the proposed “public option.”
  • Sarah Palin resigned as governor of Alaska in July 2009 and became an unofficial spokesperson on Tea Party issues, and in February 2010 she delivered the keynote address at the first National Tea Party Convention. Glenn Beck of Fox News helped draw tens of thousands of protesters to the U.S. Capitol on September 12, 2009.  Freedom Works, a supply-side economics advocacy group headed by former Republican House majority leader Dick Armey, provided logistical support for large Tea Party gatherings
  • January 2010, in the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy, dark-horse and Tea Party affiliate Scott Brown defeated Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley in a race that shifted the balance in the Senate, depriving the Democrats of the 60-vote filibuster-proof majority they had held since July 2009
  • The November 2010 midterm elections saw the Republicans gain approximately 60 seats to take control of the House and reduce the Democratic majority in the Senate. Many observers credited this performance to the interest and enthusiasm generated by the Tea Party and their insistence that Obama (and “Obamacare”) was to blame for a poor economy, higher taxes, small business failures plus domestic and foreign incompetency.
  • Although Tea Party candidate Ted Cruz coasted to an easy victory in his race for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas, that result was far from typical for both the Tea Party and the Republicans in the November 2012 elections.  Several first-term Tea Party representatives were turned out in their reelection bids.  In Massachusetts, Sen. Scott Brown, was defeated by Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren. Republicans ultimately ceded small but significant gains to the Democrats in both houses of Congress
  • In May 2013 the IRS revealed that it had unfairly targeted for additional scrutiny conservative groups that had applied for tax-exempt status as 501(c)(4) nonprofit social welfare organizations. The so-called scandal served to reinvigorate a movement that had struggled to regain its footing in the wake of the 2012 elections
  • Later in 2013, Tea Party members in the House and the Senate demonstrated their influence when they used the threat of a government shutdown as a bargaining tool in their ongoing campaign against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  
  • Those parts of the government deemed nonessential were shut down on October 1, the start of the fiscal year, and some 800,000 federal workers were furloughed. Business leaders, traditionally strong supporters of the Republican Party, vocally criticized the Tea Party and the tactics that led to the shutdown
  • Seen as the group most responsible for the government shutdown and facing increasingly vocal and robust challenges from pro-business lobbies, Tea Party candidates suffered losses in a string of 2014 primary contests. Across the country, establishment Republicans, many of whom had tacked right to embrace elements of the Tea Party platform won nominations.  The narrative of a resurgent Republican establishment took hold in the media.
  • That narrative suffered a stunning blow on June 10, however, when Republican House majority leader Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia was soundly defeated by a dark horse Tea Party candidate in the Republican primary election—a vote that was widely seen as a rejection of the incumbent’s support for immigration reform.
  • In the 2014 off-year national elections, the Tea Party’s resurgence helped Republicans win majority control of both House and Senate. 
  • 2015 saw the emergence of Republican presidential candidates who had substantial Tea Party backing, including Cruz, Rubio, Huckabee, and continuing front-runner, Donald Trump, who was endorsed on January 19, 2016 by former Tea Party spokesperson, Sarah Palin.
(For further details on Tea Party history, see

It is very difficult to know how many supporters of Donald Trump are also Tea Party supporters, but one thing is clear:  they would come not only from the ranks of registered Republicans, but from Independents and even from some conservative Democrats.  One estimate is that 32% are from the Tea Party movement.  This analysis from arbiter news gives us some more interesting demographic information to keep in mind.

42% of Trump supporters are female (MSNBC poll)
58% male (MSNBC poll)

2% are under 30 (Real Clear Politics, YouGov)
14% are between the ages of 30 and 44 (Real Clear Politics, YouGov)
About 50% are between the ages of 45 and 64 (Real Clear Politics, YouGov)
34% are 65 and over (Real Clear Politics, YouGov)

91% White (MSNBC poll)

33% earn under $50K (MSNBC poll)
72% earn under $100K (MSNBC poll)
28% earn over $100K (MSNBC poll) / 11% earn over $100K (Real Clear Politics, YouGov)

43% have a high school degree or less (MSNBC poll)
19% have a college or postgraduate degree (Real Clear Politics, YouGov)

65% describe themselves as “conservative” (Real Clear Politics, YouGov)
20% describe themselves as “liberal” or “moderate” (Real Clear Politics, YouGov)
13% describe themselves as “very conservative” (Real Clear Politics, YouGov)
32% indicate involvement with the Tea Party movement (Public Policy Polling)
82% support Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims, compared to 54% of Republicans (Public Policy Polling)
66% believe President Obama is a Muslim (Public Policy Polling)
61% think President Obama was not born in the US (Public Policy Polling)
41% are in favor of bombing Agrabah, the fictional country from Aladdin (Public Policy Polling) (which may well have something to do with the 43% with high school or less education)

No one analysis is extensive enough or deep enough to be entirely accurate, but because this particular analysis takes information from several sources, I have chosen it simply to give us some idea of from where Trump support emanates.  Having established that, I want to leave it for your consideration, keeping it in mind as we move ahead to emphasize one more important point that has been made by a doctoral student’s thesis: that all of these demographics need to be tempered by one factor that seems determinant about Trump’s supporters. Here’s a compendium of that story as it appears on 

“A survey conducted by (the author) suggests that there’s one strange determining factor that makes a Donald Trump supporter, and it has nothing to do with race, religion, age, gender, education, or income. A Donald Trump supporter tends to be someone  with authoritarian leanings.”

Matthew MacWilliams  sampled 1,800 voters from across the entire political spectrum and ran a “statistical analysis” of the poll answers. He found that it didn’t really matter what age, race, religion, etc. the voter was, they tended to support Donald Trump if they agreed with authoritarian values. Donald Trump supporters also had a strong fear of terrorism, according to the survey, but that was greatly overshadowed by their authoritarian inclinations.”
Just what does authoritarian mean? While MacWilliams mentions that authoritarianism has been “widely studied” as a result of the authoritarian leadership in the Nazi party, this does not mean that Donald Trump should be fairly compared to Adolf Hitler. 

Authoritarian leanings are defined by in the following way.
            “A personality pattern reflecting a desire for security, order, power, and status, with a desire for structured lines of authority, a conventional set of values or outlook, a demand for unquestioning obedience, and a tendency to be hostile toward or use as scapegoats individuals of minority or nontraditional groups.”

I don’t usually quote another author extensively, but, because I think this particular author has a major valid point that corresponds to thoughts I have previously posted, I have taken the liberty of doing so.  So, let us conclude with a more detailed analysis of this “authoritarian inclination” according to MacWilliams’ thesis and his article on at:

[THE AUTHOR, Matthew MacWilliams is founder of MacWilliams Sanders, a political communications firms, and a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he is writing his dissertation about authoritarianism (all emphases are mine)]:

Trump’s electoral strength—and his staying power—have been buoyed, above all, by Americans with authoritarian inclinations. And because of the prevalence of authoritarians in the American 
electorate, among Democrats as well as Republicans, it’s very possible that Trump’s fan base will continue to grow.

“Authoritarianism is not a new, untested concept in the American electorate. While its causes are still debated, the political behavior of authoritarians is not. 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.”

“Not all authoritarians are Republicans by any means; in national surveys since 1992, many authoritarians have also self-identified as independents and Democrats. Based on 14 years of polling, (it has been found) that authoritarians have steadily moved from the Democratic to the Republican Party over time.  The trend began decades ago, as Democrats embraced civil rights, gay rights, employment protections and other political positions valuing freedom and equality. In my poll results, 49 percent of likely Republican primary voters score in the top quarter of the authoritarian scale—more than twice as many as Democratic voters.”

“Trump was the only candidate—Republican or Democrat—whose support among authoritarians was statistically significant.  And in a general election, Trump’s strongman rhetoric will surely appeal to some of the 39 percent of independents in my poll who identify as authoritarians and the 17 percent of self-identified Democrats who are strong authoritarians.

“What’s more, the number of Americans worried about the threat of terrorism is growing… published research finding that non-authoritarians respond to the perception of threat by behaving more like authoritarians… (which means that) more voters are susceptible to Trump’s message about protecting Americans. In my survey, 52 percent of those voters expressing the most fear that another terrorist attack will occur in the United States in the next 12 months were non-authoritarians—ripe targets for Trump’s message.

“So what does this mean for the election? In a statistical analysis of the polling results, I found that Trump has already captured 43 percent of Republican primary voters who are strong authoritarians, and 37 percent of Republican authoritarians overall.  Take activated authoritarians from across the partisan spectrum and the growing cadre of threatened non-authoritarians, then add them to the base of Republican general election voters, and the potential electoral path to a Trump presidency becomes clearer.

“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.

“It is time for those who would appeal to our better angels to take his insurgency seriously and stop dismissing his supporters as a small band of the dispossessed. Trump support is firmly rooted in American authoritarianism and, once awakened, it is a force to be reckoned with.”

As I have indicated in previous posts on this Blog, the tactics being employed by the Far Right Wing of the Republican Party are not to be ignored; they are the tactics that put fascists (or “authoritarians,” if you prefer that term) into complete control of Germany in the mid-20th century.  And, here’s the main point of today’s posting:  it was not just the strategy and tactics of Hitler himself, or those of his cadre of ‘brown shirts,’ that brought him to power.  It was the fertile ground of authoritarianism in the people (or susceptibility to strong-man characteristics) plus the power of fear that led to the Third Reich and the leadership of a Fuhrer. 

If Trump continues to attract this authoritarian strain from all political parties and from independents, he could become the new authoritarian leader (Fuhrer) of this country and, by extension, a leader who could produce dire consequences for the rest of the world.  It is those “dire consequences” -- in all matters domestic and foreign-- that we must avoid. 

In 2016, we MUST:

VOTE AGAINST authoritarianism (Trump is not the only purveyor!)
DEFEAT Republicans at local, state and national levels
ELECT a Democrat to the Presidency (who will appoint progressives to the Supreme Court)
TAKE BACK the Senate