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Donald Trump and American Authoritarianism

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  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Joss Fong, Amanda Taub, Vox, The Rise of American Authoritarianism (video)

    A few years ago, long before Donald Trump came on the scene, I wrote about authoritarians on this website referencing Bob Altemeyer's 2006 online book, The Authoritarians. Now Joss Fong and Amanda Taub have put together a short video that shows the rise of Donald Trump's popularity in relation to authoritarianism. Except for the one paragraph below, I won't regurgitate Altemeyer's findings here, although his work has been cited by numerous psychologists and social scientists.

    I did find the Vox video very informative. What is important when understanding authoritarians like Trump is that there is a much larger segment of the population that identifies with authoritarians. Altemeyer calls them "authoritarian followers".

    "In North America people who submit to the established authorities to extraordinary degrees often turn out to be political conservatives, so you can call them “right-wingers” both in my new-fangled psychological sense and in the usual political sense as well...So a right-wing authoritarian follower doesn’t necessarily have conservative political views. Instead he’s someone who readily submits to the established authorities in society, attacks others in their name, and is highly conventional. It’s an aspect of his personality, not a description of his politics. Rightwing authoritarianism is a personality trait, like being characteristically bashful or happy or grumpy or dopey."

    Both the Vox video and Altemeyer's 2006 book go a long way to explain the Trump phenomena. This is why some of us have such a difficult time understanding them, let alone changing their minds. Their brains are wired differently, partially as a result of their DNA and partially their environment.

    If you want to undertstand more about authoritarians in general, I highly recommend Altemyer's book, which can be read online for free.