Friday, April 06, 2018

Russiagate About Petered Out, Authoritarianism Now The Indictment Du Jour...,


NYTimes |  In an email, Stenner provided figures from a recent EuroPulse survey showing that authoritarianism is stronger in the United States than it is in the European Union: In the E.U., 33 percent of the electorate can be described as authoritarian, while in the United States, it’s 45 percent.
The animosity between authoritarians and non-authoritarians has helped establish what Johnston, Lavine and Federico describe as the “expressive dimension” of policy choices:
In this view, the influence of personality on economic opinion arises not because the expected outcomes of a policy match an individual’s traits, but because those traits resonate with the social meaning a policy has acquired.
They explain further:
Citizens care less about the outcomes a policy produces and more about the groups and symbols with which a policy is associated.
Mason enlarged on this argument in her 2015 paper, “‘I Disrespectfully Agree’: The Differential Effects of Partisan Sorting on Behavioral and Issue Polarization.” Her argument is a direct challenge to those who take, as she puts it,
an instrumental view of politics, in which people choose a party and decide how strongly to support it based solely on each party’s stated positions and whether the party shares interests with them.
Instead, she writes,
Contrary to an issue-focused view of political decision making and behavior, the results presented here suggest that political thought, behavior, and emotion are powerfully driven by political identities. The strength of a person’s identification with his or her party affects how biased, active, and angry that person is, even if that person’s issue positions are moderate.
While much of this research uses the “preferred traits in child-rearing” questions to measure authoritarianism, two sociologists at the University of Kansas, David Norman Smith and Eric Hanley, observe in “The Anger Games: Who Voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 Election, and Why?” that those questions do not capture the full scope of authoritarianism, especially the more aggressive authoritarianism that they believe drives voters to Trump.
Smith and Hanley used what they call a “domineering leader scale” to measure
the wish for a strong leader who will force others to submit. The premise is that evil is afoot; that money, the media and government authority — and even “politically correct” moral authority — have been usurped by undeserving interlopers. The desire for a domineering leader is the desire to see this evil crushed.
The domineering leader scale is based on responses to two statements: “Our country will be great if we honor the ways of our forefathers, do what the authorities tell us to do, and get rid of the ‘rotten apples’ who are ruining everything” and “What our country really needs is a strong, determined leader who will crush evil and take us back to our true path.”

If an aggressive, domineering authoritarianism is a prime motivator for many Trump supporters, as Smith and Hanley contend, the clash between Republicans and Democrats is likely to become more hostile and warlike.

Federico, Feldman and Weber note that
since the early 2000s, many especially acrimonious political debates have focused on threats to social stability and order — debates surrounding abortion, transgender rights, immigration, and the role of the federal government in protecting the rights of marginalized social groups.
The rising “salience of these debates,” they write, “has contributed to a growing ‘authoritarian divide’ within the United States, at least among White Americans.”

Trump has purposefully exacerbated the “many especially acrimonious political debates” now dominating public discourse, deepening not only the authoritarian divide, but the divide between open and closed mindedness, between acceptance and racial resentment, and between toleration of and aversion to change. He evidently believes that this is the best political strategy for presiding in the White House and winning re-election, but it is an extraordinarily destructive strategy for governing the country and for safeguarding America’s interests in the world.