The Rise of American Authoritarianism — Trump-Style Politics and What it Means for the Future of the America

The Rise of Trump-Style Politics and What it Means for the Future of America

14th March 2016

By Carolanne Wright

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

If you’re anything like me, you’re absolutely baffled by the ascent of Donald Trump as the front-runner Republican candidate. It’s nothing short of astonishing. While moderate Americans shake their heads in confusion about this state of affairs, or brush it off as some kind of surreal entertainment that doesn’t need to be taken seriously, a group of political and social researchers have found the situation is far more dangerous than the average person can imagine.

Writes Amanda Taub in The rise of American authoritarianism“Perhaps strangest of all, it wasn’t just Trump but his supporters who seemed to have come out of nowhere, suddenly expressing, in large numbers, ideas far more extreme than anything that has risen to such popularity in recent memory. In South Carolina, a CBS News exit poll found that 75 percent of Republican voters supported banning Muslims from the United States. A PPP poll found that a third of Trump voters support banning gays and lesbians from the country. Twenty percent said Lincoln shouldn’t have freed the slaves.”

If this doesn’t shock American’s out of their complacency regarding the direction of the United States, nothing will. The political landscape of the U.S. is rapidly changing — to one that is based on extreme fear, xenophobia and aggression. And this is only the beginning.

George Orwell’s “1984″ Wasn’t Meant to be an Instruction Manual

I often wonder if the dystopian novel “1984″ is still taught in American high schools. I remember reading it during my own youth and distinctly recall being horrified about the implications of perpetual war, all-pervasive government surveillance and public manipulation presented throughout the book. Even more disturbing was the persecution of individuality and independent thinkers, who would squarely earn “thoughtcrime” status in this bizarre new world. But denial can run strong, especially in teenagers. While I recognized the terrifying ramifications of such ideas, I never thought it could happen in the United States — until I reached adulthood. Trump supporters are a perfect example of how the public can be manipulated in such a way that we are overrun by a mass of nonlogical, emotionally triggered and easily brainwashed political lackeys.

Trump’s rise is puzzling on many levels since it crosses a wide-range of demographic lines — including education, income, age, ethnicity and religion. A case in point is a Latino woman on Fox news, claiming Trump is the ideal candidate to represent the U.S. and her ethnic group. The ideal candidate? The same man who claims he will build a massive wall between Mexico and the United States — to keep Mexican migrants out, who he feels are nothing more than rapists and criminals? And he will make Mexico foot the bill? How have we fallen so far down into the rabbit hole of stupidity that people take an idea like this seriously? In one word: authoritarianism.

The Rise of Trump-Style Politics - and What it Means for the Future of America - Rev. Martin Neimoller quote on Nazi Germany

Desire for Order and Fear of Outsiders

Matthew MacWilliams, a Ph.D student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, thinks he may have solved the mystery of why Trump has shot through the ranks. MacWilliams sole area of focus is on authoritarianism — a psychological profile of voters who have a high need for order and fear outsiders. When these people feel threatened, they seek strong leaders that promise to go to any length in order to protect the populace from outsiders — and prevent the changes they fear.

“He polled a large sample of likely voters, looking for correlations between support for Trump and views that align with authoritarianism. What he found was astonishing: Not only did authoritarianism correlate, but it seemed to predict support for Trump more reliably than virtually any other indicator. He later repeated the same poll in South Carolina, shortly before the primary there, and found the same results.” [source]

MacWilliams isn’t the only one who came to this conclusion. Political scientists Marc Hetherington, from Vanderbilt University, and Jonathan Weiler, from the University of North Carolina, basically foresaw Trump’s ascent back in 2009. Through their research of experiments and data analysis, they found the drive behind American politics wasn’t so much fueled through manipulation or money, but from a large electoral group of authoritarians. You can read more about their findings in “Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics.”

“At the time, even Hetherington and Weiler did not realize the explosive implications: that their theory, when followed to its natural conclusion, predicted a looming and dramatic transformation of American politics. But looking back now, the ramifications of their research seem disturbingly clear.

“Authoritarians are thought to express much deeper fears than the rest of the electorate, to seek the imposition of order where they perceive dangerous change, and to desire a strong leader who will defeat those fears with force. They would thus seek a candidate who promised these things. And the extreme nature of authoritarians’ fears, and of their desire to challenge threats with force, would lead them toward a candidate whose temperament was totally unlike anything we usually see in American politics — and whose policies went far beyond the acceptable norms.

“A candidate like Donald Trump.” [source]

The Rise of Trump-Style Politics and What it Means for the Future of America

However, Trump is just a symptom of a bigger problem, which has far-reaching consequences for the United States. According to researcher Karen Stenner, there is a certain sector of the population who possess dormant authoritarian tendencies. When the circumstances are right, these tendencies can be triggered if the person perceives uncomfortable social change or physical threats to their well-being. When this happens, they gravitate toward authoritarian leaders and policies. A cursory glance at our economic upheaval, instability in the Middle East, attacks like 911 and a hard-hit white working class, and it’s not far of a stretch to see how we’ve arrived at this point in political history.

“… by awakening this authoritarian class of voters that has coalesced around Trump, [they] have created what is essentially a new political party within the GOP — a phenomenon that broke into public view with the 2016 election but will persist long after it has ended.”

According to recent data, 44% of white respondents across the U.S scored as “high” or “very high” authoritarians. Let that sink in for a minute. Almost half of the American population polled are high level authoritarians. And 65% are GOP voters — the “law and order” political platform. When we dig deeper into the results, and look at how Republican politicians — and media outlets like Fox News — have systematically conditioned their followers to believe the world is a dangerous place, along with claiming democrats haven’t done enough to keep Americans safe, it’s no wonder the “panic button” for authoritarians is triggered now like no other time in history. Ultimately authoritarians “are most willing to want to use force, to crack down on immigration, and limit civil liberties.” What an exceptionally powerful tool for those with a political agenda to exploit.

As long as we have a large population of people who value order and conformity over independence, self-reliance and diversity — coupled with an unpredictable world and (whether real or manufactured) fear-inspiring events — the trigger for authoritarian Americans will forever be looming and influencing the political landscape, along with our way of life. If we’re not careful, this will ultimately give rise to living Orwell’s doublespeak nightmare of “War is Peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

Some would say we are already there.

Article sources

About the author:

Carolanne WrightCarolanne enthusiastically believes if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change. As a nutritionist, natural foods chef and wellness coach, Carolanne has encouraged others to embrace a healthy lifestyle of organic living, gratefulness and joyful orientation for over 13 years.

Through her website, she looks forward to connecting with other like-minded people from around the world who share a similar vision.

You can also follow Carolanne on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Further reading from Carolanne Wright:


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