15 September 2008

What Makes People Vote Republican?

Not sure he quite nails it, but Jonathan Haidt has a theory:
...the second rule of moral psychology is that morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way. When Republicans say that Democrats "just don't get it," this is the "it" to which they refer. Conservative positions on gays, guns, god, and immigration must be understood as means to achieve one kind of morally ordered society.
Though commentary on this piece is all over the place, you can follow the discussion here.

Our view comes in from a slightly different angle. You can follow our position in our "swarms" theme-blog and in some of our more specific blogs on politics. The authoritarian mind-set of the Republican convention was evident in the near-unanimity of their cheerleading support of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Nobody really knew anything about her (save for a few knowledgeable insider advisers from the Crowd Kristol set). Yet, with the announcement of this non-entity, the crowd went into spasms of hero worship based solely on the insiders' marketing campaign. Nobody asked questions; nobody questioned the authorities. Nobody asked if she was the single best Republican (or Demopendent, a/k/a Joe Lieberman) the party had to offer for the position. They just fell in line.

Citing the definitive 1950 work of Adorno, et al., Wikipedia's short introductory article on the "authoritarian personality" defines the phenomenon like this:
These traits are conventionalism, authoritarian submission, authoritarian aggression, anti-intraception, superstition and stereotypy, power and "toughness," destructiveness and cynicism, projectivity, and exaggerated concerns over sex. In brief, the authoritarian is predisposed to follow the dictates of a strong leader and traditional, conventional values.
The point being: it takes both sheep and shepherds to make a herd, and the authoritarian personality accommodates both, in fact requires both. Social adhesion and cohesion in multicultural circumstances require so-called strongmen—think Tito. And the authoritarian personality needs the strongman to project them from their perceived and manufactured enemies, but more specifically—wait for it—their own darker instincts.


J said...

"What Makes People Vote Republican?"

College town liberals do. For that matter, they tend to forget that many of the great thinkers who they study at State would not have joined with the "democrats" (starting with say Plato, hardly a supporter of popular democracy). And really I doubt even that hack-journalist Karl Marx would be overly enamored with the american left

Anonymous said...


Thanks for dropping by with a comment. Your blog, http://contingenciesblog.blogspot.com/, deserves a good read.

Have you read the journalist I.F.Stone's tract on Socrates? He makes the point that tho' Socrates was a bit of a democratic gadfly, Plato—the patrician—distorted his message for political and class purposes, paving the way for the demise of the first true democracy. Heidegger? Apparently a right-winger. Hegel, a Napoleonic butt-boy. Marx? Not sure he was a Marxist per se.

The point being: there's a vast disconnect between reason and politics. The founders of our own little nation-state, too, feared the passions of the mob, and instituted a Constitution limiting the power of the People's Congress. Reason was vested in the Judiciary. Passion in the Legislature. Action in the Executive. The founders failed to foresee what would happen when, as now, the Executive and the Judiciary are corrupted by faction and the Congress is even more weakened than its normal, structural limitations. These are the tensions in our system hopefully working themselves out in the current election cycle. Yet, they are slow—this is always the problem in true Republics. Let's just hope it's not too late to right the ship of state.

Jim H.

Vernunft said...

The old fallacy. Fascism wasn't right-wing, it was leftist. Haven't you read Rousseau and Marx? Not exactly small potatoes guys, y'know?

The Sarah Palin thing is exactly the opposite of what you interpreted. You're utterly out of touch.

When you look at the nexus between liberals and authoritarianism, and then recall that the Republican Party has a libertarian element...wait, you'd never think such things. It would take knowledge, common sense, and reflection.

Anonymous said...


Where did we use the term "fascism" in this post? In what sense did we claim Republicans were fascists? You're debating a straw man.

We're only making a point about authoritarianism and the blindly authoritarian personality.

And when you say the Sarah Palin phenomenon is exactly the opposite of what I say, that's awfully vague. In what sense is it opposite? She's really a man? She's a communist? A leftist?

As for the Republican party's libertarian element, that's always been the authoritarians' way of accessing power so they can then abuse it. For example, look at the current President* who swept to "victory" on a fairly consistently libertarian ideology (not a nation-builder, small government, government is part of the problem, etc.), followed that up with a vast redistribution of wealth from the public sector to private corporate coffers (e.g., Exxon-Mobil, Haliburton, Blackwater, and their ilk), and now has culminated that sweep with a virtually socialist (by any definition) corporate bailout plan for the perceived "financial crisis". Unfortunately, in the modern world of Realpolitik, libertarians are mere tools. Sorry. Ideological purity (let's call it the "analytic") only works, if at all, on paper and in the minds of its adherents. Welcome to the bigs. (It's a "synthetic" thing, don'tchaknow.)

Jim H.