(Note: Authoritarian is used throughout this blog in the context of a personality type — not in the sense of a figure of authority such as a policeman, boss or Army general.)
Back in 2006, John Dean completed Conservatives Without Conscience and he detailed the transformation of the Republican Party and the affinity of the authoritarian personality for that party. In the preface to his book, Dean quoted Barry Goldwater’s concern about some of these authoritarians and their determination:
Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.
Later in Dean’s book, he describes authoritarians this way:
Probably about 20 to 25 percent of the adult American population is so right-wing authoritarian, so scared, so self-righteous, so ill-informed, and so dogmatic that nothing you can say or do will change their minds. They would march America into a dictatorship and probably feel that things had improved as a result. … And they are so submissive to their leaders that they will believe and do virtually anything they are told. They are not going to let up and they are not going away.
Here are some recent examples of what these authoritarians might do and the tools they will use to get their way.
Bill Kristol, the son of Irving Kristol, is a good place to start. Both he and his father are follower’s of Leo Strauss’ neocon philosophies, which includes Noble Lies and preemptive strikes to prevent any imagined holocaust. Bill made the following statement on Fox Noise one Sunday:
if he thinks Obama will win.”
But how would that happen? What tactic would the authoritarians use to get the rest of us to follow? Steve Weber wrote in The Sleep of Monsters Produces Reason about the authoritarian’s favorite tool for getting what they want — fear mongering.
… we must nonetheless be aware of the opposing forces who peer jealously across the widening breach, who are becoming even more embittered, even more determined to prevent this movement [away from authoritarians] from succeeding. Starting from its warped, hardened kernel of an ideology, the Bush/Neo-Con jihad on democracy has been nothing less than catastrophic, a global socio/geopolitical plague. And it’s not just the obvious villains we have to be concerned about. There are the appeasers in our midst, the DINO’s who continue to reward Bush’s treachery with unimpeded funding for the disgrace of Iraq and immunity for his flouting of the law. And there is our own knee-jerk cowering in the face of an enemy openly courted, recklessly wielded and described as impregnable by Bush et al.: Fear. Knowing we would forever shudder and weep at the images branded into our brains, Fear is probably the most brutally effective weapon BushCo had — has — in its arsenal and is used with the same alacrity with which Saddam used poison gas on the Kurds.
Adding to that, Robert Creamer wrote about the use of fear mongering by the right in McCain Advisor’s Terrorism Comment Highlights the Right’s Historic Use of Fear: …:
Many in the press and the public have been repulsed by the notion that McCain’s inner circle would even speculate on how they could politically benefit by another 9/11. But we shouldn’t let our revulsion obscure the underlying truth that throughout history the Right has always used fear as its weapon of choice.
Fundamentally, the centuries-long battle between Progressives and the right wing has been a struggle between empowerment and domination.
At its core, right wing ideology has historically functioned to legitimate the domination of the many by the few — whether a king, a chief, an aristocracy, or the wealthy. Its job is to protect the prerogatives and power of the elite: to protect the status quo.
In modern America its role has been to defend those at the top of the socio-economic order. Its job is to convince us that the “survival of the fittest” is the “natural” organizing principle for society, and that those who achieve ascendancy deserve their positions of dominance and power.
The Right has always used fear as a centerpiece in its strategy to assure compliance and domination. Fear is a tool of distraction and social control. At different times, it has used the fear of social chaos, the fear of foreign enemies, or the fear of racial and religious minorities. Historically fear has been an incredibly powerful tool. Fear of minorities was used for decades to divide everyday white people from everyday black people and thereby assure the continued preeminence of an elite.
Of course, fear has always been used to distract everyday people from domestic injustice by creating an overwhelming focus on the “outside enemy.” For decades the Right used fear of the Soviet Union and “global communism.” After the collapse of the Soviet Union it used the fear of crime, the fear of minorities and “War on Drugs.” The 9/11 attacks gave the Right a whole new way to capitalize on fear — the War on Terror and Jihadist Islam.
But most importantly, the emotion of fear immobilizes. Fear does not make men and women rise to challenge. It makes them cower. Fear is the mortal enemy of empowerment, and the Right knows it. That’s why its leaders secretly hope that a new terrorist attack will terrify Americans, and deflate the massive energy for change that has infected the electorate and threatens to sweep the Right from power.
As for secretly hoping for a terrorist attack, we have John McCain’s chief strategist and former lobbyist Charlie Black trying to scare us by saying that another terrorist attack on the United States would greatly improve the odds of Republican victory in November.
Fear mongering and hoping for some terrorist action are then added to by playing the race card. Grover Norquist dropped by the LA Times Washington bureau and referred to Senator Obama as “John Kerry with a tan.” In other words, the senator is not like ‘them’ in two ways. He’s both a Democrat and an African American.
But Norguist’s fatuous comment on Senator Obama’s skin color isn’t as bad as Karl Rove’s comments about the Senator. John Ridley wrote When Rove Calls Obama Arrogant, He Means “Uppity” Karl said this week on Fox News, “I will say yes, I do think Barack Obama is arrogant.” Mr. Ridley described Karl’s comment in this way
Karl Rove says Barack Obama is arrogant.
We’ve heard that; we’ve heard the pejorative “arrogant” before. When I say “we” I mean those of us who are “others” in America; people of color. Minorities. Women. We hear the word all the time from a select section of privileged white guys; the codifying they use when they fear the silver spoons are about to be snatched from their lily palaces: “Those people… How dare they think they can work jobs like ours or live in neighborhoods like ours or send their children to school with ours? Those people are just so damn arrogant.”
Arrogant, of course, is a euphemism. In the monochromatic bunkers from which old-schoolers cling to power the true word they use is “uppity” when hurled at blacks. …
So, what might happen if all this fear mongering, hoping for terrorists to come to their aid and racial labeling fails to work? What else might they try as the election draws near in order to maintain their domination and protect the status quo?
Here’s one very desperate option of last resort.
On June 15, 2008, Steve Rosenbaum, predicted the following option:
McCain won’t be the [Republican] nominee.
By August, they’ll have done something to try and pick away at Obama’s popularity. They’ll emphasize race, or whatever they can to get him to appear less than perfect. Then, they’ll bring out of the woodwork a surprise [Republican] candidate who can shift the story fast. With just two months before the election — the new candidate will have little time to be ‘vetted’ but will be shiny and new, and will get a lot of media attention as Obama’s newness will have become — by then — tarnished or at least no longer the surprise that it has been as he unseated Hillary.