We’ve known for a long time that a scared population tends to vote conservative and make more cautious decisions in general. Thus, all the GQP fear mongering that we’ve seen since the Republicans threw over the abolitionists and freed slaves in favor of big business and monopoly capitalism and all that sweet sweet lucre they were willing to lavish upon them. They realized that creating fear and anxiety in the white population was the only way to win majorities. Nowadays, they realized that they can still win with just 40% of the vote. They don’t need no majority when they KNOW they’re right and by right I mean getting that sweet sweet lucre from the lobbyists and corporate donors as long as they do their bidding.
White Identity Politics
For the GQP the formula has been clear and consistently followed, dog whistle up racial animosity by demagoguing crime — implying them Blacks are going to come sneaking around raping, burglaring, and murdering innocent white folks — debt, deficit spending, and socialism — them lazy no good for nothing Blacks is taking too much in welfare from all the taxes all the pure good white folks is working hard to pay — and cultural change — all the Blacks is having too many childrens so they are going to replace us good white folks. As long as they are consistently beating that drum of racial animus, they could count on 60% of the white vote and that is enough to win as long as you never needed any more than 40% of the overall vote.
The demographic erosion of the Republican base has gotten to the point where not even 40% of the vote may guarantee their wins, but — good news, right? — they have rigged the elections so that they are not in danger of ever losing again. Not only can they suppress the vote of likely Democratic voters, they can nullify the votes that they don’t like, and appoint the winners of the elections. And, if that doesn’t work or the Blacks get too uppity about it all, they can rely on MAGA Nation’s Second Amendment solutions.
The Authoritarian Power Grab
We’ve covered the Republican efforts in creating single-party pseudo-democratic minority rule right here in the United Fucking States of Fucking Stupid where they transfer the nation’s wealth to the 1% as quickly as possible while we all live in Cancer Alley, drinking Flint Water, paying for Texas utilities, receiving crisis standards of medical care until we can no longer contribute more than we cost when we can die quietly and quickly.
The Republicans thought they had died and gone to hog-authoritarian heaven when the #COVID19 arrived on shores and begun killing people by the score, then hundreds, then thousands. They realized that all they had to do encourage people to do the exact opposite of what needed to be done and hundreds of thousands of real live Americans would become real live dead Americans and millions would become real live sick Americans, and if they did that, they would have naturally occuring waves of terror to further racicalize and guilliblize their base with. If they could do that, they were shoe ins for full-on authoritarianism because millions of iNdEpEnDeNt VoTeRs would be willing to throw away their fReEdOms for their strong-arm rule in order to protect them from the failures of science, government, and Democrats as long as they could ensure that science, government, and Democrats failed at everything they tried to do.
That is until the good folks over at the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths College — um… that’s Goldsmiths at the University of London, you know THE University of London and not some fly-by-night organization that thought using gold in their title would make the sound classy or sumpthin’. Anywho, that is until they went snooping around how real people reacted to “populists” shortchanging them on government services that might could protect them from #COVID19.
As it turns out the US isn’t alone in facing its authoritarian moment. We’ve got more friends than just Hungary and Brazil, too. Poland, for example, has been having a rough go of it since the authoritarians got themselves elected to office.
National Unity and National Cohesion
As they write the pandemic will likely cause an increase in national cohesion and national identity since threats generally cause populations to emphasize their group identity. The well known rally round the flag response. This tendency cause an increased emphasis on conformity reducing critical thinking and objections to objectionable decisions, you know, like groupthink does. When the majority begins to emphasize conformity and similarity and the ties that bind, it can put the minority populations at great risk.
Think here about how MAGA Nation are targeting anyone who isn’t like them or one of them: Blacks, Browns, immigrants, women, progressives, liberals, non-Christians, and anyone else they don’t like. That’s quite a list, isn’t it? It is this tendency that the authoritarian right is counting on to help them “win” in the 2022 elections whether it is “winning” a majority of votes in each district or appointing the winner in the places where they didn’t win a “majority.”
Support for Populist Authoritarian Gov’t during #COVID19
For their purposes, de Zavala and Keenan, recognized that women’s rights are often targeted during these times of crisis when a nation or community is trying desperately to demonstrate its unity in the face of calamity, so they went to Poland and began surveying the population as the government enacted their first #COVID19 lockdowns in 2020. They collected their data four times over a six week period from 28 February until 15 April.
The authoritarian populist government began attacking women’s rights by holding parliamentary hearings on abortion and proposed a presidential election on 10 May. They used the willingness to vote in the presidential election as a proxy for approval of the government and its actions. In February and March during the first wave of #COVID19, support for the election was overwhelmingly high (about 80% support) but by April it had lost half of its support (about 40%) suggesting that enthusiasm for the conservative authoritarian populism that preferred attacking women’s rights over #COVID19 mitigation had waned.
Their data suggests that national cohesion increased at the beginning of the pandemic with people supporting the government’s crackdown on women’s rights when fear of the unknown was high and people sought safety in unity. But, as people began to learn to cope with the pandemic, compassion and empathy replaced their sense of withdrawal and hostility. The anti-women policy started out as unifying the country, but eventually began to be divisive causing widespread rejection of such policies. It is possible that as governments continue to mishandle the pandemic, electorates will turn against them and support governments that are handling the crisis better. This gives us some hope heading into the 2022 elections and as we steer our way through the “baffling” stance of Manchin and Sinema as they threaten the full faith and credit of the United States, Joe Biden’s agenda, and any ability of our federal government from effectively governing, which is the GQP’s trick.
Threat to national survival: sexual prejudice in times of COVID 19 prejudice in Poland
Agnieszka Golec de Zavala & Oliver Keenan 22 April 2020
Authoritarian shift and national cohesion
With the global spread of coronavirus came a similarly disturbing spread of authoritarian power grabs made by right-wing populist leaders. This came in time with warnings that the pandemic provides a prime opportunity for authoritarian leaders to use emergency legislation to consolidate and extend their power. Notably, Hungary’s parliament voted to allow the incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree—allowing executive powers to be concentrated under one party with a leader known for extreme illiberalism, these powers were endowed indefinitely. Policies which made attacks on civil liberties were introduced by populist leaders in countries such as the UK, Poland, Iran, the United States, China, and Israel.
It is well established within political psychology and political science that crises which increase perceptions of threat cause a ‘conservative shift’ within the population (Bonanno & Jost, 2006; Nail & McGreger, 2009). Populist leaders can exploit this shift in attitudes to their own ends. This increase in conservative attitudes is driven by increased motivation to manage feelings of uncertainty and threat—social hierarchy, order, and security take precedence over individual rights and freedoms (Hetherington & Suhay, 2011; Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003). Individually, this is expressed by right-wing authoritarianism which involves commitment to traditional norms, willing obedience to the leader, and the endorsement of aggression against those who deviate from norms or break the rules. This allows for authoritarian governments to enact policies which will downgrade requirements of democracy such right to vote, freedom of speech, due legal process, and a lively electoral system (Hogg & Adelman, 2013; Kessler & Cohrs; 2008; Moghaddam, 2012).
Authoritarian governments dominate in regions with a high prevalence of infectious parasites (Murray, Schaller, & Suedfeld, 2013). Since pathogens (at least, until very recently) pose an inexplicable threat, human responses to their management have involved strict adherence to social norms relating to prevention of transmission. Experimental studies have also shown that exposing individuals to a threatening disease stimulus increased group conformity (Murray & Schaller, 2012). As this response plays out within nationalities, we can expect that this pandemic will increase concerns over national cohesion and an accentuation of national identity. This is in line with research that shows existential threats causes people to emphasise their collective group identity which meets basic human needs and provides feelings of safety and security (Smeekes & Verkuyten, 2013). This is represented by perceptions of national cohesion which involves seeing one’s group a tightly knit and highly similar, often at the cost of maintaining individuality (Waytz & Young, 2012).
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