Social Psychology

Getting MAGA to Quit Fascisting America: Follow-the-Leader and Minority Influence

With the election of the fascist, Giorgia Meloni, as Italy’s next prime minister, we have the next great big flashing alarm warning us that fascism is once again raising its ugly head from the swamp we vanquished it to in the 1940’s. Even as she proclaims herself as no danger to democracy — at least no more than Mussolini was, that is, allegedly — the MAGA GQP is agog about her rise to power. Kari Lake — nominee for Arizona governor and well known Big Lie monger — loudly proclaimed to Tucker Carlson and the world that she can relate to her racist fascism because that is what represents her constituents — admittedly, I translated it for you.

Here’s hoping she’s wrong and her constituents reject her brand of politics because, as Rachel Maddow so helpfully pointed out on her show Monday night, that anyone who wants to defy election results and put the candidates they support into office even though they’ve lost, are not working for your interests. If they won’t accept the outcome of the vote, then they won’t accept your interests, either. So, there’s Kari Lake’s and the rest of Big Lie Band’s true colors laid bare for us all.

While we fume and fret over the fascisting of the US and the rest of the world, as we galvanize our resolve to resist their pernicious pursuits first at the ballot box, then in the streets as they are in Iran and Russia, we should cast our attention at what it will take to put them to deny them their base.

In other words, how can we get MAGA to quit fascism?

There are two pertinent psychological principles that could be used to strip the GQP of their MAGA support: follow-the-leader theory and minority influence. We’ve written about both here at Ye Olde Blogge. We’ll explain each and then rate our chances of…

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The Follow-the-Leader Theory of Politics

We all know that thinking is hard, and, let’s face it, we’d all rather be Netflix and chilling than thinking hard or otherwise. If the pandemic taught us nothing, it taught us that. So, what’s a voter to do when trying to decide which politician to support in an upcoming election, I mean besides just ignore the whole thing and sit this one out like most of us do?

The world is now a complex place. We’ve got budgets in the hundreds of billions of dollars. We’ve got technologies that Isaac Asimov never dreamed of when he wrote I, Robot, so how’s a self-respecting low-information occasional voter supposed to keep up and make the best choice for their country when they can be bothered to drag their sorry, hairless, flabby ass off the couch and down to the voting booth?

They vote for the politician they like AND adopt their policy positions. When you declare loudly and frequently in your heavy southern country accent and misspelled signs that you luv yer county and all yer rites and fiefdoms, then you vote with the politician who does, too, even though you can’t really articulate what those rites and fiefdoms are. And, you just know that there is another bunch of rascally politicians who hate us for those exact same rights and freedoms and would destroy your god-fearing way of life if they ever got into office.

Because the issues are so complex and devoid of anything even remotely resembling the sexy sexiness of House of Cards or your average Tom Clancy novel, you just believe the things your favoritest politician tells you to believe. It’s so easy, you don’t even notice when they’re telling you to believe something altogether different from what they were telling you in the last election. But you vote for ’em because they support yer rites and fiefdoms and the American way of religious freedom to discriminate against all those who offend your cherry picked beliefs just like they did when they kicked Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony for not loving Jesus right.

This type of political decision making is called the follow-the-leader theory. Those pesky political scientist types came up with it using their very own thinking brains after analyzing DATA — like that’s even a thing. They found that only 50% of their participants could match politicians or parties to policy positions AND that only 20 to 40% had a stable view on policy positions.

The only time this pattern did hold was when abortion rights and the Second Amendment were involved. Our views on some topics are reified, thus the abortion litmus test in the GQP.

It does suggest, however, that if there were a politician that MAGA liked, they’d happily switch their votes to that person no matter what their policy positions were.

Minority Influence

Minority influence is the social psychology theory that a small portion of the population can change the view of the majority of the population. In order to do this, four factors are necessary:

  • BEHAVIOR STYLE: The minority has to be consistent and confident. Probably, also helps to have simple easily understood message or ask.
  • THINKING STYLE: The majority has to be engaged in deeper thought on the issue. This is the tricky one. The right has sought to inoculate its base against thinking more deeply about any of their hot button panic issues, immigration, #COVID19 restrictions, the Big Lie, and any others that will surface.
  • FLEXIBILITY & COMPROMISE: The minority has to signal that they are willing to accept compromise. That’s why the likes of Hannity and Carlson and the other conservative talking heads react with their hair on fire to any little thing the left does and call us radicals.
  • IDENTIFICATION: If a member of the majority agrees with and publicly supports the minorities position, it makes it easier for the rest of the majority to do so, also.

We’ve got former Republican never Trumpers out there defying Trump and grifting off of the good nature of liberals who need every ally we can get in our fight against fascism. The likes of the Lincoln Project don’t fit the bill. No one in MAGA world will identify them, and, they certainly won’t think more deeply about whatever it is they are blathering on about. I doubt that the Lincoln Project has been consistent in their message, either.

Nevertheless, to wean so-called rural conservative Christian white voters off of MAGA, we’ll need a group that has a consistent message that they are confident about, get these voters to think more deeply about, express their willingness to be flexible and compromise — although, you can’t compromise with fascists, so there’s that — and recruit representatives that these voters can identify with.

Is it Possible?

When we contemplate the world of Trump rivals and alternatives, we get to thinking that it isn’t really possible. De Santis and Abbott are probably the two front running alternatives. De Santis is clearly the main one. He recently beat Trump in a Florida straw poll by eight points. We have some also rans like Kristi Noem… um, who else is there? If Trump doesn’t run, they’ll be coming out of the woodwork, but who else is really positioning themselves for a run at it? We’ve got the usual mentions of Mike Pompeo, Nikki Haley, and Mike Pence, but none of them have any more of a chance than Georgia Governor Brian Kemp does.

That’s really the problem with envisioning the end of MAGA. What will replace it. Your grandfather’s Republicans of small government and low taxes doesn’t really exist any more even among the never Trumpers, and it never really appealed to the masses.

Reagan propelled the Republicans out of the deep hole Nixon dug for them, but it wasn’t his traditional Republican appeal that did it. It was a whole lot of racial animus dog whistling and fear mongering. It was his appeal — Poppy Bush even changed his stance on abortion to be VP — that got folks to support him and adopt his policy positions.

But, somewhere out there is the Republican equivalent of Barack Obama or Jimmy Carter who came out of nowhere to win their nominations and the White House. Somewhere out there is someone who could attract enough MAGA folks to their banner that they would give up the Big Lie and return to the land of sanity.

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Image Attribution

Follow the Leader Art Sculpture in Ludington by Artist Stanley Proctor Photo by Michigan Municipal League” by Michigan Municipal League (MML) is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

23 replies »

  1. I often think of Robots Daniel and Giskard at the end of one of the early Robot books (they’re all Robot books), turning the valves that so irradiated the planet it drove mankind to the stars.

    What’s next? I have noted numerous times that fascism sneaks in the side-door, each step only slightly more egregious than the previous. If Tea Baggers to Trump-suckers is our model, then what comes next is not gonna’ be any prettier. But we knew that.

    I could be bias, it was Asimov who introduced me to the concept of psychohistory, where when the population grows sufficiently large enough statistically, its behavior can be … anticipated. Fascinating that his universe was but about ten billion humans scattered across a hundred thousand planets. We’re gonna’ pass that mark long before anything or anyone drives into space.

    If we make it, if we survive, we will have been turned out of the garden.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Howdy Ten Bears!

      Asimov certainly had a firm grasp of human tendencies and technology. Enough to make reasonable predictions that in the broad strokes are true enough. That he is still readable and entertaining speaks to his accuracy.

      Between climate change and the refugees it will produce and becoming inured to violence, our future will be closer to Medieval Europe than anything resembling open and free, which we never really had to begin with.

      Behavior economics and social identity theory predicts that regions will close ranks and be hostile to “outsiders” even if they are white Americans. When resources are scarce, violence increases.


      Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Tauru!

      I would only quibble with your statement. Even if we lose the 2022 election and are rendered a single-party, pseudo-democratic, minority-rule autocracy, democracy will not have died. We will, with time, restore our country to a democracy. People are easily manipulated by those who know how. Part of the mission of Ye Olde Blogge is to expose the ways we are manipulated by our politicians and by ourselves. Since knowledge is the best way to protect yourself from the manipulation.


      Liked by 1 person

    • I fear you have it right, though it may be you haven’t quite gotten your fingers wrapped all the way around if: if we make it, if we survive, if we somehow in the next hundred years figure out how to get off this ball of mud and out of her increasingly toxic atmosphere, it will be in controlled environments. Moon bases, Mars Bitches! Caves of Steels, Oceania, both above or below the waves. Environments sealed against an inhospitable if not deadly outside environment. Contained. Controlled. Under authority. Someone, or something, is in charge.

      They’ll be no “democracy” in our futures, not as we know it …

      Liked by 2 people

      • Howdy Ten Bears!

        One of the things that I’ve conjectured is that in societies where resources are scarce, sexuality and women have been tightly controlled. The scarcer the resources, the tighter the control. It would seem that it would be a way to manage resources and help ensure that the society is not overpopulated.

        Culture changes slowly. We no longer need to control sexuality as closely because of the pill. Now, women can have sex like men do, but it is difficult for the more conservative to accept because they are literally slower to change. If we ever move to totally human-made environments that are preventing us from being exposed to a toxic atmosphere, we will need to control our behaviors very carefully, not just reproduction, but many other aspects of our lives.

        I would agree with your conjecture there. Our situation will be so precarious that we could not afford an accident produced by some foolish ill-advised behavior.


        Liked by 1 person

  2. What did Regan and Trump have hugely before running for President? Name Recognition from another context, entertainment. They had been on TV for years, and popular (though in the case of Trump on The Apprentice, I can’t imagine why. Yes, I can, Strong Boss, Decisive, Ruthless, Cruel – disgusting, but it worked). So, that someone out there that we don’t see, actually, we do see, but not as a politician, and we (them that watch the Tube) see them a lot and feel good about them even if their character is Bad, but oh so good at it. Which would they rather have for President, Walter White, or should we just call Saul? I haven’t kept up on the characters of Game Of Thrones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!

      The halo effect. Of course! Both Trump and Reagan benefited from it from their days as entertainers, even though Reagan was governor of California.

      Trump may have been strong, authoritative, decisive, ruthless, and cruel on The Apprentice, I don’t know, didn’t watch it, but it was all scripted. It didn’t matter, though. Seeing is believing in the brain. If he appeared that way on the boobtube, then he is that way in our brains.

      The funny thing is while that helped him, it probably wasn’t going to be sufficient to get him elected. It was his appeal to grievance that sealed the deal. Who better to embody being wrongfully harmed than a narcissist? When he complained about the slights he perceived, whether true or not, he gave voice to the slights that MAGA had perceived coming their way.

      The foundation for that grievance had been laid down by Reagan and successors with their Southern Strategy of appealing to white racial animus and fear of being left behind by the American dream. That is the same fear and anxiety that is assuaged by seeing themselves as better than the “best” Black person simply because their white.

      Good insight. Another blog post.


      Liked by 1 person

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