As leaders fail, democracy disappoints, and compatriots test our bonds, non-authoritarians grow less attracted to populist candidates and causes, just like they become more racially inclusive, more politically tolerant, more morally lenient, less harsh and punitive… in general, less eager to use collective authority to control other people’s behaviour.Karen Stenner in Magazine: Essay – Authoritarianism
This finding of Karen Stenner has stayed with me since discovering her work. It provides comfort when watching the mishegas of the Republican take over of the House.
One of the the GQP’s strategies for fascisting of America is to cause democracy to disappoint and leaders to fail. They hamstring the federal government, working hard to prevent any laws from passing, forcing governance by executive order no matter which party the president belongs to. From Newt Gingrich’s Clinton witch hunt to McConnell’s vow to make Obama a one term president to Trump’s ham-handed blundering attempts to corrupt our government, we’ve seen our situation worsen year after year: more communities fall prey to toxic water like Flint and Jackson, electrical grid failures like in Texas, crumbling infrastructure causing spectacular accidents, hospitals overrun in a pandemic, rampant gun violence at our schools, churches, and malls, thousands dying from opioid overdoses. It all feels overwhelming, like there is nothing that we can do to stop it, and it is all by design.
As they fail to lead their constituents through anything but obscene absurd culture wars and stymie Democratic leadership,, they fail to realize that our superpower is not turning to authoritarianism to solve our problems, but turning to our communities and each other.
Failure to Learn from History
They failed to learn the lesson of the Great Depression. During one of the worst disasters in our nation’s history, we the people did not turn to totalitarian dictatorship like much of the world did, but to our democratic institutions and norms. We the people waited patiently for the elections of 1932, suffering three years of ineffective Republican leadership, until FDR could be elected.
As the country descended into chaotic civil conflagration over slavery, we the people elected Lincoln, fought the Civil War, and in the middle of the war, re-elected Lincoln. We stayed the course just a few short generations after the genesis of the country, trusting to our democracy to see us through.
The Republicans suffer from a failure of imagination; they lack a theory of mind. They cannot imagine that everyone does not want the same things they do and will not react the way they do. It is inconceivable to them that if they continue to impede leadership in the country and refuse to govern, the American people won’t turn to authoritarian dictatorship for the solace and comfort just as they long for.
In fact, since 2016, the national vote totals have gone increasingly against them. We may win by slim margins in some states, but the overwhelming majority of Americans reject their devotion to authoritarianism and autocratic “solutions.”
Stenner’s empirical research indicates that non-authoritarians turn to inclusion, tolerance, generosity as our circumstances worsen. We will seek politicians like Biden — his superpower really was being a likable old white guy — who reflect our values.
“All People Are Created Equal”
In diverse and complex multicultural societies, the things that make us an “us” – that make us one and the same – are common authority and shared values. Having institutions and leaders we respect and revere, and consensus on core beliefs and values is a large part of how we all understand “us”, and derive a sense of identity, meaning and belonging. For the “groupiest” among us, this is an even more important part of understanding oneself, making sense of the world, and feeling safe and valued within it.Karen Stenner in Magazine: Essay – Authoritarianism
When first reading this passage, it seemed to emphasize the need to create an in-group and an out-group for authoritarians, but it seems that it can have another interpretation. To co-opt the authoritarian reaction to normative threat, we can include them by emphasizing our shared values.
The Christian right tries to lure us in by claiming that the country was founded on Christian values. It wasn’t. The core American value is All Men Are Created Equal. Heather Cox Richardson, the popular and esteemed historian, reminds us in her letter dated 26 December 2022 that this belief was the rallying cry of the colonists in our revolution against monarchy.
Creating a more perfect union has been the animating goal of liberals from the beginning of our country. With each crisis and iteration of our country, we make improvements in civil rights, endure the inevitable backlash, and return to make more progress.
There is no reason to believe that it will cease to be the rallying cry of Americans as we move forward. As long as we emphasize the values that we have in common, we will continue to unite and expand the coalition that has seen us through the years of Trumpian demagoguery. It is what unites authoritarian, conservative, liberal, democrat in our struggle against the forces of fascism. It is the superpower that will defeat the fascists.
Send us no money! Honest. Don’t. Just send us
- Shares on your social media platforms of choice, but not Facebook as I’ve been reminded recently.
- Likes and ratings just to show me that you’ve been here.
- Comments to share your thoughts, observations, and opinions.
- And follow the blog or join our email list!
“All men are by nature equally free! And independent! And have certain inherent rights of which, when then enter into a state of society! They cannot by any compact deprive or divest their posterity! Namely the enjoyment of life and liberty” by Boston Public Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Nightmare Post Image
Categories: Behavior Economics