Much more appalling, in my view, than Donald Trump’s bigotry, ignorance, and contempt for truth is his proven ability to persuade others with his toxic vision. He dominates even those who don’t admire him, bullying lily-livered GOP politicos to shred their principles and endorse him. Trump’s appeal is greatest among lower-income, not highly educated white men, but it can also transcend gender, education, income and religion. Pundits have expressed various theories to explain Trump’s popularity.
John Marshall, for example, believes that Trump used the Republican primary debates “with some skill to enact a series of dominance rituals at the expense of his opponents.” Trump “refashions” every experience “into a dominance ritual or at least will not engage before performing one…. It’s primal. He needs to dominate before he will engage.”
That sounds like the authoritarianism now being studied by academics. Matthew MacWilliams, a graduate student at U Mass, found in a survey of 358 likely voters that “A voter’s gender, education, age, ideology, party identification, income, and race simply had no statistical bearing on whether someone supported Trump.”
Instead, writes MacWilliams,
People who score high on the authoritarian scale value conformity and order, protect social norms, and are wary of outsiders. And when authoritarians feel threatened, they support aggressive leaders and policies.
Amanda Taub explores “The rise of American authoritarianism,” what it is, how it works and how it is changing American politics. If you are wary of Trump and fear for American democracy if he should become president, read her article because the phenomenon has implications that go well beyond 2016.