The rise of American authoritarianism – Vox

A niche group of political scientists may have uncovered what’s driving Donald Trump’s ascent. What they found has implications that go well beyond 2016.

Source: The rise of American authoritarianism – Vox

This article speaks for itself, and though it’s pretty scary I’m much less surprised by it than I might be. This is not just an American phenomena, though it has it’s own particular flavour in the states. The rise of the hard right – which is what extreme authoritarianism effectively is – has been plain see for a while. This article seeks to put some science around it, and it’s fascinating, but again, not so surprising. Personal psychology informs political mores.

Looking from an Australian perspective this hard edge exists here too, though not as toxic or as sizeable as it does in the states. The fear that leads so many in America to these authoritarian views is less prevalent here because we are a smaller, outward looking people in general. We’re better educated because our geography has led us to look, and travel, abroad. I guess the other important element is that we do not possess that strain of reverence that great swathes of America does. We are a secular nation and, for good or ill, sceptical of high sounding rhetoric and spiritual dimensions.

I suspect there might in fact be a reaction in Australia, and in many other places, to the hard right epitomised by Trump in his pronouncements (I’m unconvinced he is the man he portrays himself as). In circles I move in there’s complete contempt, if not mockery, for Trump and his band of violently stupid band of followers. I’m sure that’s common across the western world, as well as, of course, in many parts of America itself. Trump makes the hard right seem stupid – and who wants to be part of stupid.

Even so, we have our own version of the split in the right. There were pieces in this article that had me recalling John Howard, much revered now in some quarters, but the man who first took Australia to the right for his own political opportunism. Much of what has become commonplace is right out of his playbook – though in truth, the book was written by the nazis.

Since Howard the Liberal party has strayed further to the right, and in so doing exposed rifts within it. The empty and extreme right ideology manifested itself in Abbott, who was too ham-fisted to properly manifest it. For reasons of pragmatism reasons he was deposed and replaced by a Liberal moderate in Turnbull. Turnbull may well have a very good prime minister in him, but we’ll never know while he continues to be beholden to the right wing of the party for his job.

None of this is going to go away, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out. The Australian Liberal party faces the same challenges as the American Republican party – how to manage two divergent ideologies in their midst? Can they be managed?

In Australia I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a splinter party emerge. That’s much more likely if Turnbull wins the next election. He’ll feel then that he is entitled to rule in his own right, and will distance himself from the dinosaurs on the conservative right. The government will become more moderate and progressive.

The conservatives among them will feel disenfranchised, and I don’t see them copping it sweet. Abbott will be their poster boy, and he has enough political animus left in him to take the dinosaurs with him to a new party, regardless of the damage it does to the old.

It might be different in America. Everyone loves a winner – except if you’re one of the losers victimised by it. I tend to think that if Trump gets up and becomes president – which I doubt – the GOP might think we’re on a winner here, and ride it for all it’s worth.

There’s an argument that this would lose all of the mainstream voters, but what happens is that the reality changes. What is mainstream now shifts with the times. A drift to the right will mean the mainstream will trend there also. A new normal emerges, a normal whereby a candidate like Trump becomes a viable option.

But hey, isn’t that now? It’s a scary time to be an intelligent, educated American.

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