Teri Kanefield
+ Your AuthorsArchive @Teri_Kanefield Author, lawyer (UC Berkeley) My threads are here: terikanefield-blog.com/ NBC News Opinion contributor Impeachment notes: impeachment-trump.com/ Oct. 18, 2019 5 min read

(Thread) The Authoritarian Dynamic

There’s a tendency to see the current surge in right-wing anti-democratic, authoritarian norm-breaking as something new in America, and therefore both frightening and baffling.

This is wrong—and dangerous.

1/ We begin with a distinction between conservatives and reactionaries (also called right wing authoritarians, or RWA).

Conservatives are averse to change. They prefer stability & status quo.

RWAs, on the other hand, are averse to complexity (which includes diversity).

2/ RWAs prefer sameness and uniformity and have “cognitive limitations.”

They’re “simpleminded avoiders of complexity.”

Quotations from @JonHaidt and @karen_stenner 's “Authoritarianism Is Not a Momentary Madness, But an Eternal Dynamic Within Liberal Democracies,” from ⤵️

3/ @karenstenner made the article available on her website here:  https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/02ff25_370d387d81714d29bad957ba03cf8e48.pdf 

RWAs have a “bias against different others (racial and ethnic outgroups, immigrants)

A normative threat is something that threatens “sameness and order.”

4/ When confronted with a normative threat, authoritarians have a strong reaction.

They become fearful and angry.

They can be violent & tolerate violence in others.

Fear of immigrants is discomfort with people who are different.

5/ Trump governs by creating normative threats.

He deliberately keeps the authoritarians riled. See:

Those with authoritarians dispositions make up about 1/3 of the population.

This percentage occurs across cultures.

6/ The Nazis came to power with 33% of the vote.

Le Pen won 35% of the vote in France.

I suggest Trump maintains 40%+ approval (aggregate as per @538 ⤵️) because of the effectiveness of the Fox-Trump-right wing media loop & because Trump has a lock on the Republican Party.

7/ The GOP is no longer conservative. It's reactionary / RWA.

The shift occurred during the decades since Brown v. Board (the SCOTUS case desegregating schools) sent the nation's RWAs into a panic from which they still haven't recovered.

For more, see: .

Q: Why doesn't Trump try to expand his base.

A: The only way would be to stop creating normative threats, and he can’t stop.

He needs to keep his base riled.

He knows he’s better off with 33%  stirred to anger and fury, than a larger percentage with his base calmed down.

9/ That 33% gives him a lock on the GOP, which gives him a lot of power.

So he needs to continually rile his base with normative threats.

They love it, by the way.

Hofstadter, in his classic work, explains 👇

10/ Hofstadter looked at American politics from before the founding of the nation through McCarthyism and noticed a pattern among a small impassioned minority on the fringes of the political spectrum.

He called their behavior the “paranoid style” in politics.

11/ The "paranoid" believe unseen satanic forces are trying to destroy something larger in which they belong.

See for example, see⤵️

According to Hofstadter, the “something larger” generally phrased as “the American way of life.”

12/ They “feel dispossessed” and that “America has been largely taken away from them and their kind.”

They're “determined to repossess it and prevent the final act of subversion" so they adopt extreme measures to prevent what they see as impending calamity.

13/ Gingrich channeled this paranoia in the 1990s when he urged Republicans not to compromise.

Democracy requires compromise.

Some scholars call RWAs “anti-democratic personality.”

There's a direct line between the Confederacy, Gingrich and McConnell.

h/t @KevinMcFromTX 👇

14/ What calamity do the Mitch McConnells want to prevent?

The calamity is the “invasion” of brown people (and Democrats) who are trying to take what they think is theirs.

This brings us back to the normative threat.

(They become cruel, but think they're victims)

15/ The Authoritarian Dynamic is this: Liberal democracy ⤵️ naturally expands, which causes a reaction in those with paranoid / authoritarian dispositions.

Put another way: Progressives push forward. Reactionaries push backwards.

It’s a never-ending dynamic.

16/ It’s dangerous to see this as something new and unexpected, because then we feel shocked.

@timothydsnyder explains that “shock is pre-helpless”

If it’s never before happened, it's natural to think there's no way out.

But we've been here before, and we’ve gotten out before.

17/ If you’re new to my feed and you don't know HOW we get out, I’ll attach two threads and a list of things to do.

Start with: Susan B. Anthony taught us how👇

(I'll admit I have a thing 💕for Susan B. 💕 which makes this my favorite thread)

18/ Susan B., MLK, Jr., and all the heroes of the left were fighting the same battle against the same forces.

The opposition has always been with us, and always will be.

Trump was just really good at riling them.

Another "how to get out" thread 👇

19/ See my to-do list here:  https://terikanefield-blog.com/things-to-do/ 

And the thread where I found images of the latest Trump rally is here: It's a visual display of the Authoritarian Dynamic at work.

I'm seeing some "bothsidesism" in the comments today ⤵️

Yes, there are left wing authoritarians as well as right wing authoritarians.

Yes, Hofstadter states that the left wing fringe also exhibits the paranoid style in politics.

HOWEVER, we are currently in the midst . . .

. . .of a right wing takeover of the US government.

The far right wing attempting to turn the US into a Russian style oligarchy.

That's why we are talking about the dangers of right wing reactionaries.

Equating Obama love with Trump love is silly under the circumstances.

Someone says this has never happened in America before

Think about being African American in 1850, or a woman. Or both.

Imagine being Native American in Georgia when Andrew Jackson was president and openly ignored a Supreme Court ruling . . .

Cheating in elections? Check out Chicago under Daley. I think that's where we got the phrase, "vote early and vote often."

We've never had a Trump, but we had Huey Long, John Calhoun, and others. See what Vice President Calhoun said about slavery:  https://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/slavery-a-positive-good/ 

All my threads are also blog posts. This one is here  https://terikanefield-blog.com/authoritarian-dynamic/ 

Karen Stenner prefers "authoritarian disposition" to RWA because there are authoritarians on both fringes, so I fixed it on the blog.

On Twitter, though, RWA fits better into Tweets 😉

You can follow @Teri_Kanefield.


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