The Evidence Establishes, Without
Question, That Republican Rule Is Dangerous
by John W. Dean, Findlaw
November 2, 2008
Occasionally, during the past eight years
of writing this column, I have addressed the remarkably dangerous
manner in which Republican Party officials rule the nation when
they control one or more of the three branches of the federal
government. Over the same period, I've also made this argument,
even more directly and loudly, in three books on the subject.
In this column, I will be more pointed
on this subject than I have ever been, while also repeating a
few key facts that I have raised earlier -- because Election Day
2008 now provides the only clear remedy for the ills of Republican
The Republican Approach to Government:
Republicans rule, rather than govern,
when they are in power by imposing their authoritarian conservative
philosophy on everyone, as their answer for everything. This works
for them because their interest is in power, and in what it can
do for those who think as they do. Ruling, of course, must be
distinguished from governing, which is a more nuanced process
that entails give-and-take and the kind of compromises that are
often necessary to find a consensus and solutions that will best
serve the interests of all Americans.
Republicans' authoritarian rule can also
be characterized by its striking incivility and intolerance toward
those who do not view the world as Republicans do. Their insufferable
attitude is not dangerous in itself, but it is employed to accomplish
what they want, which it to take care of themselves and those
who work to keep them in power.
Authoritarian conservatives are primarily
anti-government, except where they believe the government can
be useful to impose moral or social order (for example, with respect
to matters like abortion, prayer in schools, or prohibiting sexually-explicit
information from public view). Similarly, Republicans' limited-government
attitude does not apply regarding national security, where they
feel there can never be too much government activity - nor are
the rights and liberties of individuals respected when national
security is involved. Authoritarian Republicans do oppose the
government interfering with markets and the economy, however --
and generally oppose the government's doing anything to help anyone
they feel should be able to help themselves.
In my book Broken Government: How Republican
Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive and Judicial Branches,
I set forth the facts regarding the consequences of the Republicans'
controlling government for too many years. No Republican -- nor
anyone else, for that matter -- has refuted these facts, and for
good reason: They are irrefutable.
The McCain/Palin Ticket Perfectly Fits
the Authoritarian Conservative Mold
During the 2008 presidential campaign,
Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin, the Republican candidates,
have shown themselves to be unapologetic and archetypical authoritarian
conservatives. Indeed, their campaign has warmed the hearts of
fellow authoritarians, who applaud them for their negativity,
nastiness, and dishonest ploys and only criticize them for not
offering more of the same.
The McCain/Palin campaign has assumed
a typical authoritarian posture: The candidates provide no true,
specific proposals to address America's needs. Rather, they simply
ask voters to "trust us" and suggest that their opponents
- Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden - are not "real Americans"
like McCain, Palin, and the voters they are seeking to court.
Accordingly, McCain and Plain have called Obama "a socialist,"
"a redistributionist," "a Marxist," and "a
communist" - without a shred of evidence to support their
name-calling, for these terms are pejorative, rather than in any
manner descriptive. This is the way authoritarian leaders operate.
In my book Conservatives Without Conscience,
I set forth the traits of authoritarian leaders and followers,
which have been distilled from a half-century of empirical research,
during which thousands of people have voluntarily been interviewed
by social scientists. The touch points in these somewhat-overlapping
lists of character traits provide a clear picture of the characters
of both John McCain and Sarah Palin.
McCain, especially, fits perfectly as
an authoritarian leader. Such leaders possess most, if not all,
of these traits:
desirous of personal power
intimidating and bullying
cheats to win
highly prejudiced (racist, sexist, homophobic)
tells others what they want to hear
takes advantage of "suckers"
specializes in creating false images to sell self
may or may not be religious
usually politically and economically conservative/Republican
Incidentally, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney also can be described
by these well-defined and typical traits -- which is why a McCain
presidency is so likely to be nearly identical to a Bush presidency.
Clearly, Sarah Palin also has some qualities
typical of authoritarian leaders, not to mention almost all of
the traits found among authoritarian followers. Specifically,
such followers can be described as follows:
submissive to authority
aggressive on behalf of authority
highly conventional in their behavior
possessing moderate to little education
trusting of untrustworthy authorities
prejudiced (particularly against homosexuals and followers of
religions other than their own)
uncritical toward chosen authority
inconsistent and contradictory
prone to panic easily
demanding loyalty and returning it
possessing little self-awareness
usually politically and economically conservative/Republican
The leading authority on right-wing authoritarianism, a man who
devoted his career to developing hard empirical data about these
people and their beliefs, is Robert Altemeyer. Altemeyer, a social
scientist based in Canada, flushed out these typical character
traits in decades of testing.
Altemeyer believes about 25 percent of
the adult population in the United States is solidly authoritarian
(with that group mostly composed of followers, and a small percentage
of potential leaders). It is in these ranks of some 70 million
that we find the core of the McCain/Palin supporters. They are
people who are, in Altemeyer's words, are "so self-righteous,
so ill-informed, and so dogmatic that nothing you can say or do
will change their minds."
The Problem with Electing Authoritarian
What is wrong with being an authoritarian
conservative? Well, if you want to take the country where they
do, nothing. "They would march America into a dictatorship
and probably feel that things had improved as a result,"
Altemeyer told me. "The problem is that these authoritarian
followers are much more active than the rest of the country. They
have the mentality of 'old-time religion' on a crusade, and they
generously give money, time and effort to the cause. They proselytize;
they lick stamps; they put pressure on loved ones; and they revel
in being loyal to a cohesive group of like thinkers. And they
are so submissive to their leaders that they will believe and
do virtually anything they are told. They are not going to let
up and they are not going to go away."
I would nominate McCain's "Joe the
Plumber" as a new poster-boy of the authoritarian followers.
He is a believer, and he has signed on. On November 4, 2008, we
will learn how many more Americans will join the ranks of the
Frankly, the fact that the pre-election
polls are close - after eight years of authoritarian leadership
from Bush and Cheney, and given its disastrous results -- shows
that many Americans either do not realize where a McCain/Palin
presidency might take us, or they are happy to go there. Frankly,
it scares the hell out of me, for there is only one way to deal
with these conservative zealots: Keep them out of power.
This election should be a slam dunk for
Barack Obama, who has run a masterful campaign. It was no small
undertaking winning the nomination from Hillary Clinton, and in
doing so, he has shown without any doubt (in my mind anyway) that
he is not only qualified to be president, but that he might be
a once-in-a-lifetime leader who can forever change the nation
and the world for the better.
If Obama is rejected on November 4th for
another authoritarian conservative like McCain, I must ask if
Americans are sufficiently intelligent to competently govern themselves.
I can understand authoritarian conservatives voting for McCain,
for they know no better. It is well-understood that most everyone
votes with his or her heart, not his or her head. Polls show that
81 percent of Americans "feel" (in their hearts and
their heads) that our country is going the wrong way. How could
anyone with such thoughts and feelings vote for more authoritarian
conservatism, which has done so much to take the nation in the
We will all find out on (or about) November