Jacksonians, or Authoritarians?

In contrast to Walter Russell Mead's ideas about Jacksonians, a fellow named Matthew MacWilliams, Ph.D. student in political science at U. Mass. Amherst and presumably future expert on authoritarianism, has a very different take on Trump's supporters. He claims that he has found one variable that predicts an individual's support for the Donald:

... Trump’s electoral strength—and his staying power—have been buoyed, above all, by Americans with authoritarian inclinations. And because of the prevalence of authoritarians in the American electorate, among Democrats as well as Republicans, it’s very possible that Trump’s fan base will continue to grow....
Authoritarianism is not a new, untested concept in the American electorate. Since the rise of Nazi Germany, it has been one of the most widely studied ideas in social science. While its causes are still debated, the political behavior of authoritarians is not. Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened. From pledging to “make America great again” by building a wall on the border to promising to close mosques and ban Muslims from visiting the United States, Trump is playing directly to authoritarian inclinations.

Not all authoritarians are Republicans by any means; in national surveys since 1992, many authoritarians have also self-identified as independents and Democrats. And in the 2008 Democratic primary, the political scientist Marc Hetherington found that authoritarianism mattered more than income, ideology, gender, age and education in predicting whether voters preferred Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama. But Hetherington has also found, based on 14 years of polling, that authoritarians have steadily moved from the Democratic to the Republican Party over time. He hypothesizes that the trend began decades ago, as Democrats embraced civil rights, gay rights, employment protections and other political positions valuing freedom and equality. In my poll results, authoritarianism was not a statistically significant factor in the Democratic primary race, at least not so far, but it does appear to be playing an important role on the Republican side. Indeed, 49 percent of likely Republican primary voters I surveyed score in the top quarter of the authoritarian scale—more than twice as many as Democratic voters.

And how does one determine how authoritarian an individual is?

In addition to the typical battery of demographic, horse race, thermometer-scale and policy questions, my poll asked a set of four simple survey questions that political scientists have employed since 1992 to measure inclination toward authoritarianism. These questions pertain to child-rearing: whether it is more important for the voter to have a child who is respectful or independent; obedient or self-reliant; well-behaved or considerate; and well-mannered or curious. Respondents who pick the first option in each of these questions are strongly authoritarian.

Based on these questions, Trump was the only candidate—Republican or Democrat—whose support among authoritarians was statistically significant.

MacWilliams points out other demographics Trump could appeal to and then states:

So, those who say a Trump presidency “can’t happen here” should check their conventional wisdom at the door. The candidate has confounded conventional expectations this primary season because those expectations are based on an oversimplified caricature of the electorate in general and his supporters in particular. Conditions are ripe for an authoritarian leader to emerge. Trump is seizing the opportunity. And the institutions—from the Republican Party to the press—that are supposed to guard against what James Madison called “the infection of violent passions” among the people have either been cowed by Trump’s bluster or are asleep on the job.

So the question of why Trump is doing so well is a hot one, it seems. MacWilliams is obviously excited about his discovery, and it is interesting. Still, the social sciences are overwhelmingly neo-Marxists of one flavor or another, I hear, and I wonder if this 4-question test doesn't indicate something besides what they claim.

For example, looking at the questions, instead of authoritarians, might we call them rule-abiding citizens? They believe not only that they should abide by the laws, but that their politicians should as well. Maybe instead of moving to the Republican Party "as Democrats embraced civil rights, gay rights, employment protections and other political positions valuing freedom and equality," they moved because the Democrats increasingly embraced a lawless, anti-democratic, authoritarian, even elitist, ruling style.

I don't know, really. It's just a very interesting contrast with Mead's analysis.


Grim said...

It's a viable question. I'm obviously Jacksonian, and not pro-Trump. I don't have much faith in psychoanalysis, though.

Tom said...

I'm not at all pro-Trump, though I will vote for him over either Sanders or Clinton. I'm not sure I'm Jacksonian, either, though some of what Mead described certain strikes a chord.

I have little faith in these psychological analyses applied to broad demographics. However, if this has been an accepted test for the last 24 years, there are probably some interesting correlations. I question the interpretations of those correlations, but still.

Another issue that I see with those four questions is that they don't seem to say anything about whether authorities (parent or government) should follow the rules as well. I think I'll track this test down in my copious free time.

Anonymous said...

(Yes, copious free time should be in sarcasm tags.)

Ymar Sakar said...

Mead voted for Hussein Obola. That's a good indication of where Mead is at now, vis a vis the Jacksonian or Democrat parties.

They call themselves Jacksonian, but vote for Hussein. A very interesting tell.

If you become an expert on anything.. you are Now the Authority.

Ymar Sakar said...

Milgram's experiments, once the biases are ironed out by future researchers, is more useful for testing authority.

Modern Americans can think of that as the Waterboarding Gitmo test.

Tom said...

I'm not sure Mead considers himself a Jacksonian. He sounds like he's describing a demographic from the outside.

raven said...

I almost barfed when I read this-
"trend began decades ago, as Democrats embraced civil rights, gay rights, employment protections and other political positions valuing freedom and equality."
If the D-ommunists are such an example of human freedom and civil rights, why is it that every time I get told no, there is a D in front of the lawmakers name? Is it just some strange coincidence that for forty years every avocation or pursuit I have, from flying aircraft to riding motorcycles to shooting, plus property ownership, has been under attack, and with a 95% chance it is some nanny state D-ommunist behind whatever bill or ordinance it is?

Unknown said...

Wasn't the gist of this article entirely predictable? It sounds like it was dialed in and is typical of the hypothesis before data genre.
I don't know what the rest of you are experiencing but I don't think you need any deep, profound, or ideological, explanation for the Trump phenomena beyond the truth that quite a few people are fed up with the "ins" with all their preachy lecturing, ankle biting, and underhanded sneakiness. Didn't Boris Johnson sum it up:” To a greater or lesser extent, the story of this Euro-election has been the rise of the minor parties……..united by a VISCERAL dislike of the EU bureaucracy: its arrogance, its remoteness, its expense, its endless condescension and its manic and messianic belief in its right to legislate for all 500 million people in the EU.”
As for Trump, I can't help but notice that he is Pro-American.

Tom said...

It was, and I probably wouldn't have posted about it except for the contrast w/ Mead's ideas.

Boris Johnson does a good job of explaining it, too. I've seen Trump referred to as Middle America's middle finger, or something to that effect.

As for Trump himself, his rhetoric is pro-America, but I still suspect the man is mostly pro-Trump.

Ymar Sakar said...

I'm not sure Mead considers himself a Jacksonian. He sounds like he's describing a demographic from the outside.

Mead has been in the pro Jacksonian camp for decades now, even before Hussein Obola's senate run.

That's pretty long for somebody that considers himself an outsider Democrat looking in, since Democrats who have those values, like Grim here, tend to think that way because they think another way about the Democrat history itself.

Sarah Palin is much closer to the Jacksonian ideal.

In other words, if Mead doesn't consider himself a Jacksonian, that might be because he lacks a connection to the Scott/Irish demographic, but he does still think the Democrats have Jacksonian values because he himself likes those values. Because if he didn't think that, he might have to question why he is voting Democrat all the time. People in the South voted for Jackson because of Jackson and he also gave white non land owners the vote, which helped counter the power of slave barons, but not enough to matter in the end. This ideal of plurality, backed by personal strength, is kind of the root of what people label the Scott Irish folk with.

Blacks in the South are closer to the Jacksonian value set as well, probably more so than whites and other classes now a days. In the sense of having the vices but not the virtues, that is, of the person Jacksonians took their name from. Maybe even Robert KKK Byrd also thought he had Jacksonian values, like some of his Democrat ancestors.

There came a time shortly after Jackson's death, that the political values somehow got mistaken for the personal virtues of the man himself. Maybe cause he ended up dead and buried and somebody had to give reasons for the poor whites to keep voting Democrat for one reason or another. Can't be voting for a dead man, that's like a Mohammed religions.

As for people "shifting" around, it wasn't the Dixiecrats that skipped parties. Robert KKK Byrd was, and still is a Democrat, in his grave over there. Even though it won't matter since Democrats can make any dead person vote Democrat, it says so right on that person's driver's license. Which they have like 20 copies of, all with different registrations. (It's why Iraq had purple fingers, that's why they don't use that in Chicago) The people who skipped parties were the Reagan Democrats, the Jacksonians, who still were ethnically or culturally or demographically, rooted in the South. They still provide almost half of the US armed forces, in combat front line troops at least.

Is it just some strange coincidence that for forty years every avocation or pursuit I have, from flying aircraft to riding motorcycles to shooting, plus property ownership, has been under attack, and with a 95% chance it is some nanny state D-ommunist behind whatever bill or ordinance it is?

I think it is similar in a fashion to why Los Angeles and Las Vegas attracts a certain kind of demographic or person. The dictators in waiting, need a stable power base in order to do land grabs and get rid of competitors, so the Democrat's slave voting system is perfectly suited for that. They get in, they get that Chicago machine copyright working, and it's golden for them. It was better in the South before 1940, of course, because they could just lynch any Republican as a carpet bagger and get rid of blacks who didn't vote correctly, directly with a little "midnight raid", but it was still pretty stable later on, due to cities.

A class of free farmers and warriors, would never tolerate the excesses of a powerful slave baron caste of aristocrats. They would end up dead sooner or later. That's why for people who want to be powerful slave barons, they need a system that has the infrastructure for their particular lifestyle goal. The rulers need a justification, an external enemy to blame all their problems on, in order to rule with an iron fist, wrapped in a velvet glove.

Ymar Sakar said...

Mead, when speaking of the Jacksonians, I translate that to mean the Sarah Palin, Tea Party, and pro military, pro patriotic people of the South, primarily, and secondly of the Scott/Irish derivatives.

I'm not sure how many still remain Democrat in ideology, except for Grim and other specific examples. But certainly the "South" is now known as a Republican stronghold, more or less, in terms of political winds.

So Mead's point is corrupted by a great many things. But when Sarah Palin supports Trump for US President (Tyrant in many ways is what it now is), it does connect the lines together a bit more cohesively. Yet the DUck Dynasty, also perhaps Jacksonian in tradition, is on the other side for Cruz.

So it's split. It's not a simple of matter of Jacksonians=equality/plurality/rights=Democrats=whatever. The Democrats used to have a monopoly on that kind of propaganda, no more. Trump is backed by the Alternative Right on the internet, which is not necessary Palin or the Jacksonians domestically. It gets complicated.

Unknown said...

Wow, you know me at least as well as I know myself.
Yes, this is where I was going...
"As for Trump himself, his rhetoric is pro-America", sloppy on my part to omit the word "rhetoric".

Just to clarify my point on predictable. I've read this article before. I'm reminded of the women's magazines of the 70s and 80s where the same article was tweaked and recycled every year, except in this case the same article is tweaked and the names changed every election cycle.