Saturday, June 23, 2018

Many Americans Want Authoritarian Rule

Liberal democracy is hard.  It is slow.  It requires public engagement and continual nurturing.  Many Americans, maybe up to about 40% , find the work just too demanding.  Yielding to an authority "who is the only one that can fix this" really is much easier.  Those who lean towards a Stern Father form of governance are finding Trumpism appealing.  They didn't like gridlock.  Who does?  They felt the economy and social trends were not advancing their interests.  They mainly care about themselves and their families, seeing societal problems as mainly the fault of those who don't take care of their family responsibilities.   They find the prosperity gospel appealing because they believe that if they are righteous, they will prosper.

These are the people who by and large are not civically engaged.  They vote, as they showed us in 2016, but that is about it.  They are used to yielding, social influence in their families and neighborhoods, which they prefer to be like them and their kind.  They don't like change excepting when it benefits them.  They rail against bureaucracy, paying taxes, social advances for groups that don't look like them and blame economic stagnation on the government, not loosely regulated  corporations that employ or provide them income.  In  the main they do not engage in civic life, seeing their family responsibilities as singular.  They see those of European descent as superior, morally and culturally.

Governance by edict can make things happen fast.  Government by compromise is often slower and less efficient in terms of making things happen fast.  Thus the appeal of authoritarian fascism took root in places like Argentina and Chile in our own hemisphere.  And the same appeal in Europe  in Spain, Italy and Germany in the 1930's and 40's when economies were not providing prosperity for many. Other countries exercised authoritarianism not in conjunction with an independent industrial and commercial sector, but through economies managed totally by government such as China and the Soviet Union.   We had an early moment of truth in our own nation with a devastating civil war based on a fascist and racist culture who preferred to take the lives of tens of thousands than compromise their authoritarian Confederacy of slavery for a common good.  A horrific war resulted in Europe when the authoritarians insisted on imposing their values on those committed to the hard, slow work of democracy. Authoritarianism lost in all cases, but it took the horror of war to resolve the conflict.

All of these social systems have one characteristic in common with our capitalistic system;  an elite segment of the society garners most of the economic benefit and power.  Our founders were in the main educated elites.  Our government leaders mostly come from elite, privileged segments of society.  The same is true of authoritarian led societies across the globe.   The Trumpite segment of our political sphere do not see democracy as method of governance that can benefit only benefits others and their world view is that they want the first claim on both benefits and power.

Theirs is not an egalitarian or idealism driven view of the social order.  Theirs is a Ayn Rand libertarian view of I'll get mine and you're responsible for getting your slice of the pie.  Yes, they go to church on Sunday and are often led it prayer for others, believing that  a god is responsible to care for the subjects of their prayers.  And they are often happy to join others in their church in providing assistance to those in need  because they all see merit for such assistance in the same way.  Many see the merit of helping others on a micro level; adopting a disadvantaged child, taking food or clothing to a needy family.  But they don't see their responsibility as extending to support or assistance for groups through government agencies, using their tax dollars.  They have an authoritarian view that they alone can better determine who is worthy of their assistance.

Those well intended people who urge me to reach out to Trumpites with the belief we can find common ground will have to explain to me exactly what common ground I can share with these people.  Where is it and what does it look like?   And how does this reappearance of authoritarianism differ from the past which had resulted in war, death and destruction?  What is different about this time? Have we favoring democracy learned from the past?  Have Trumpites learned from the past?

Only time will reveal the answer.  In the meantime, those favoring democracy, Resist with all the strength you have.