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Author Topic:   Are You an Authoritarian?
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Message 69 of 181 (567575)
07-01-2010 5:31 PM

I missed this thread the first time, but it's a subject I've been interested in after reading John Dean's "Conservatives Without Conscience." And I wanted to give a shout-out to research happening here at my own UNL:

Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits

Although political views have been thought to arise largely from individuals' experiences, recent research suggests that they may have a biological basis. We present evidence that variations in political attitudes correlate with physiological traits. In a group of 46 adult participants with strong political beliefs, individuals with measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War. Thus, the degree to which individuals are physiologically responsive to threat appears to indicate the degree to which they advocate policies that protect the existing social structure from both external (outgroup) and internal (norm-violator) threats.


I think, with further research, it will emerge that Right-wing Authoritarian personality types have an organic basis. Possibly even a genetic one.

That would be a truly astounding - and potentially chilling - discovery for American politics. I think we all know what kind of government results from the attitude that dissent from the dominant political philosophy isn't just a matter of conscience but is actually a mental illness. But - what if it turned out they were right?

Can it be consistent with liberalism to "treat" conservatives for their mental disorder, even if it actually is a mental disorder? I don't see how it can be. But then - how much political power and influence are we expected to turn over to the hands of people who are certified mental cases?

Replies to this message:
 Message 70 by AZPaul3, posted 07-01-2010 9:38 PM crashfrog has not yet responded
 Message 72 by Coyote, posted 07-01-2010 11:24 PM crashfrog has responded

Inactive Member

Message 73 of 181 (567628)
07-02-2010 1:07 AM
Reply to: Message 72 by Coyote
07-01-2010 11:24 PM

Even though they are in the minority, with half the numbers

Well, I wouldn't say we're in the minority, at least not if you look to the actual positions. Majorities of Americans support entitlement spending, health care reform, strong protections for workers, and higher taxes on the wealthy (68% in a recent poll.)

What you're looking at is a surprising number of people who are actually liberal but call themselves "conservatives." These self-reported affiliation polls aren't a very good way to get a handle on the American polity.

liberals are trying to make conservatism a hate crime and a mental disorder.

Er, no, no liberals are trying to make conservativism a hate crime and a mental disorder. And I thought I was pretty clear - I certainly share your revulsion at the idea of ruling out legitimate political dissent as "mental illness."

But, I mean, what if it is? It's undeniable that a substantial portion of conservative discourse these days is dominated by delusional, impossible ideas - Obama is a Kenyan Muslim, tax cuts increase tax revenue, Republicans want smaller government and are strong on national defense. Illegal immigration costs jobs and imports crime. Stuff that, objectively, just ain't so.

What if those delusions are actually the result of organic mental disorder? Nobody needs to go to the Gulag, but maybe also we don't need to give the minority party so much power to stall legislation in the Senate?

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 Message 72 by Coyote, posted 07-01-2010 11:24 PM Coyote has not yet responded

Inactive Member

Message 76 of 181 (567972)
07-03-2010 4:24 PM
Reply to: Message 75 by AZPaul3
07-02-2010 4:10 AM

Do you believe people are not aware of their differences in view point to the extent they will alway miss label themselves?

"Always"? I dunno. But Americans are sufficiently un-self-aware politically, for instance, that a substantial number of people on Social Security disability, welfare, and Medicare will show up at Tea Parties and complain about "big government moochers." The Republican Party can oppose, lockstep, a trillon-dollar deficit reduction package in both houses of Congress and still call themselves a party of fiscal sanity.

Or do "liberals" exhibit the same patterns in reverse?

Yeah, I think probably a large number of liberals consider themselves liberal, even though they oppose abortion, want smaller taxes on businesses and the rich, and believe in aggressive, interventionist foreign policy.

Do you believe people are not aware of their differences in view point to the extent they will alway miss label themselves?

Yes, I think hardly any Americans at all, actually, follow politics to the extent that they know what the commonly-used terms refer to. Americans change religions more than they change political parties. Only one in five self-reported "conservatives" actually hold consistent conservative positions. Americans in general are saddled with an unfortunate ignorance about what words mean - fewer than one third of Americans can correctly identify DNA as the molecule of heredity, and only a microscopic fraction actually know what a molecule is. One in five American adults believe that the Sun revolves around the Earth.

Do I think that Americans in general don't understand what positions are liberal and which are conservative? Yes, absolutely. I don't see how that can be denied. Hardly any conservatives are actually conservative, and almost every "liberal" in America is a center-right moderate. But liberal positions - the social safety net, community investment and development, public-option health care, progressive taxation, strong protections for workers - are supported by resounding majorities of Americans, and always have been. Conservative positions have relatively little popularity in Real America. Hence the curious paradox of conservative dream girl Sarah Palin having actually been one of Alaska's most liberal governors. Hence conservative Mitt Romney being the first governor to create universal health care in any American state.

This message is a reply to:
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