Sunday, July 23, 2006

American Authoritarianism

From a review of John Dean's new book, Conservatives With Conscience. Dean was Nixon's White House Counsel.
Dean contends, and amply documents, that the "conservative" movement has become, at its core, an authoritarian movement composed of those with a psychological and emotional need to follow a strong authority figure which provides them a sense of moral clarity and a feeling of individual power, the absence of which creates fear and insecurity in the individuals who crave it. By definition, its followers’ devotion to authority and the movement’s own power is supreme, thereby overriding the consciences of its individual members and removing any intellectual and moral limits on what will be justified in defense of their movement.

Dean relies on substantial social science data to illustrate the personality type that seeks out authoritarian movements.


Bush supporters want more spying, much more aggressive actions against investigative journalists and even domestic political opposition, more death and violence brought to the Middle East, more wars, and still fewer restraints on the President’s powers, to the extent there are any real limits left. To them, the Bush administration has not been nearly as extremist and aggressive as it ought to be in dealing with the Enemies. And that is to say nothing of the measures that would be urged, and almost certainly imposed, in the event of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil or in the increasingly likely event that our limited war in Iraq expands into the Epic War of Civilizations which so many of them crave.