Thoughts on the underlying psychological roots of the anger, violence, fear and hate that Trump and GOP supporters manifest.
John Kasich said, today, "Donald Trump has created a toxic environment. There is no place for a national leader to prey on the fears of the people who live in our great country."
Yes. Trump is a big part of the problem. We've seen people who look just like 1930s Germans saluting the Fuhrer with hands raised in what became the Sieg Heil salute. And Trump is encouraging this behavior.
It's been written that Trump supporters are predictable based on their being authoritarian. I did an interview with Scott Kyler
, an expert on patriarchal, authoritarian people. He explained authoritarians as
people obsessed with rules, who very much follow self-proclaimed experts on how life should be and moral. Someone who is authoritarian is seeking a leader to follow and blindly obedient. They are very conventional, very submissive to authorities, seeking people to dominate them.
One characteristic usually attributed to authoritarian personalities is strict child rearing practices. I'll discuss that more later in the article.
One Washington Post article
disputes this, reporting a study which found that ALL of the GOP candidates are far more more authoritarian than the Democrats and that Hillary Clinton's supporters are far more authoritarian than Bernie Sanders supporters. The study suggests that Ted Cruz is even more authoritarian. One thing the study definitely supports is that GOP supporters are far, far more authoritarian than Democratic candidates. The study also suggests that the characteristic that differentiates Trump supporters from supporters of Rubio, Cruz and Kasich is their populism.
describes populism as:
"Populism is a doctrine that appeals to the interests and conceptions (such as hopes and fears) of the general population, especially when contrasting any new collective consciousness push against the prevailing status quo interests of any predominant political sector.
But the same Wikipedia article also cites experts who offer a different concept of populuism:
"Daniele Albertazzi and Duncan McDonnell define populism as an ideology that "pits a virtuous and homogeneous people against a set of elites and dangerous 'others' who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity, and voice"."
Both Bernie Sanders and Trump supporters demonstrate populist characteristics. The Washington Post researchers suggest that strong nationalism is a part of populism. I don't buy that. Perhaps authoritarian populists do.
How can that be-- authoritarian populists who are pitted against elites? I think that's very possible. Passive authoritarians pick the dominating aggressive authoritarian figures they choose to genuflect and defer to. They can also, as part of that deference, reject and create as oppositional objects other sources of authority, like the establishment that they don't identify with.
On the other hand, Bernie Sanders supporters tend to reject authoritarianism strongly. They reject the establishment and elites. There's a way to do that in a healthy way. People can reject excessive authority and value egalitarianism. People can support each other instead of handing their power to authoritarians. The fact that Bernie talks about "we" is a big deal.
Some psychologists, studying attachment theory-- the way infants and children are parented and raised-- suggest that people who are not well parented, who are not held and nurtured and made to feel safe and loved, develop into insecure adults who operate to seek safety. This is what happens to children raised in a strict parenting, let the baby cry model. Adults raised this way tend to be colder, more intolerant, angrier, either fearful or desiring to be controlling. Before civilization, and even now, in aboriginal cultures, people, the whole tribe or band, did the nurturing and caring that creates kind, whole, non-authoritarian adults.
Our contemporary culture makes it challenging for a mother to engage in attachment parenting. They are attacked for breastfeeding, mocked for not allowing their babies to cry, encouraged to give the baby digital screen technology
, which can lead to disconnection and even addiction to screens over human contact. Trump's authoritarian populist supporters are a symptom of our culture. It's sad, but they are victims and suffer from the effects of a culture that has become mean spirited and sometimes religiously fanatical in its approach to child-rearing.
It's easy to feel contempt for Trump supporters, certainly for me. I have to fight it. Knowing they are victims, damaged by parents who raised them in a way that produced their authoritarian, angry, way of relating sometimes helps me to feel less contempt for them. But remember, in aboriginal cultures, people who act controlling, fearful, selfish, who don't share and participate in a bottom up, we the people kind of way are considered to be sick or insane. They are often banned from the tribe. Our problem is the digital, contemporary culture has created so many of them it has become, almost, the norm.
Getting back to Kasich's reference to Trump playing on people's fears... Perhaps it is fear that is at the root of the Trump and GOP supporters' political characteristics and Trump has honed in on that deep, central aspect of being an impaired human that makes his supporters vulnerable to his messages.
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