Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Authoritarianism and Parties

This week I will be blogging on a very interesting new study, Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler's Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics.

Authoritarians tend to vote Republican these days. But this was not always so. Hetherington and Weiler show that the big partisan gap that we see now, as compared with, say, 40 years ago, is because the Republican strategists have been successful in getting authoritarians to become solid Republicans. They argue that the American electorate is not more authoritarian than it used to be. It is just better sorted into parties now that it was before.

The beginning of this big sort came in the wake of the civil rights legislation, which was led by Democrats but passed by bipartisan majorities. Republicans' suffered a crushing defeat in the Goldwater - Johnson election in 1964. At the same time the Democrats succeeded in shifting black voters to the Democratic Party. Republican leaders then adopted the "Southern strategy" to "go hunting where the ducks are" - that is, to get Southern whites who thought civil rights and integration would upend the social order, to switch to the Republican Party. This strategy worked so well that the GOP successfully recruited other groups who feared that the social order was in danger from the movement for equal rights for women, and today's movement for equal rights for homosexuals.

There are, of course, authoritarians and nonauthoritarians in both parties. But there has been a clear movement of most authoritarians into the Republican Party, which has been a key part of GOP success since 1980.


ceemac said...

I look forward to seeing more posts on this.

It seeems intersting. But I also wonder if the analysis is somewhat outdated.

For example where do the tea party folks fitting in this spectrum.

They do seem to be operating out of fear like the authoritarians. But their rhetoric is anti-authoritarian terms.

Gruntled said...

I think Tea Partiers are pure authoritarians. They think the social order is threatened by many things, and want a strong muscular response. That they are against the current elected officials does not mean that they are against authority; they want different leaders in power.

I think the fact that they are willing to give up civil liberties, including habeas corpus, bans against torture, and bans against spying on citizens, to give the state all power, proves it.

ceemac said...

Interesting that we have completely differnt impressions of the Tea Party and their attitudes toward authority. I am sure you have studied them in more detail than I have.

It's probably because I live in Texas but I have gotten the impression that Tea Party folks here are pretty much in line with the Ron Paul libertarians. A very strong anti-gov't streak.

Don't you have your R. Paul thing going on in Ky.

Gruntled said...

True. But Rand Paul is becoming much less libertarian than his father, at least for the Republican primary audience.

Paul said...

There you go again Beau.Please don't prejudge the Tea Party movement.Please research the facts the BEFORE your knee jerks.Anger is not fear.

You are usually better than this. The Obama health plan is an authortarian's wet dream come true. Guess you overlooked that.

Anonymous said...

So is Cap and Trade.

What better way to pick the winners and the losers than by conrolling carbon output.

Gruntled said...

The Tea Party mobilized in the first place on a claim that the social order was facing unprecedented threat.

How is the health care bill authoritarian? The President's bill is in line with decades of Democratic Party attempts to make sure every has health insurance. I don't see in this debate a claim that the social order is under urgent threat.

Cap and trade is also part of a long, bipartisan, even wonky attempt to limit pollution. It is true that some people who support cap and trade believe that global warming is an urgent threat, but cap and trade long predated the global warming debate.

I think you may be reading something into "authoritarian" that is not what Hetherington and Weiler are talking about.

Paul said...

Mandates are authoratarian.The Obama plans mandate health insurance.

I would like him to mandate that Americans must use my handyman services.Next he will mandate we all watch Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.

You folks are so elitist and you can't even see it. The Tea Party is fighting for our and our children's freedom.

Gruntled said...

Please see the fourth post in this series for some clarifications that respond to your comments.