Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Can Dictators Be Leaders? Authoritarians Say Yes, Democrats Say No

One battle in the vice-presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence was over Pence's claim that Vladimir Putin was a stronger leader than Barack Obama.

Kaine said a dictator could not be a "leader."  Pence said Putin had a bigger impact on world affairs than Obama, so therefore was the stronger leader.

Authoritarians fear that their world is threatened.  They see the options as black and white, want a muscular response, and reject contrasting information.  Political scientists have noted that, in past generations, the authoritarian fraction of the population was split between the two parties more evenly.  Since the Civil Rights Movement, however, the Republican Party has been courting them. Authoritarians are the core of the Trump base.

To authoritarians, the strong man is what it means to be a "leader."

To a (small d) democrat, by contrast, a leader is someone who can work a compromise among opposing interests to create a functioning consensus.  A good leader is one who can see the way forward that serves the varied groups in society, and who has the skill to work the compromise.

Trump and Pence praise dictators as strong leaders, regardless of which policies they impose.  Clinton and Kaine reject the idea that dictators can be leaders, because imposing policies is oppressive to parts of society, and undemocratic.

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