Donald Trump officially accepted the Republican nomination tonight, proclaiming as usual that he alone is the solution to America’s ills. For those who have been paying attention to his campaign (and who hasn’t?), that can be a lot to take in, even if we’ve known it would happen for months. How did we get here again?
Back in the early days of the Republican presidential primary, after the primaries had started but before it was all clearly decided, journalists struggled to make sense of what Donald Trump’s “consituency” consisted of. The strongest correlate they were able to find was how these voters responded to authority. Basically, voters with a psychological predisposition to authoritarianism — measured (perhaps surprisingly) by attitudes on children’s obedience to parents — were much more likely to express support for Trump in the primary, beating out other correlates like a high school education level.
I too struggled for months to understand the appeal of Trump when no one I knew, even back in conservative parts of Colorado, supported him. But reflecting recently, I’ve been surprised to discover that when it comes to authoritarianism, I personally share that same disposition. I seem to naturally want to follow a strong man who seems to have all of the answers. But I’ve also been blessed with a range of experiences with this sort of authority that has taught me several important lessons that I’d like to share.
Just to be clear, I can’t really imagine myself supporting Trump. I also probably wouldn’t qualify as an authoritarian based on the four standard questions about parenting: I’d have noticed the connection and modulated my answers accordingly. But I do seem to have followed some leaders who seemed to have all of the answers, like many have concluded Trump does.
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