Authoritarians, Right-Wing Authoritarians, and Authoritarian Populists: What I’m reading, March 4, 2016

Welcome to my new vehicle for my more-or-less daily newsletter.

For some time now, I’ve been sending out a listing of most of the stories I’ve been archiving as a way of sharing them. There are a number of limitations with that format that I’ve been feeling keenly. A WordPress blog just seems like a more comfortable place to compose: I can insert footnotes or images where I feel the need, I can leave the page open all day (and it will be automatically backed up every so often), and I can easily get in to edit the HTML to better control the format.

You can still subscribe to the daily mailing (current subscribers need do nothing), which also includes notifications of my blog entries and, rarely, announcements, or more surreptitiously, you can subscribe to the RSS feed.

Donald Trump

Vox has published an article which, based on recent scholarly work, appears to suggest a link between what it calls ‘authoritarianism,’ which I think is the same thing as what political psychologists call right-wing authoritarianism (RWA), and authoritarian populism.[1] Unsurprisingly, I have some comments.

First, the author seems to lack a historical understanding of authoritarian populism. This is by no means a recent phenomenon but has been a major force in U.S. politics since the beginning. In Colin Woodard’s scheme of eleven nations, I associate authoritarian populists with Greater Appalachia from which it’s clear they caused trouble for the Midlands folks in Pennsylvania, proved an unreliable ally for the Deep South slaveholders (probably Southern traditionalist conservatives), and I think they also caused trouble for the Tidewater elites (probably functionalist conservatives).[2] When James Madison was concerned about poor people violently envying the rich,[3] I suspect he had Greater Appalachians folks in mind.

I don’t agree that authoritarian populists cannot win a general election. The article suggests that even some non-authoritarians may start acting like authoritarians when under sufficient pressure[4] and despite mainstream media and economists’ denial,[5] there are a lot of people under severe pressure, as I argue here.

If, however, the link between right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) and authoritarian populism holds up, then first, RWA can no longer be dismissed as an extreme personality trait but must be regarded as something much more common within the population; and second, if authoritarian populists would embrace a federal government run by Trump and his ilk rather than despising it as they do now,[6] then the path to a fascist takeover (to the extent it hasn’t already happened) becomes a lot more clear.

Amanda Taub, “The rise of American authoritarianism,” Vox, March 1, 2016,

Molly Ball, “The Trump Tipping Point,” Atlantic, March 2, 2016,

The Horse Race

Apparently there are several reasons for doubting polls that show Bernie Sanders with a larger advantage over Republicans than Hillary Clinton. My argument remains here. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee chairperson strongly doubts there will be a brokered convention.

Nick Gass, “RNC chairman: 85-90 percent chance of no brokered convention,” Politico, March 4, 2016,

Jeff Stein, “Bernie Sanders fans insist he’s more electable than Hillary Clinton. Are they right?” Vox, March 4, 2016,

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio, the last establishment hope, has been slow to get his campaign off the ground in his home state and is apparently losing so far.

Marc Caputo, “Rubio scrambles to undo Trump in Florida,” Politico, March 4, 2016,

Ben Carson

Ben Carson finally figures out how to end it.

Kurtis Lee, “Ben Carson ends his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination,” Los Angeles Times, March 4, 2016,

The Economy

Unemployment data has been updated here. The employment-to-population rate remains at levels not seen since the 1970s and 1980s, the labor force participation rate remains at levels not seen since the 1970s, and we’re all supposed to celebrate President Obama’s handling of the economy.

Here, a New York Times editor tries to defend the Obama administration’s handling of the economy by blaming it on Republican obstruction. Nonsense. Obama and his administration have been complicit with Republicans in neoliberal policy since no later than November, 2009, when he said of the dire need for job creation, “We all know that there are limits to what government can and should do, even during such difficult times,”[7] differing only in the details of how much to starve the economy, how much to cut the social safety net, and how much to further line wealthy pockets, especially in the pharmaceutical industry.

Teresa Tritch, “The Road Not Taken to Better Jobs and Higher Pay,” New York Times, March 4, 2016,

  1. [1]Amanda Taub, “The rise of American authoritarianism,” Vox, March 1, 2016,
  2. [2]Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin, 2011).
  3. [3]James Madison, “Federalist No. 10,” in The Federalist Papers, ed. Garry Wills (1982; repr., New York: Bantam, 2003).
  4. [4]Amanda Taub, “The rise of American authoritarianism,” Vox, March 1, 2016,
  5. [5]Ben Casselman, “The Economy Is Better — Why Don’t Voters Believe It?” FiveThirtyEight, November 12, 2015,
  6. [6]Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (New York: Henry Holt, 2005).
  7. [7]Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President on the Economy,” White House, November 12, 2009,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.