Thursday, September 22, 2005

Why does Bush have his rabid following?

Over at Kevin Drums political Animal he wrote about Andrew Sullivans' comment in which Sullivan almost but not quite called Bush a Fascist. There were over 80 comments, including This one by Apollo 13 listing the characteristics of the Authoritarian Personality. It fits a large number of the Bush followers, and I got to wondering why they would react that way.
This was my conclusion as I look at American history since 1950.

Looking at Appollo 13's description of the Authoritarian Personality above, that is what you would find if lower middle class people as a class feel extremly threatened. They are reacting as though their whole life-style were under attack and they had no way to deal with it.

The rigidity of thought and traditional values are an effort to resist change and go back to an idealized, safer past. The oversimplified thinking is the result of stress. The fight-or-flight mechanism that kicks in from stress cuts out the ability to perform higher thought, so that you are left doing the things you already know how to do well. The need for a strong leader and a group to belong to is an effort to maintain a stable environment.

So what does the lower middle class have to be afraid of? The Post WWII economic gains ended for them in the 60's and are not coming back. Feminisim and the pill threatens their settled family roles, as does abortion on demand. The Civil Rights movement still upsets them as destroying the old order. America, the strongest nation on Earth, got its butt kicked in Viet Nam, and the President (Nixon) was overthrown. Probably the assasination of Kennedy fits into that also, but less so. Then the inflation of the 70's hurt, and the stagflation of the late 70's and early 80's severely damaged a lot of small businesses and farms. Small farms are disappearing, and small businesses are being WalMarted out of existance.

Reagan was a savior to these people. He stopped stagflation, stepped on Civil Rights, played the race card very nicely, and helped to kill the ERA amendment. He also built up the military and brought down the USSR. Bush I was supposed to continue that, but wasn't able to deliver the economics and low taxes. Still, Bill Clinton was everything these people absolutely feared, and his election and economic success infuriated them.
Bush II has been a return to Reaganism in spades. Authoritarian personalities are also drewn to fundamentalist religion for the same reason - social stability. Bush combined the economic and strong military philosophies of Reaganism with an appeal to fundamentalist religion.

This was a weak replacement for Clinton, but the anger at Clinton had to be expressed and the Supreme Court broke the tie. Then 9/11 jacked up the fear and social instability, throwing us into a whole new world and leaving a lot more people searching for a strong leader - one Kerry never offered them.

The on-going war in Iraq, the weak economy with poor employment and the failed effort to recover from Katrina have left Bush II's appearance as a strong leader in tatters. But he has Rove and three years to recover. The Democrats are not offering any counter-leader.

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