Friday, August 14, 2015

John Dean on Trump

Joan Dean writes about the authoritarianism of the currently leading Republican Presidential candidate in Donald Trump Is Entertaining But When Will It End? Justia 07/24/2015:

... Donald Trump has emerged as America’s leading authoritarian political figure, representative of a type of leadership for which many Americans yearn. ...

... Trump is far more aggressive in his authoritarianism than his predecessors. To understand the Trump phenomenon, it is essential to appreciate political authoritarianism, as well as its limits and boundaries. ...

Without question, Trump is the most prototypical authoritarian leader to ever so prominently seek the American presidency, and we have had several authoritarian presidents and vice presidents, most recently including Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, followed by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
But I think Dean is over-optimistic in this part of his analysis:

But I can find no scenario in which he could win the White House. Too many voters still remember Nixon, Agnew, Bush, and Cheney, who ranked high on the authoritarian leaders scale, albeit not as high as Donald Trump. Should it happen that Trump wins the GOP nomination, he will surely all but finish the destruction of the Republican Party, which began with the ascendency of the religious right and Southern conservatives leaving the “Big Tent” Democratic Party to make the GOP their unspoken racist home. The authoritarian base of the GOP has been steadily growing, and Trump could test its strength. [my emphasis]
In his column, he cites The Authoritarian Personality (1951) by Theodor Adorno et al, The Authoritarian (n/d) by Bob Altemeyer and Dean's own Conservatives Without Conscience (2006).

Dean in his next Justia column (The FOX News GOP Debate: Who Won? Who Lost? 08/07/2015) talks about Trump's performance in last week's debate:

This first prime time debate was about one thing for Fox News—ratings, which means money. ...

Surely this was carefully plotted by [FOX News president] Roger Ailes, who knows as much about presidential campaigns as he does about television. But if there was any doubt that Ailes wanted to force Trump to be Trump, that was addressed in the first question to Trump from moderator Megyn Kelly. It was a mean question—the kind of question that would make you dislike Carly Fiorina because she would never have pulled it off, but Megyn looked gutsy going after Donald. Was it presidential for him to call women by ugly and vicious names, “You’ve called women fat pigs, dogs, slobs, disgusting animals? Your Twitter account has several—” Trump cut her off before she could finish. “Only Rosie O’Donnell,” he quipped, causing the audience to erupt in laughter, as well as the other candidates. Trump had stolen the first headline of the event, hooking the audience as Ailes wanted to do, by creating precisely the theater of the absurd the Fox News organization had worked so hard to produce. It only got better when Trump started threatening Megyn.
There is a lot of speculation about whether Ailes may have also been trying to embarrass Trump and damage his support along with generated good viewer ratings for FOX News. If that is the case, that part of his plan didn't go so well.

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