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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Authoritarianism and Voting--A Consideration

Supporters of Donald Trump seemed to carry no statistical fingerprints--they aren't less educated, more educated, richer or poorer, southern or northern. This puzzled pollster, Matthew MacWilliams, until he added in a set of questions about authoritarianism. 

What he added to the mix were four standard questions political scientists have used since 1992 to measure "inclination toward authoritarianism." And how do you measure that inclination? You ask about child-rearing. "Is it more important to you to have a child who is 
• respectful or independent
• obedient or self-reliant
• well-behaved or considerate
• well-mannered or curious. 

Respondents who pick the first option in each of these questions are strongly authoritarian.

In 1980, a German psychoanalyst wrote For Your Own Good," an analysis of how strict Protestant German child-rearing practices--believing that it was necessary to break the child's will using physical and emotional punishment in order to successfully raise them--contributed to the rise of Nazi Germany, the willingness of people to "do what they were told," even if that meant doing horrendous things to other people, and the rise of German terrorists in the 1970's. 

Leap from Alice Miller to Debi and Michael Pearl, present-day Christian outliers who teach a form or child-rearing that begins with infant "blanket" and "sleep training, that involves putting an infant to bed or, if preparing them to be quiet in church, set them on a blanket and "switch them back to bed," if they get up, or "switch them," if any limb moves off the blanket. 

You know what a switch is, right? 

The Pearls and others like them have quite a large following in this country. 

So, maybe Trump's followers wouldn't have followed Hitler, except maybe his Neo-Nazi supporters. 

Or maybe they would. 

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