Republican Trumpism versus Brezhnev’s Communist Party circa 1979

Leonid Brezhnev


“The Republican Party has become, in form if not in content, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of the late 1970s,” the Never Trumper conservative Tom Nichols laments. “I can already hear the howls about invidious comparisons. I do not mean that modern American Republicans are communists. Rather, I mean that the Republicans have entered their own kind of end-stage Bolshevism, as members of a party that is now exhausted by its failures, cynical about its own ideology, authoritarian by reflex, controlled as a personality cult by a failing old man, and looking for new adventures to rejuvenate its fortunes.”

In the late 1970s, Nichols explains, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union — under the leadership of Leonid Brezhnev — was “a spent force” run by “party ideologues” who stubbornly clung to Marxist-Leninist dogma. Brezhnev’s cronies, Nichols recalls, considered him a “heroic genius.”

“Members of the Communist Party who questioned anything, or expressed any sign of unorthodoxy, could be denounced by name, or more likely, simply fired,” Nichols notes. “They would not be executed — this was not Stalinism, after all — but some were left to rot in obscurity in some make-work exile job, eventually retiring as a forgotten ‘comrade pensioner.’ The deal was clear: pump the party’s nonsense and enjoy the good life, or squawk and be sent to manage a library in Kazakhstan. This should all sound familiar.”

Just as the Marxist-Leninist ideologues of the late 1970s rallied around Brezhnev, Nichols argues, the Republican Party of 2021 is rallying around Trump.

“Falling in line, just as in the old Communist Party, is rewarded, and independence is punished,” Nichols observes. “The anger directed at Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger makes the stilted ideological criticisms of last century’s Soviet propagandists seem almost genteel by comparison. At least Soviet families under Brezhnev didn’t add three-page handwritten denouncements to official party reprimands.”

The Soviet Communist Party didn’t collapse in 1978 or 1979, but it did collapse in the early 1990s — even Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost reforms of the 1980s couldn’t save the Soviet Union, which no longer exists. Modern-day Russia is now ruled by a right-wing authoritarian, President Vladimir Putin, and embraces crony capitalism and corporate oligarchs rather than communism. And according to Nichols, the Republican Party of the United States is, like the old Soviet Communist Party, terminally ill.

But the more marginal the GOP becomes in the months ahead, Nichols predicts, the more dangerously authoritarian it will become.

“A dying party can still be a dangerous party,” Nichols warns. “The Communist leaders in those last years of political sclerosis arrayed a new generation of nuclear missiles against NATO, invaded Afghanistan, tightened the screws on Jews and other dissidents, lied about why they shot down a civilian 747 airliner, and, near the end, came close to starting World War III out of sheer paranoia. The Republican Party is, for now, more of a danger to the United States than to the world. But like the last Soviet-era holdouts in the Kremlin, its cadres are growing more aggressive and paranoid.”

In 2021, Nichols laments, the GOP has passed the point of no return and can only sink deeper and deeper into the abyss.

“Another lesson from all this history is that the Republicans have no path to reform,” Nichols writes. “Like their Soviet counterparts, their party is too far gone. Gorbachev tried to reform the Soviet Communist Party, and he remains reviled among the Soviet faithful to this day. Similar efforts by the remaining handful of reasonable Republicans are unlikely to fare any better. The Republican Party, to take a phrase from the early Soviet leader Leon Trotsky, should now be deposited where it belongs: in the ‘dustbin of history.'”

edited from The Atlantic by way of Alternet

History tells us the fascist MAGA insurrection is just the beginning

Populist movements have a knack for sticking around long after their leaders leave office.

Since leaving office, Donald Trump was not convicted in his second impeachment trial, and has reportedly considered launching a new political party, investing in a social-media app, and, perhaps more predictably, making another run for the White House in 2024. In a statement following his lack of conviction, Trump declared the trial “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country,” adding, “Our historic, patriotic, and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun.”

There are plenty of reasons to take Trump at his word. If populist movements have proved anything, it’s their remarkable staying power, even after their leaders have been removed from power, democratically or otherwise. From Berlusconism in Italy to Peronism in Argentina and Fujimorismo in Peru, personality-driven movements rarely fade once their leaders have left office. In the face of victimization, real or imagined, they often thrive.

What, then, of Trumpism? While these movements differ in ideology and context, they can be very instructive in anticipating what happens next.

The Italian Trump – Silvio Berlusconi

Of the world’s most notable populist leaders, perhaps none has garnered more comparisons to Trump than the former Italian prime minister. Berlusconi was Trump before Trump: a billionaire businessman and television personality who rose to power by railing against the political establishment and pledging to represent the interests of ordinary people. Though his career of more than two decades has been dogged by scandals, investigations, and trials—evidence, Berlusconi claimed in 2009, that he is “the most persecuted” person in history—he has nonetheless remained a political force since his (most recent) resignation from the premiership in 2011, both within his center-right Forza Italia party, of which he remains leader, as well as in national politics more broadly.

A notable difference between Trump and Berlusconi is that the latter has lost elections without incident. Still, there are elements of Berlusconi’s long tenure that Trump could seek to emulate, not least his ability to stage multiple political comebacks (his latest, as a lawmaker in the European Parliament).

But perhaps Berlusconi’s greatest success has been in his ability to retain his base of loyal supporters—a personality cult that continues to see him as akin to a god. This is one outcome Trump can likely rely on: Even in the aftermath of last month’s deadly insurrection on Capitol Hill, Republican voters still approve of the former president in overwhelming numbers, as do many of the Republican state parties across the country.

The Argentine Trump – Juan Perón

To understand the importance that a loyal base can play, look no further than Peronism. The populist movement, which dates back to the rise of former Argentine President Juan Perón in the 1940s, continues to be the preeminent political force in the country, more than four decades after its namesake’s death. This has to do largely with how Perón came to power and, crucially, how he lost it.

Like most populist figures, Perón cast himself as an advocate of ordinary citizens, and, in many ways, he was: In addition to advancing workers’ rights, he oversaw the enfranchisement of women in Argentina. But, like other populists, Perón became more and more authoritarian over the course of his rule, jailing his political opponents, vilifying the media, and restricting constitutional rights. By 1955, after nearly a decade in power, Perón was deposed in a coup and sent into exile in Spain; his party was banned.

His supporters continued to be extremely loyal to him, though—so much so that by the time Argentina’s constitutional democracy was restored nearly two decades later, Perón won reelection by a landslide.

Part of Perón’s enduring appeal had to do with the circumstances under which he lost power: His forced exile created a narrative of victimization, which “can really actually help to solidify political identities,” James Loxton, an expert in authoritarian regimes, democratization, and political parties in Latin America, told me. A similar sense of grievance seems to be taking over Trump supporters. An overwhelming majority of Republicans have subscribed to the former president’s unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Early polls show him to be the favorite of the 2024 Republican contenders. “This idea that he didn’t really lose and that everybody is out to get him,” Loxton said, “add[s] up to this actually quite compelling martyrdom story.”

Irrespective of whether Trump runs again, Trumpism as a movement is all but certain to be on the ballot. Indeed, a number of Trump acolytes—among them Republican Senator Josh Hawley, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—are already jockeying to succeed the former president. Should they be recognized as the “Trumpist” candidates, the movement could take on a Perónist quality: one that is highly mobilizing, highly polarizing, and highly durable.

The Peruvian Trump – Alberto Fujimori

Another populist movement that has endured long after its namesake is Fujimorismo. Named after Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, whose decade of authoritarian rule ended in a corruption scandal in 2001, Fujimorismo remains a dominant force in Peruvian politics. Unlike Peronism, however, Fujimorismo has largely remained within the family: Fujimori’s children, Keiko and Kenji, lead rival factions of the movement, though neither has managed to succeed their father in the presidency. (Fujimori himself, who was convicted of human-rights abuses in 2009, remains in prison.)

With at least some of Trump’s children and extended family eyeing political careers of their own, it’s possible that Trumpism could end up resembling Fujimorismo more than Peronism. In some ways, it already does: All three of his eldest children have held roles in the eponymous family business. Should any of Trump’s children seek political office, it’s all but assumed that they will do so not as regular Republicans, but as heirs to the Trumpist throne.

But success isn’t a given. While the Trump name would almost certainly be an asset in any primary or Trump-leaning district, his children would also need to be able to rival their father’s emotional connection with his supporters. “Keiko Fujimori benefited massively from her surname and the fact that there was still a large chunk of the Peruvian population that really identified with Fujimorismo and the accomplishments of Fujimori’s government,” Loxton said. It helps, he added, that she is also “really good at politics.” Yet she still has not yet ascended to the heights of her father.

Whatever model Trumpism ultimately follows—whether it’s Berlusconism, Peronism, Fujimorismo, a combination of the three, or none at all—it’s widely accepted that the movement will continue to exist in some form.

Dan Slater, the director of the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies at the University of Michigan, said that what form it takes will depend on whether American politics chooses to reorient itself not on party lines but, rather, in terms of whether you are pro- or anti-Trump, a shift not too dissimilar to how British politics realigned between those who opposed or supported Brexit.

“In the same way that Peronism versus anti-Peronism has shaped and structured Argentinian politics for decades,” Slater said, “it strikes me as quite likely that a fundamental conflict between Trumpism and anti-Trumpism is going to shape American politics for a long time to come as well.”

Edited from a story by Yasmeen Serhan in The Atlantic.

Are you worried yet?

This shit spreads as fast as the new COVID-19 variants

Here are just some of today’s Crazy Trump-cult Republican Party positions:

Supporting the false QAnon claims that hold there is a global pedophile cabal involving top U.S. political figures.

The false “Frazzledrip” claim about Clinton and a top aide, Huma Abedin, supposedly engaging in a satanic ritual involving the murder and mutilation of a child.

Promoting that the 2018 massacre of students in Parkland, Fla., was a “false flag” and calling a student gun-control activist who attended the school “little Hitler”

Claiming the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. was a “STAGGED SHOOTING”

Baselessly claiming Pelosi cited the need for monthly school shootings to pass gun legislation.

Suggesting another mass shooting, in Las Vegas, was part of a plot to abolish the Second Amendment.

Saying the 2018 midterms, in which Democrats won the House, represented “an Islamic invasion of our government.”

Comparing Black Lives Matter activists to neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

Claiming George Soros, a Holocaust survivor, collaborated with Nazis.

5G has caused Covid-19 pandemic

It’s no surprise that 45 of these same Crazy ass Republicans claim that holding Trump accountable for inciting the insurrection at the nation’s capital is unconstitutional

The Trump cult’s insurrection isn’t over

The Capitol insurrection only barely failed, but it succeeded on several levels: it further normalized the idea of violent government overthrow and allowed extremist groups to network with a broader population. It brought what had been largely hidden from public view right out in the open. As the insurrectionists laid siege to the U.S. Capitol, the seat of American democracy became a melting pot of extremist groups: militia members, white supremacists, paramilitary organizations, anti-maskers, and fanatical supporters of Donald Trump, standing shoulder to shoulder in crazy drooling rage.

The Examiner has been raising the alarm about Trump’s plan for a civil war for years. This insurrection was the culmination of years of increasing radicalization and insanity on the right, combined with a growing delusional fascination with paramilitary groups, crazy conspiracies and a global pandemic. The armed insurrection that left five people dead and shook the country is probably just the beginning. Those who monitor online chatter say the threat of more violence by far-right fringe groups hasn’t abated, it’s just gotten tougher to track.

The FBI is warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next Wednesday. Experts point to the smaller gatherings at state capitals has a greater threat than a large, centrally organized event in Washington, given the heightened security there.

How many extremists and crazies are out there isn’t clear, Individual fringe groups tend to be small, with the largest claiming hundreds of members, but countless individuals have been swept up in the fury of late.

Stopping these crazies and extremist groups may be impossible, but pushing them farther to the political boundaries and marginalizing them is possible.

If you believe in inclusive democracy and do not believe in political violence you need to show it and come out and say so strongly

We have defeated Trump, but we haven’t defeated Trumpism, the con continues

Joe Biden has decisively won the presidency by six million votes. There is no way for Trump to overturn the results of the election, and his campaign’s post-election lawsuits have gotten rebuked and dismissed across the board.

That hasn’t stopped him from launching his bogus “Official Election Defense Fund” and bombarding his supporters with fundraising appeals to supposedly finance the campaign’s ongoing litigation.

Here’s how the scam works:
60 percent of a donation to Trump’s “Official Election Defense Fund” goes to Save America, Trump’s new leadership Political Action Committee that he set up less than a week after the election. The other 40 percent goes to the Republican National Committee. So if someone donates $500, Trump’s PAC gets $300, the RNC gets the other $200, and not a cent actually goes to the election defense fund. Donations only start going to that fund once Trump’s PAC reaches the legal contribution limit of $5,000 – and the RNC gets $3,000.

This means a supporter would have to donate over $8,000 before any money goes to the fund, they think they’re supporting!

Apparently enriching himself on the taxpayer dime for the past four years wasn’t enough for Trump. Now he’s lining his pockets by attacking our elections and undermining our democracy – and swindling his supporters every step of the way.
Is this just a final grift before Trump leaves office? Or is there more at stake?

Trump certainly wants to keep the money flowing, and a leadership PAC is an easy way to do it. Trump’s PAC can be used to fund a lavish post-presidency lifestyle, as leadership PACs can use donors’ funds for personal expenses, like personal travel and events at Trump properties, while campaign committees cannot.
But there’s more at stake than just Trump’s personal greed. Creating a PAC solidifies Trump’s grip on the GOP, as he can distribute the funds to GOP candidates. It helps keep his base whipped up ahead of the Georgia runoffs. And the PAC allows him to start preparing for a potential 2024 run, an idea he’s already floated to his inner circle.

In the grand scheme of things, Trump’s PAC also fuels the GOP’s cynical strategy to maintain power. The GOP has a permanent stake in stoking a cold civil war.

A deeply divided nation serves the party’s biggest patrons, giving them unfettered access to the economy’s gains while the bottom 90% of Americans fight each other for crumbs. That division will persist even with Trump out of the White House, thanks to his bonkers claim of a stolen election, and a base more riled up from racist appeals than ever.

We may have defeated Trump, but we haven’t defeated Trumpism. We must work to push the Biden administration to tackle the systemic conditions that allowed Trump to seize power in the first place.

edited from Raw Story

Even at the edge of death, Trump’s hold on his followers is strong

Jim Jones

We have made the comparison between Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple Cult and Trump’s MAGA cult before, it’s looking like even that comparison falls short of describing how totally lost these MAGA members are. Take the example of an emergency room nurse in South Dakota, Jodi Doering, who was overwhelmed Saturday night. Her patients were dying of covid-19, yet were still in denial about the pandemic’s existence.
“It’s like a “horror movie that never ends,” Doering said.

Her anxiety and despair are shared by many health-care workers who are facing a dramatic surge in covid-19 patients. But some front-line workers, like Doering, also face the emotional toll of treating patients who, despite being severely ill, are reluctant to acknowledge that they have been infected with a virus that dear leader Trump has said will simply disappear.

Doering said she has covid-19 patients who need 100-percent-oxygen breathing assistance and who will also swear they don’t have the illness that has ended the lives of nearly a quarter-million people in the United States since February.

“I think the hardest thing to watch is that people are still looking for something else and a magic answer and they do not want to believe COVID-19 is real,” Doering told CNN in an interview Monday.

“Their last dying words are, ‘This can’t be happening. It’s not real,’” Doering said, adding that some patients prefer to believe that they have pneumonia or other diseases rather than covid-19, despite seeing their positive test results.

Also, just as tragic is the patients who expect to get the same level of treatment that their beloved leader got at the White House. They want the same antibody cocktail that Trump got. Sadly, even if it was available to them, they couldn’t afford it.

Joe Biden is the winner and has been since Wednesday

This contest has not been a nail biting, back-and-forth affair with wild swings in tallies, and that the winner truly remains in doubt. It’s not, and the coverage reflects that as analysts go over the votes, the math, the projections and essentially tell voters that Trump can’t win. The race is stuck in neutral because the corporate media is terrified of the Trump Cult

The networks bowing to Trump bullying, as he and his cult fill the indecision vacuum with outrageous, fitful claims of the election being rigged! His television appearance from the White House this week where Trump lied nonstop about the U.S election process was a truly dangerous low point for his presidency, as his supporters feed off his lies and take to streets screaming about the election being “stolen.”

After four years, are major news organizations still tip toeing around Trump in hopes of not becoming the target of his wrath? It sure feels that way.

The Trump cult went ballistic when Fox News on Election Night called Arizona for Biden, waging an ugly smear campaign against the network. Fox has stood by the call and four days later, Biden has a lead of nearly 30,000 votes. Yet other networks still won’t call it for Biden.

In Nevada where virtually all the counting is done, Biden leads by nearly two percentage points. That’s an advantage far larger than what Decision Desks usually need to make a pronouncement, when so few votes remain uncounted. If that race had the exact same vote count but were a Nevada contest for the U.S. Senate, instead of a state race that could seal Trump’s defeat, that election call likely would’ve been made 24 hours ago.

Meanwhile, for Fox News to call Arizona early, to correctly stand by it, and today refuse to call Nevada makes no sense. If Fox were to call Nevada for Biden, they’d have to announce him the winner, with 270 electoral votes. At the same time, what does Fox News know about Arizona that the other networks don’t, as they refuse to award the state to Biden?

The process is creating confusion, and real appearance that the media’s bowing down to Trump. Again.

Today, the election coverage continues to walk itself around in a “Groundhog Day” circle, as TV pundits all point to the obvious: Biden’s going to win, but claim they’re just waiting for the announcement. All the while, ironic “BREAKING NEWS” announcements fill the TV screens.

It’s a final absurdist ending to bully Trump’s absurd and radical four years.

edited from Press Run

Win or lose the Trump cult will remain a threat to the peace

If Trump wins his cult will feel emboldened to attack their opponents, if they lose the cult will lash out in anger at their opponents, so either way get ready for a rough ride!

The 2020 election will go down in history as one that was even more volatile than the 1968 election, and many Americans have been expressing fears that violence and voter intimidation will occur on Election Day. That fear is addressed in new articles by the Washington Post, Time, and USA Today.

Journalist Mark Berman, in the Post, reports that law enforcement are preparing for the worst.

“Tens of millions of Americans have cast ballots at early-voting sites, and tensions and accusations of voter intimidation have already flared up during this process,” Berman explains. “Many Americans still plan to turn out on Election Day; so, law enforcement officials have conducted drills involving multiple agencies to try to game out what could happen. Police officials in multiple cities stressed that they have no information about specific threats relating to the election, but are instead preparing to make sure they are ready.”

Andrew Walsh, a deputy chief for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, told the Post, “I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this in modern times…. When you look at previous elections, there’s always been the concern when you have large crowds…. We know (that) can be a target for someone who has an agenda.”

David Brown, a superintendent for the Chicago Police Department, told the Post, “We are all in conversations with our counterparts across the country about what we might expect. But everything is uncertain, and so, we’re trying as best we can to anticipate any hazard that might happen.” And Washington D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham noted, “It is widely believed that there will be civil unrest after the November election regardless of who wins.”

Reporter Melissa Chan, in Time, reports that police departments around the U.S. expect to be on high alert on Election Day.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based think tank the Police Executive Research Forum, told Time, “It’s fair to say the police are preparing in ways they never would have had to for Election Day. This year is unlike any other year.”

According to Chan, “The presence of militia groups at polls could pose real safety concerns in light of a new Amnesty International report that said U.S. law enforcement failed to protect peaceful protesters from violent attacks by armed vigilante groups and counter protesters in nearly 200 cases from May to September. The report, released Friday, said law enforcement often neglected to deploy an adequate amount of trained officers, separate or deescalate tensions between opposing groups and often harmed peaceful protesters while dealing with violent ones.”

In USA Today, journalist Trevor Hughes addresses fears that far-right extremists will resort to acts of voter intimidation on Election Day — and that Black voters will be among their targets.

The NAACP’s Stephanie Owens told USA Today, “The symbolism of who you’re supporting is a very large component of our election tradition, but there is almost nothing traditional about this election. People are already being targeted based on the candidates they are supporting.”

The Rev. Carl Day, a Philadelphia-based pastor and liberal/progressive activist, has been warning the Black community that they could be targeted for voter intimidation. Day told USA Today, “When the president of the United States seems like he’s inciting a demographic of people to be on standby and he’s saying he might not leave office, it brings legitimate fears to people. It’s in a lot of conversations in a lot of rooms I’m in.”

Carolyn Gallaher, a professor at American University’s School of International Service in Washington, D.C., told USA Today, “Everyone I know is concerned both about voter intimidation at the polls and potential violence as we get results from the election — and sort of what that might look like not just around the election, but between the election and the inauguration.”

Gallagher fears that the far right will resort to violence whether Trump wins reelection or is defeated by former Vice President Joe Biden. The American University professor told USA Today, “The violence will occur either way. If Biden wins, it will be an excuse to try to delegitimize the results and to go after perceived enemies on the left — and of course, that means labeling pretty much anyone that you disagree with Antifa. But I worry, too, if Trump wins, this will be a signal to these far-right groups that have supported him — extremist groups like the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, other groups like this — that they will see this is like an open season to go after people that have been opponents of Trump.”

Raw Story

The authoritarian cult of Trump explained

The Brain’s Attention System Is More Strongly Engaged by Trump
According to a study that monitored brain activity while participants watched 40 minutes of political ads and debate clips from the presidential candidates, Donald Trump is unique in his ability to keep the brain engaged. While Hillary Clinton could only hold attention for so long, Trump kept both attention and emotional arousal high throughout the viewing session. This pattern of activity was seen even when Trump made remarks that individuals didn’t necessarily agree with. His showmanship and simple language clearly resonate with some at a visceral level.

America’s Obsession with Entertainment and Celebrities

Essentially, the loyalty of Trump supporters may in part be explained by America’s addiction to entertainment and reality TV. To some, it doesn’t matter what Trump actually says because he’s so amusing to watch. With the Donald, you are always left wondering what outrageous thing he is going to say or do next. He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will forgive anything he says. They are happy as long as they are kept entertained.

“Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn.”

Some intelligent people who know better are supporting Trump simply to be rebellious or to introduce chaos into the political system. They may have such distaste for the establishment and Democrats like Hillary Clinton that their support for Trump is a symbolic middle finger directed at Washington. These people do not have their priorities straight and perhaps have other issues, like an innate desire to troll others, or a deranged obsession with schadenfreude.

The Fear-Factor: Conservatives Are More Sensitive to Threat

Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. A 2008 study in the journal Science found that conservatives have a stronger physiological reaction to startling noises and graphic images compared to liberals. A brain-imaging study published in Current Biology revealed that those who lean right politically tend to have a larger amygdala — a structure that is electrically active during states of fear and anxiety. And a 2014 fMRI study found that it is possible to predict whether someone is a liberal or conservative simply by looking at their brain activity while they view threatening or disgusting images, such as mutilated bodies. Specifically, the brains of self-identified conservatives generated more activity overall in response to the disturbing images.

These brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continues his fear mongering by constantly portraying Muslims and Hispanic immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch. Fear keeps his followers energized and focused on safety. And when you think you’ve found your protector, you become less concerned with offensive and divisive remarks.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Humans Often Overestimate Their Political Expertise

Some support Donald Trump do so out of ignorance — basically, they are under-informed or misinformed about the issues at hand. When Trump tells them that crime is skyrocketing in the United States, or that the economy is the worst it’s ever been, they simply take his word for it.

The Dunning-Kruger effect explains that the problem isn’t just that they are misinformed; it’s that they are completely unaware that they are misinformed, which creates a double burden.

Studies have shown that people who lack expertise in some area of knowledge often have a cognitive bias that prevents them from realizing that they lack expertise. As psychologist David Dunning puts it in an op-ed for Politico, “The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at the task. This includes political judgment.” These people cannot be reached because they mistakenly believe they are the ones who should be reaching others.

Lack of Exposure to Dissimilar Others

Intergroup contact refers to contact with members of groups that are outside one’s own, which has been experimentally shown to reduce prejudice. As such, it’s important to note that there is growing evidence that Trump’s white supporters have experienced significantly less contact with minorities than other Americans. For example, a 2016 study found that “…the racial and ethnic isolation of Whites at the zip-code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support.” This correlation persisted while controlling for dozens of other variables. In agreement with this finding, the same researchers found that support for Trump increased with the voters’ physical distance from the Mexican border.

Trump’s Conspiracy Theories Target the Mentally Vulnerable

While the conspiracy theory crowd — who predominantly support Donald Trump and crackpot allies like Alex Jones and the shadowy QAnon — may appear to just be an odd quirk of modern society, the truth is that many of them suffer from psychological illnesses that involve paranoia and delusions, such as schizophrenia, or are at least vulnerable to them, like those with schizotypy personalities.

The link between schizotypy and belief in conspiracy theories is well-established, and a recent study published in the journal Psychiatry Research has demonstrated that it is still very prevalent in the population. The researchers found that those who were more likely to believe in outlandish conspiracy theories, such as the idea that the U.S. government created the AIDs epidemic, consistently scored high on measures of “odd beliefs and magical thinking.” One feature of magical thinking is a tendency to make connections between things that are actually unrelated in reality.

Donald Trump and his media allies target these people directly. All one has to do is visit alt-right websites and discussion boards to see the evidence for such manipulation.

A study published last year in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found a direct link between national collective narcissism and support for Donald Trump. This correlation was discovered by researchers at the University of Warsaw, who surveyed over 400 Americans with a series of questionnaires about political and social beliefs. Where individual narcissism causes aggressiveness toward other individuals, collective narcissism involves negative attitudes and aggression toward ‘outsider’ groups (outgroups), who are perceived as threats.

Donald Trump exacerbates collective narcissism with his anti-immigrant, anti-elitist, and strongly nationalistic rhetoric. By referring to his supporters, an overwhelmingly white group, as being “true patriots” or “real Americans,” he promotes a brand of populism that is the epitome of “identity politics,” a term that is usually associated with the political left. Left-wing identity politics, as misguided as they may sometimes be, are generally aimed at achieving equality, while the right-wing brand is based on a belief that one nationality and race is superior or entitled to success and wealth for no other reason than identity.

The Desire to Want to Dominate Others

Social dominance orientation (SDO) — which is distinct but related to authoritarian personality syndrome (#13) — refers to people who have a preference for the societal hierarchy of groups, specifically with a structure in which the high-status groups have dominance over the low-status ones. Those with SDO are typically dominant, tough-minded, and driven by self-interest.

In Trump’s speeches, he appeals to those with SDO by repeatedly making a clear distinction between groups that have a generally higher status in society (White), and those groups that are typically thought of as belonging to a lower status (immigrants and minorities). A study published last year in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that those who scored high on both SDO and authoritarianism were those who intended to vote for Trump in the election.

Authoritarian Personality Syndrome

Authoritarianism refers to the advocacy or enforcement of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom and is commonly associated with a lack of concern for the opinions or needs of others. Authoritarian personality syndrome —  a well-studied and globally-prevalent condition — is a state of mind that is characterized by belief in total and complete obedience to one’s authority. Those with the syndrome often display aggression toward outgroup members, submissiveness to authority, resistance to new experiences, and a rigid hierarchical view of society. The syndrome is often triggered by fear, making it easy for leaders who exaggerate threat or fear monger to gain their allegiance.

Although authoritarian personality is found among liberals, it is more common among the right-wing around the world. Trump’s speeches, which are laced with absolutist terms like “losers” and “complete disasters,” are naturally appealing to those with the syndrome.

While research showed that Republican voters in the U.S. scored higher than Democrats on measures of authoritarianism before Trump emerged on the political scene, a 2016 Politico survey found that high authoritarians greatly favored Trump

 

Edited from Raw Story by Bobby Azarian is a neuroscientist affiliated with George Mason University and a freelance journalist.