Republicans and Fear

5 mins read
Graphic from pxfuel.com. Creative Commons Zero - CC0

You can see that Tom Nichols, a Never-Trump former Republican, is trying to make sense of Democrats. He thinks it’s absurd that Bernie Sanders said his first item in the White House would be to legalize marijuana.

Tom doesn’t understand that big tents get messy. Diverse coalitions are not efficient. People in the big messy tent don’t fall in line behind the message that the leaders think will win. It’s the nature of the beast.

NYU psychologist Jon Haidt has a wonderful lecture about the differences between liberals and conservatives. They have different ways of thinking.

The GOP, however, has morphed into a reactionist, right wing authoritarian party. Therefore, we have two issues:

  • Conservatives are now aligning themselves with liberals
  • Conservatives are accustomed to dealing with reactionaries.

Those with an authoritarian disposition have a “bias against different others (racial and ethnic outgroups, immigrants) (Information from Haidt and Stenner’s essay in this volume)

The thing about RWAs is that they fall in line. That’s because they dislike diversity. It actually scares them.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is a big diverse heterogenous group.

Everyone can see that the GOP demographics are aging and shrinking. Basically the GOP now consists of white Christian reactionaries. Democrats include urban intellectuals and minority communities.

When you think about the nature of those minority communities, and how urban intellectuals as a rule do not fall in line, you’ll see that we’re dealing with a big, messy, heterogeneous tent filled with people who don’t by nature fall in line.

So the Conservative Leaders who are now aligned with Liberals against Authoritarians are feeling a little frustrated with the way liberals do things. I understand that. Welcome to the tent. Herding Democrats into line would be a lot like trying to herd cats.

The two parties are no longer left v right. The parties are rule of law v. authoritarianism. People who embrace rule of law include former Republican conservatives, who must now get used to a big messy tent.

Numerous people on Twitter commented by saying that they’ve noticed that Republicans are fearful people.

The study Sheila was thinking of was this one which appeared in Current Biology.

The conclusion of the study: Conservatives are more fearful. It has to do with the amygdala (I’m not a psychologist, so that’s as far as I’m going with that.)

This brings me to an amusing story about one of my conversations with a Trump supporter.

I’m 5 feet tall. The guy was at least 6’ 5. One of his legs probably weighs more than me. He was the contractor who was supposed to replace the rotted door to the side of our garage when we were trying to buy our house.

(Aside: He figured I was probably a lib, so he tried to shock me by telling me about his gun collection. I shrugged and smiled. I try make sure that I never live up to stereotypes when meeting MAGA people.)

I wanted to replace with what was there: A pretty French door.

Him: You shouldn’t have a glass door to your garage.

Me: But I want a pretty door.

Him: Burglars can get in. They can break the window.

Me: I don’t have anything to steal.

Him: They’ll break the window before they know that.

I thought that over, and then said: Well then, I’ll just leave the door unlocked. That way he won’t have to break the window.

Him (shocked): He’ll break the window without checking to see if the door is unlocked.

Me: I have homeowners insurance.

That’s when I realized the guy owns guns because he’s scared.

I told the story to a friend who got excited and said, “That’s what they think of us! They think we’ll just leave the doors (border) unlocked!”

Maybe it’s about biology.

It then occurred to me that I told the world I’m willing to leave my garage door unlocked, so I tweeted this:

Originally posted at Musing about Law, Books, and Politics.
Re-posted with permission.


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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently writing an overlapping series of biographies called the Making of America. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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