Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Thinking of a Right Wing Authoritarian

Via They Gave Us a Republic (24 Feb), an interesting consideration of the reasons behind the apparent disconnect in some conservative thinking:

Political Class Exhibits GOP's Insanity
Boehner's office, says Chait, has been sending around a Charles Krauthammer column that urges Republicans to cheerfully embrace the budget sequester because it offers the best chance they will have in quite awhile to enact "meaningful" deficit reduction.
By promoting that idea, the Speaker's office is therefore sending two, contradictory messages, says Chait. The first is that Republicans won't compromise at all, "not even offering any of the tax reform they've been dangling for months, not even in exchange for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, to replace the sequester." After all, writes Krauthammer, if Republicans do nothing they get $1.2 trillion in cuts and so they should "get them while you can."
Yet at the same time, Boehner says the President needs show leadership to prevent a sequester that would be "horrible," "devastating" and, if it comes to pass, "all Obama's fault!"
There is a name for this kind of behavior. Professor Robert Altemeyer, who for the past four decades has been studying political extremism from a psychological and cognitive perspective, says one attribute of what he calls the "right wing authoritarian" mindset is that authoritarian ideas "are poorly integrated with one another."

It's as if, says Altemeyer, each idea is stored in a separate file that can be called up and used whenever the authoritarian wants even though he has other ideas, stored in different files that "basically contradict it."

All of us are inconsistent in our thinking," says Altemeyer, "but authoritarians can stupify you with the inconsistency of their ideas."

Take, for example, conservatives who believe we live in an "exceptional" country because it guarantees freedom of speech yet who nevertheless equates patriotism with "My country, love it or leave it."

"When your ideas live independent lives from one another it is pretty easy to use double standards in your judgments," says Altemeyer. "You simply call up the idea that will justify (afterwards) what you've decided to do."

The post in question was about spending, deficits, etc., but the greater theme of the logical disconnect in thinking is what resonated with me.  For example, my in-laws are full beneficiaries of Social Security and Medicare...yet they are lockstep devotees of the Republican Party...whose aims are to cut those programs to spend more on Defense.

I would think the older you get, the more you'd come down on the "butter" side of the old "guns and butter" equation.  Yet here the in-laws are, voting against their own self-interest, because Fox News is fair and balanced.  Or something.


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