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In his book Conservatives Without Conscience John Dean explored the interesting intersection of two main camps, (1) the leaders with a strong orientation toward "social dominance,"(SDO) and (2) "right-wing authoritarians" (RWA) among certain politicians of the USA Republican Party. He advance the view that if a person scores high on both RWA and SDO tests such person belong to special, most dangerous subclass of authoritarians called "Double High authoritarian."
For discussion of right-wing authoritarians see Authoritarian personality.
One defining feature of many (but not all) authoritarians is the desire to grab and hold power. If this is coupled with ability and desire to be followers of more powerful persons the resulting mix is really toxic. Such people are usually amoral, ruthless Machiavellians who seek personal power at any cost. They are typically are self-righteous and amoral, despite whatever religious affiliation they might have.
Dean analyses several prominent conservatives to belong to this category -- Tom Delay, Dick Cheney, Gingrich, Robertson and Abramoff and the picture is not pretty. Neocons and religious conservative groups seems especially attractive to double-high personalities.
According to Wikipedia, Social dominance orientation (SDO) is a personality variable which predicts certain, generally conservative social and political attitudes. The concept of SDO as an important individual trait is a product of Social Dominance Theory. The level of Social dominance orientation (SDO) is measured using special scale called SDO ( SDO score is conceptualized as a measure of individual in levels of group-based discrimination and domination; that is, it is a measure of an individual's preference for hierarchy within any social system.).
John Duckitt proposed a model of production RWA and SDO by socialization in childhood, personality, and worldview beliefs.
According to John Duckitt research the two parenting styles, punitive socialization and unaffectionate socialization, often are practiced at the same time. As a result people high in tough-minded personality are predisposed to view the world as a competitive place in which resource competition is zero-sum. This "world as a jungle" worldview is entirely compatible with seeing the world as a dangerous place. Once a person has RWA beliefs, it is likely that they will adopt matching, compatible SDO beliefs, and vice versa. A desire to compete, which fits with social dominance orientation, influences in-group and out-group attitudes
SDO scales which was refined over time, contain a balance of pro- and contra-trait statements or phrases. A 7-point Likert scale is used for each item: participants rate their agreement or disagreement with the statements from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Most of the research was conducted with the SDO-5 (a 14-point scale) and SDO-6.
Keying is reversed on questions 9 through 16, to control for yea-saying.
SDO was first proposed by Jim Sidanius and Felicia Pratto as part of their Social Dominance Theory (SDT). SDO is the key measurable component of SDT and is specific to it. SDT begins with the empirical observation that surplus-producing social systems have a threefold group-based hierarchy structure: age-based, gender-based and “arbitrary set-based,” which can include race, class, sexual orientation, caste, ethnicity, religious affiliation, etc. Age-based hierarchies invariably give more power to adults and middle-age people than children and younger adults, and gender-based hierarchies invariably grant more power to men than women, but arbitrary-set hierarchies—though quite resilient—are truly arbitrary. SDT is based on three primary assumptions:
SDO is the individual attitudinal aspect of SDT. It is influenced by group status, gender (women score lower on SDO), socialization, and temperament. In turn, it influences support for HE and HA "legitimating myths," defined as “values, attitudes, beliefs, causal attributions and ideologies” that in turn justify social institutions and practices that either enhance or attenuate group hierarchy.
Some research paradoxically claim that SDO score correlates weakly with RWA score (r ≈ .18), but this is highly doubtful. In any case "Double High Authoritarians" is a specific and the most dangerous subclass of both groups.
Robert Altemeyer views SDO as a measure of seeking personal dominance as an individual, so that high-SDO individuals will aspire to gain more power and climb the social ladder. Altemeyer's research suggested that high SDO scorers are over-competitive (agreeing with items such as "Winning is more important than how you play the game") and were also quite Machiavellian (manipulative and amoral) agreeing with items such as "There really is no such thing as 'right and wrong'. It all boils down to what you can get away with."
It seems intuitively obvious that there should be a large overlap between levels of group-based and personal dominance; and as such the SDO score reflect not only group-based dominance, but levels of interpersonal dominance as well. This is supported by Sidanius and Pratto's own evidence that high-SDO individuals tend to gravitate toward hierarchy-enhancing jobs and institutions, such as law enforcement, that are themselves hierarchically structured vis-a-vis individuals within them.
Sidanius and Pratto propose that one mediating factor in SDO is androgens, noting primarily that males tend to have higher SDO scores than females, and are also observed to be more socially hierarchical. Male levels of testosterone are much higher than that of females. However, contemporary empirical studies have refuted the thesis that testosterone levels correlate with aggression, and even that males are more aggressive or domineering than females, although they are more prone to physical violence.
Felicia Pratto and her colleagues have found evidence that a high Social Dominance Orientation is strongly correlated with conservative political views, and opposition to programs and policies that aim to promote equality. Although some program that supposedly promote equality are in reality quite opposite of this aim ("women in combat")
DEAN: Goldwater Republicanism is really R.I.P. It's been put to rest by most of the people who are now active in moving the movement further to the right than it's ever been. I think that Senator [Goldwater], before he departed, was very distressed with Conservatism. In fact, it was our conversations back in 1994 that started this book. That's really where I began. We wanted to find answers to the question, "Why were Republicans acting as they were?" -- Why Conservatives had taken over the party and were being followed as easily as they were in taking the party where [Goldwater] didn't want it to go.
OLBERMANN: What did you find? -- In less than the 200 pages that the book goes into.
DEAN: I ran into a massive study that has really been going on 50 years now by academics. They've never really shared this with the general public. It's a remarkable analysis of the authoritarian personality. Both those who are inclined to follow leaders and those who jump in front and want to be the leaders. It was not the opinion of social scientists. It was information they drew by questioning large numbers of people -- hundreds of thousands of people -- in anonymous testing where [the subjects] conceded their innermost feelings and reactions to things. And it came out that most of these people were pre-qualified to be conservatives and this, did indeed, fit with the authoritarian personality.
OLBERMANN: Did the studies indicate that this really has anything to do with the political point of view? Would it be easier to impose authoritarianism over the right than it would the left? Is it theoretically possible that it could have gone in either direction and it's just a question of people who like to follow other people?
DEAN: They have found, really, maybe a small, 1%, of the left who will follow authoritarianism. Probably the far left. As far as widespread testing, it's just overwhelmingly conservative orientation.
OLBERMANN: There is an extraordinary amount of academic work that you quote in the book. A lot of it is very unsettling. It deals with psychological principles that are frightening and may have faced other nations at other times. In German and Italy in the 30's, come into mind in particular. But, how does it apply now? To what degree should it scare us and to what degree is it something that might be forestalled?
DEAN: To me, it was something of an epiphany to run into this information. First, I'd never read about it before. I sort of worked my way into it until I found it. It's not generally known out there, what's going on. I think, from the best we can tell, these people -- the followers -- a few of them will change their ways when the realize that they are doing -- not even aware of what they are doing. The leaders, those inclined to dominate, they're not going to change for a second. They're going to be what they are. So, by and large, the reason I write about this is, I think we need to understand it. We need to realize that when you take a certain step of vote a certain way, heading in a certain direction, where this can end up. So, it's sort of a cautionary note. It's a warning as to where this can go. Other countries have gone there.
OLBERMANN: And the idea of leaders and followers going down this path or perhaps taking a country down this path requires -- this whole edifice requires and enemy. Communism, al Qaeda, Democrats, me... whoever for the two-minutes hate. I overuse the Orwellian analogies to nauseating proportions. But it really was, in reading what you wrote about, especially what the academics talked about. There was that two-minutes hate. There has to be an opponent, an enemy, to coalesce around or the whole thing falls apart. Is that the gist of it?
DEAN: It is one of the things, believe it or not, that still holds conservatism together. There is many factions in conservatism and their dislike or hatred of those they betray as liberal, who will basically be anybody who disagrees with them, is one of the cohesive factors. There are a few others but that's certainly one of the basics. There's no question that, particularly the followers, they're very aggressive in their effort to pursue and help their authority figure out or authority beliefs out. They will do what ever needs to be done in many regards. They will blindly follow. They stay loyal too long and this is the frightening part of it.
OLBERMANN: Let me read something from the book. Let me read this one quote then I have a question about it. "Many people believe that neoconservatives and many Republicans appreciate that they are more likely to maintain influence and control of the presidency if the nation remains under ever-increasing threats of terrorism, so they have no hesitation in pursuing policies that can provoke the potential terrorists throughout the world." That's ominous, not just in the sense that authoritarians involved in conservatism and now Republicanism would politicize counter-terror here which we've already argued that point on many occasions. Are you actually saying that they would set up -- encourage terrorism from other countries to set them up as a boogey man to have, again, that group to hate here -- more importantly, afraid of?
DEAN: What I'm saying is that there has been fear mongering, the likes of which we have not seen in a long time in this country. It happened early in the cold war. We got accustomed to it. We learned to live with it. We learned to understand what it was about and get it in proportion. We haven't done that yet with terrorism. And this administration is really capitalizing on it and using it for its' political advantage. No question, the academic testing show -- the empirical evidence shows -- when people are frightened, they tend to go to these authority figures. They tend to become more conservative. So, it's paid off for them politically to do this.
OLBERMANN: This all seems to require, not merely, venality or immorality but a kind of amorality where morals don't enter into it at all. "We're right. So anything we do to preserve our process, our power -- even if it by itself is wrong -- it's right in the greater sense." It's that wonderful rationalization that everybody uses in small doses throughout their lives. But, is this idea, this sort of psychological sort of review of the whole thing, does it apply to Dick Cheney? Does it apply to George Bush? Does it apply to Bill Frist? Who are the names on these authoritarian figures?
DEAN: You just named three that I discuss at some length in the book. I focused in the book, not on the Bush Administration and Cheney and The President because they had really been there done that, but what I wanted to understand is what they have done is made it legitimate to have authoritarianism. It was already operating on Capitol Hill after the '94 control by the Republicans in Congress. It recreated the mood. It restructured Congress itself in a very authoritarian style, in the House in particular. The Senate hasn't gone there yet but it's going there because more House members are moving over. This atmosphere is what Bush and Cheney walked into. They are authoritarian personalities. Cheney much more so than Bush. They have made it legitimate and they have taken way past where anybody's ever taken it in the United States.
OLBERMANN: Our society's best defense against that is what? Do we have to hope, as you suggested, the people that follow, wise up and break away from this sort of lockstep salute to, "of course, they're right, of course there are WMDs, of course there are terrorists, of course there is al Qaeda, of course everything is the way the president says it." Or do we rely on the hope that these are fanatics and fanatics always screw up because they would rather believe in their own cause than double-check their own math.
DEAN: The lead researcher in this field told me, he said, "I look at the numbers of the United States and I see about 23% of the population who are pure right-wing authoritarian followers." They're not going to change. They're going to march over the cliff. The best thing to deal with them -- and they're growing, and they have a tremendous influence on Republican politics -- The best defense is understanding them, to realize what they are doing, how they're doing it and how they operate. Then it can be kept in perspective and they can be seen for what they are.
From Silent Majority to Moral Majority to Tea Party?
Some may be too young to remember. The "Silent Majority" were Republicans, (religious) conservatives who supported President Nixon during the Viet Nam War. They considered anti-war demonstrators as commies and traitors. As American forces departed Viet Nam the "Silent Majority" fizzled away.
Jerry Falwell started the "Moral Majority" to counter America's 'moral break down'. The "Moral Majority" were basically religious, conservative Republicans, that blamed all America's problems on the Democrats.
Our current trend is the Tea Party. Again, basically religious, conservative Republicans. However, the Tea Partiers seem to be much more hostile and belligerent than the "Silent Majority" or "Moral Majority". Also, they are hysterical about fighting the commies.
The names of these movements may change, but the attitudes remain the same: religious, conservative and Republican. Among their ranks are many homophobes, xenophobes, and islamophobes (mostly only since 9-11). I think the Pea Partiers are proudly anti-intellectual.
These fringe movements have several things in common. One is that they believe they are the shining light in a dark world* and that they represent the majority of the American people.
*Everybody's screwed up...except us.
Sep. 05, 2007
This is the first in a three- part series of columns in which FindLaw columnist John Dean discusses his most recent book, Conservatives Without Conscience. - Ed.
Last year, I published Conservatives Without Conscience, but it struck me as a bit too self-promoting to use this space to talk about the book. The core of the book examines a half-century of empirical studies that had never been explained for the general reader. Not being a social scientist, I was thrilled when the book became a bestseller and countless political and social psychologists wrote to thank me for translating their work for the general reader.
At this point, I feel that this material is simply too crucial to understanding current politics and government for me to continue to ignore it in my columns for FindLaw. In addition, I want to refer to these findings throughout my commentary on the 2008 presidential and congressional elections, so it is time to set forth a few basics from this work.
Conservatives Without Conscience ("CWC") sought to understand the modern conservative movement, and in particular it's hard turn to the right during the past two-and-a-half decades. Conservatives have taken control of the Republican Party, and, in turn, the GOP has taken control of the government (all three branches, until 2006).
Who are these people? Of course, we know their names: Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush - to mention a few of the obvious. More importantly, what drives them? And, why do their compliant followers seem to never question or criticism them? Here, I am thinking of people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter - to mention a few more of the conspicuous.
In this column, and those that follow, I hope to explain the rather remarkably information I have uncovered. It explained what for me what I had previously thought inexplicable. And based on my mail, it seems to have done the same for a lot of CWC readers. So let me see if I can extract a few key points that may help to understand what happened, and why it happened.
In the first two columns of this three-part series, I will offer some basics to provide context, and some of the relevant data. In the last of the three, I will drive home the points I believe are most relevant.
How Conservatives Think (Or Fail To Do So)
Most conservatives today do not believe that conservatism can or should be defined. They claim that it not an ideology, but rather merely an attitude. (I don't buy that, but that point is not relevant here.)
Conservatives once looked to the past for what it could teach about the present and the future. Early conservatives were traditionalists or libertarians, or a bit of both. Today, however, there are religious conservatives, economic conservatives, social conservatives, cultural conservatives, neoconservatives, traditional conservatives, and a number of other factions.
Within these factions, there is a good amount of inconsistency and variety, but the movement has long been held together through the power of negative thinking. The glue of the movement is in its perceived enemies. Conservatives once found a common concern with respect to their excessive concern about communism (not that liberals and progressive were not concerned as well, but they were neither paranoid nor willing to mount witch hunts). When communism was no longer a threat, the dysfunctional conservative movement rallied around its members' common opposition to anything they perceived as liberal. (This was, in effect, any point of view that differed from their own, whether it was liberal or not.)
To understanding conservatives thinking, it is important to examine not merely what conservatives believe, but also why they believe it. I found the answers to these two key questions in the remarkable body of empirical research work, almost a half-century in the making, undertaken by political and social psychologists who study authoritarian personalities.
Authoritarian Republicans: Understanding the Personality Type
While not all conservatives are authoritarians, all highly authoritarian personalities are political conservatives. To make the results of my rather lengthy inquiry very short, I found that it was the authoritarians who took control of the conservative movement in the 1980s, and then the Republican Party in the 1990s. Strikingly, these conservative Republicans - though hardly known for their timidity -- have not attempted to refute my report, because that is not possible. It is based on hard historical facts, which I set forth in considerable detail.
Authoritarian control continues to this day, so it is important to understand these people. There are two types of authoritarians: leaders (the few) and followers (the many). Study of these personalities began following World War II, when social psychologists asked how so many people could compliantly follow an authoritarian leader like Adolf Hitler and tolerate the Holocaust. Early research was based at the University of California, Berkeley, and it focused primarily on followers, culminating in the publication of a The Authoritarian Personality (1950) - a work that broadly described authoritarian personalities. The book was quite popular for decades, but as the Cold War ended, it had been on the shelf and ignored for a good while.
Given the strikingly conspicuous authoritarian nature of the contemporary conservative movement, and in turn, of the Republican Party, those familiar with the work of the Berkeley group thought it time to take another look at this work. For example, Alan Wolfe, a political science professor at Boston College, observed that the fact that "the radical right has transformed itself from a marginal movement to an influential sector of the contemporary Republican Party" called for a reexamination of this work. That is exactly what I did, although I did not discover Dr. Wolfe's call for it until well into my project.
The Authoritarian Personality relied heavily on Freudian psychology, which was not without critics, although neither Dr. Freud's work nor that of the Berkeley scientists has been proven incorrect. The weakness of this early work was the lack of empirical data backing up its conclusions. But in the half-century since its publication, that weakness has been removed, based on others' empirical work. A number of researchers have examined and reexamined the Berkeley Group's conclusions, and no one more thoroughly than Bob Altemeyer, a Yale and Carnegie-Mellon-trained social psychologist based at the University of Manitoba.
Professor Altemeyer's Findings
Altemeyer's study addressed flaws in the methodology and findings of The Authoritarian Personality, and he then proceeded to set this field of study on new footings by clarifying the study of authoritarian followers, people he calls "right-wing authoritarians." The provocative titles of his books -- Right-Wing Authoritarianism (1981), Enemies of Freedom (1988), and The Authoritarian Specter (1996) -- and of a few of his many articles found in scholarly journals -- such as "Highly Dominating, Highly Authoritarian Personalities" in the Journal of Social Psychology (2004) and "Why Do Religious Fundamentalists Tend to Be Prejudiced?" in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion (2003)--indicate the tenor of his research and the range of his interests.
Working my way through this material, with the help of a copy of the Idiot's Guide to Statistics, for Altemeyer writes for professional peers, I realized that, since I do not have a degree in psychology, I should get guidance to be certain I understood the material correctly, because it seemed to me that the information he had developed was exactly what I needed to comprehend the personalities now dominating the conservative movement and Republican Party. Altemeyer, who is the preeminent researcher in the field, graciously agreed to tutor me in his work. I introduced him to FindLaw readers in an earlier column, when I thought it would be interesting to get his take on the writings of the very authoritarian Tom DeLay, as he explained himself in No Retreat, No Surrender.
At the outset of Conservatives Without Conscience, I provided a quick and highly incomplete summary of Altemeyer's findings, explaining that his empirical testing revealed "that authoritarians are frequently enemies of freedom, antidemocratic, anti-equality, highly prejudiced, mean-spirited, power hungry, Machiavellian, and amoral." To be clear, these are not assessments that Altemeyer makes himself about these people; rather, this is how those he has tested reveal themselves to be, when being anonymously examined.
Altemeyer has tested literally tens of thousands of first-year college students and their parents, along with others, including some fifteen hundred American state legislators, over the course of some three decades. He has tested in the South and North of the United States. There is no database on authoritarians that even comes close in its scope to that which he has created, and, more importantly, these studies are empirical data, not partisan speculation.
About a year after I published my outline of his work, Altemeyer prepared a digest of his research for general readers, The Authoritarians, which he has posted online for one and all to examine at no cost. In his book he walks readers thorough his research in a manner that requires neither an advanced degree nor a copy of the Idiot's Guide to Statistics.
In the next two columns, I will examine the implications of Altemeyer's findings, for they explain a great deal about the operations of the Republican Party as presently constituted.
A dual-process model of individual differences in prejudice proneness proposes that Right Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) and Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) will influence prejudice against particular outgroups through different motivational mechanisms. RWA should cause negative attitudes toward groups seen as threatening social control, order, cohesion, and stability, such as deviant groups, and negativity toward these groups should be mediated through perceived threat from them. SDO should cause negative attitudes toward groups that activate competitiveness over relative dominance and superiority, such as socially subordinate groups low in power and status, and negativity toward these groups should be mediated through competitiveness toward them. Findings from four student samples that assessed attitudes toward seven social groups selected as likely to vary systematically in social threat and social subordination supported these predictions. The findings have implications for reconciling intergroup and individual difference explanations of prejudice and for interventions to reduce prejudice.
[Double highs score high on tests for Authoritarian followers & Authoritarian leaders. ]
See: Authoritarian followers Authoritarian leaders PsychopathsAuthoritarian Personality Traits
Examples: Frist Tom DeLay Bush Cheney Newt Gingrich
 The Authoritarians" by Bob Altemeyer
Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean
"Frist is Richard Nixon with Bill Clinton's brains, and Nixon was no mental slouch. Frist is without question a social dominator [authoritarian] … No one describes Bill Frist's dominating personality better than Frist himself in his first book, Transplant: A Heart Surgeon's Account of the Life-and-Death Dramas of the New Medicine." In his book, Bill wrote that he could "hardly help but be a demanding little tyrant. … I ruled not just over my family but over my friends – or should I say subjects – who always opted to come to my house." Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean
"Bush and Cheney are Double High authoritarians, far above Nixon's league."--John Dean
Let's play a game. I'll describe a well-known American politician, the description being unceremoniously lifted from John Dean's book, Conservatives Without Conscience. See if you can figure out who it is, and whether you can make a diagnosis of his personality, doctor.
"X" became a born-again Christian when he was first elected to Congress. He brought a strong drive for power with him to Washington, and he steadily worked his way to the top of the Republican caucus. Colleagues have described him as amoral. "If it wasn't illegal to do it, even if it was clearly wrong and unethical, (he did it). And in some cases if it was illegal. I think he still did it" said another Republican Congressman. "X" is opposed to equality, and Newsweek commented that he has never been subtle about his uses of the power of Love and Fear. He kept marble tablets of the Ten Commandments and a half-dozen bull-whips in his office when the was the party whip. He earned the nicknames, "the Hammer," "the Exterminator," and the ''Meanest Man in Congress."
When "X" became House majority leader (talk about a big hint!) he imposed a virtual dictatorship on the House of Representatives. He instituted a number of unprecedented changes in House procedures to keep Democrats, and even other Republicans, from having any say in the laws being passed. He drastically revised bills passed by committees and often sent them to the floor from his office for almost immediate votes. He forbade amendments to most of the bills that came to the floor. He excluded Democrats from the House-Senate conference committees formed to iron out in bills passed by the two chambers. He allowed special interests to write laws that were passed by the compliant Republican majority. And he allowed unbelievable billions of dollars in pork-barrel GOP projects to be attached to appropriation bills.
Who is "X"? If you said former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay from from Texas, you are right. Can you see why he looked like a Double High to John Dean?  The Authoritarians" by Bob Altemeyer
Double Highs, however, have a big head start over ordinary social dominators in politics, because they are the consumate leaders of a readily-formed army of zealots longing for a great warrior. Ordinary authoritarian followers....tend to be highly religious (in a fundamentalist way), and their highly ethnocentric minds probably evaluate people on religious grounds more than any other. Ordinary social dominators, who have little religious background or impulse, will have to fake being super-religious to get these followers' support. They might succeed if they are good actors and clever, especially since RWAs throw the door open to whoever tells them their beliefs are right.
But a Double High has the best chance of attracting this army of yearning and loyal supporters. He comes packaged as "one of our own," one of the in-group. He not only shares their prejudices, their economic philosophy, and their political leanings, he also professes their religious views, and that can mean everything to high RWAs. He too may be faking his religiousness to some extent, but he will have the credentials up front, and the phrase-dropping familiarity with the Bible to pass the test with flying colors. He'll know the code words of the movement. He'll appear to believe everything "all the good people" believe about Satan, being born again, evolution, the role of women, sex, abortion, school prayer, law and order, "perverts," censorship, zealotry, holy wars, America-as-God's-right-hand, and so on. Given this head start. you can expect to find a Double High leading most of the right-wing authoritarian groups in our country. p.181  The Authoritarians" by Bob Altemeyer
I noted in chapter 3 that designing despots will usually slither over to the political right, not just because their hearts and minds lead them there, but because that' s where the '"easy sell" high RWAs congregate, wanting to play follow-the-leader. It' s the easiest place to pick up a loyal following cheap, especially if you're a Double High. Therefore, were the high RWA state legislators in these studies not just high RWAs, but usually Double Highs? Were they social dominators as well?
Nothing would clarify' that as quickly as scores on the Social Dominance scale. But, as mentioned earlier, the test had not been invented back then. However I did ask all the state lawmakers in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, and New Mexico to rank nine values, such as Happiness, National Security, and A World at Peace. I included in the list two of the core values of democracy. Freedom and Equality. Almost everyone ranked freedom first, but no such consensus existed about equality. Low RWA lawmakers ranked it third on their list, on the average, while the high RWAs ranked it seventh out of nine. Recalling that we identify social dominators by their disdain for equality, most of the high RWAs in this study thus appear to be high social dominators as well-which makes them Double Highs. This makes sense, doesn't it? Authoritarian followers probably don't run for public office very often. So ordinary high RWAs are not at all likely to become lawmakers, unless they are hand-picked for the role of Unquestioning Party Supporters by powerful leaders to run in safe, "yellow dog" districts. Thus when you find someone in a legislature who scores highly on the RWA scale, it figures that he's probably a Double High, as this study indicates
.......Despite their pronouncements about freedom-this and freedom-that, high RWA lawmakers would like to pass laws that restrict freedom of the press, the right to protest, the right to privacy, the right to belong to the political organization of one's choice, and they certainly would trample all over freedom of religion once they made the teaching of Christianity compulsory in public schools. p.203-204  The Authoritarians" by Bob Altemeyer
He finds a match between Altemeyer's theories and list of traits in people like Dick Cheney whom he contends is the real president, George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, Bill Frist, Tom Delay and others.
The author provides plenty of anecdotal evidence to support his hypothesis: the president's signing statements, the secret meetings that are withheld from the public because of national security, George Bush's comments: "A dictatorship wouldn't be bad, just so long as I'm the dictator," or "I'm the decider." Newt Gingrich's ability to discard friends once he no longer finds them useful, and of course, Tom Delay who changed the rules of congress, where subterfuge and heavy-handed tactics have replaced debate, discussion, and compromise.
Because of the abiding belief in their leaders, authoritarian followers will put their scruples aside, for the greater good. Examples of these followers were: Attorney General, John Mitchell, G. Gordon Liddy, Paul Ehrichman, H.R. Haldeman, and Charles Colson during the Nixon administration. According to Dean, their modern day counterparts are members of Congress, cabinet secretaries who serve at the pleasure of the president, and millions of others who believe that patriotic Americans are leading them.
The reader should keep in mind that the author is attempting to prove a thesis here but offers no scientific evidence. It does not prove that all the people described earlier fit neatly in this authoritarian theory, nor can it explain their behavior with any certainty.
The one part of this book that is unquestionable is Dean's assertion that Americans must participate in their democratic form of government if it is to succeed. It cannot be simply observed or ignored. If it is, authoritarians will pick it up and take it away. Dean warns that we haven't lost it yet, but we are losing it day by day.
I recommend this book (after the first chapter) because it provided another way for me to look at family members and acquaintances whose rabid or knee-jerk loyalty for anything conservative I could not explain.
At least, now I have an explanation.Review from Booklist's Vannesa:
Looking back on the development of conservative politics in the U.S., Dean notes that conservatism is regressing to its authoritarian roots. Dean draws on five decades of social science research that details the personality traits of what are called "double high authoritarians": self-righteous, mean-spirited, amoral, manipulative, bullying.
He concludes that Chuck Colson, Pat Robertson, Newt Gingrich, and Tom DeLay are all textbook examples.
Dean calls Vice-President Cheney "the architect of Bush's authoritarian policies," and deems Bush "a mental lightweight with a strong right-wing authoritarian personality."...
Jean E. Pouliot (Newburyport, MA United States)Cool, analytical and devastating,
November 17, 2008William A. Barrett
John Dean, the conscience of Watergate, continues to chronicle the strange turns the Republican party has taken since his days in power in the Nixon Administration. "Conservative Without Conscience" is not an indictment of all conservatives. Indeed, Dean is still fond of his days as a Goldwater Republican and his friendship with Barry Goldwater, godfather of what seems like a long-dead sector of that party. Dean turns his lawyerly, analytical mind to understand where his party has gone wrong. He provides a history of American conservatism, from the monarchial leanings of Alexander Hamilton to the more recent shenanigans of Newt Gingrich, Jack Abramoff and Pat Robertson. He distinguishes the various branches of conservatism -- from libertarian to cultural, social, economic and neocon conservatisms. Dean also goes to lengths to try to define conservatism, a surprisingly difficult task.
His most devastating and worrying chapters center on the work of social psychologist Robert Altemeyer, who has made a career studying authoritarian personalities. Altemeyer identifies people using two scales, classifying them as RWAs or SDOs.
- RWAs, or Right Wing Authoritarians, tend to be followers -- they are politically conservative and religious.
- People with a Social Domination Orientation (SDO) are the natural leaders that RWAs and others looks up to. SDOs seek personal power, are self-righteous and amoral, despite whatever religious affiliation they might have. God help us from the double high scorers, who are both RWAs and SDOs. Dean sees some of our more troubling conservatives -- Tom Delay, Dick Cheney, Gingrich, Robertson and Abramoff as exhibiting the traits of double highs. Neocons and religious conservative groups seems especially attractive to authoritarian personalities.
In spite of his wariness and bluntness about some of the right's leading lights, in "Conservatives without a Conscience" Dean seems to retain and even take pride in his conservative credentials. Dean hopes to bring a measure of reflection to a crowd not naturally good at it. Written just prior to the 2006 election, which resulted a slim majority of Democrats in Congress, it is a plea for Americans to be more careful about the leaders they pick. A fine book that helped this old liberal look at conservatives more clearly and even sympathetically.Newton Ooi
Dean's book is no polemic,
October 30, 2008
Some claim that John Dean's book "Conservatives Without Conscience" is a biased political polemic. I disagree. He cites several objective academic studies along with hundreds of other sources to make the case that the so-called conservative movement has become one driven by "authoritarians". These are people with a certain psychological bent who either love -- and follow -- authoritative figures, or are themselves authoritarian.
He also claims that today's conservative movement bears little resemblance to the ideas promoted by Barry Goldwater.
John Dean was one of Richard Nixon's principal legal advisors during the Watergate years. He provided detailed testimony on the coverup to Congress, mostly from memory. When the Oval office tapes surfaced, his testimony proved to be almost exactly correct in detail, down to the exact statements, persons and dates.
I also recommend Dean's recent book, "Broken Government". along with Thomas Franks' "The Wrecking Crew".
For a good review of George W. Bush's ethics, which helped me understand this president's bizarre leadership style, read Peter Singer's "The President of Good and Evil".
In a few weeks, this will be ancient history, but there are lessons for us in the past eight to thirty years of conservative influence in the federal government.
Also, it isn't over yet, given the precarious balance in the Supreme Court, the need to repair administrative policy, plus deal with those contentious hangovers in the Congress.Robert Roser
An interesting dissection of some of our nation's leaders,This review is from: Conservatives Without Conscience (Hardcover)
October 26, 2008
This book serves four purposes. First, it provides a short, but well-referenced history of political conservatism in the Anglo-American conscious over the past 500 years with major emphasis on the 20th century. Second, the book examines how Watergate was a watershed movement in coservatism, and how the reaction to it helped lead to the neoconservatives of the early 21st century. Third, the book shows how certain ideas and ideals of the conservative movement have attracted a certain personality type into its ranks, specifically an authoritorian personality. Last, the book examines the lives and careers of key authoritorian individuals, all Republicans, in positions of authority or influence.
The latter include Pat Robertson, Senator Bill Frist, ex-Congressmen Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay, and G. Gordon Liddy. The portrait painted by the author is of a bunch of spoiled white boys with strong streaks of egotism, sexism and cunning.
Overall, quite a scary picture of some of the leaders of the Republican party, and how they have changed the culture of Washington for the worse. The author also places himself in context, showing how he was part of the authoritorian Nixon White House. All in all, a good book to read that provides a unique angle on the past 2 decades.
Southern Strategy Overlooked,
June 2, 2008
Although Mr. Dean gives us a very good look at right wing authoritarianism, he misses, perhaps because of the connection of the book's concept with Barry Goldwater, the very cause of the take over of what used to be the Party of Abraham Lincoln by these people.
It was the Southern Strategy, developed by Goldwater and furthered by Nixon, that caused this. While many other earlier conservative movements were more libertarian in nature, Southern politics has always been authoritarian.
When the Republicans invited the Southern Dixiecrats in they did not realize the implications this would have and that they would take over. As Senator Lott said many times, the spirit of Jefferson Davis is alive and well in the Republican Party. You cannot be the Party of Lincoln and the Party of Davis. No tent is that big.
Mr. Dean should have reviewed Dr Augustus Cochran's book "Democracy Heading South: National Politics in the Shadow of Dixie" and Michael Lind's book "Made in Texas: The Southern Takeover of American Politics" and Andrew Manis "Southern Civil Religions in Conflict: Civil Rights and the Culture Wars".Obi No Kid Glove Treatment for Authoritarian Conservatives,
March 28, 2008Scripture Studier
Former Watergate figure John Dean wrote a compelling critique of the conservative movement in the United States in his book "Conservatives Without Conscience". The author starts out explaining why the book was necessary and how it had been his hope to refrain from serious political commentary. He then discussed events where conservative hacks made attacks against him and his wife that were unfounded, and that he became the victim of slanders from former Nixon henchmen, G. Gordon Libby and Charles Colson. These events led him back into the public spotlight and convinced him that there had been a fundamental, and authoritarian change in conservatism from the Goldwater conservatism that had initially inspired John Dean. Dean also mentions that this book was inspired by Barry Goldwater and was intended to be a collaboration with him, had he lived.
In the book, John Dean looks at various efforts to define conservatism within the United States and the disparate ideologies that have somehow been embraced and coalesced into modern conservatism. Dean analysis the modern conservative movement and very pointedly takes aim at the authoritarian evolution of that movement and psychological efforts to understand both "authoritarian followers" and "social dominators" within conservative authoritarianism. He also defines different factions within the conservative movement and outlines their and their commonalities.
Dean pulls no punches in his examination of "social dominant authoritarians." Guys like Tom Delay, Newt Gingrich, Pat Robertson, and particularly, Dick Cheney are hammered with a searing white hot examination of their careers and characteristics. Cheney, as our nation's most dominant Vice President to a weak-minded and shallow President, is seen in the book as deliberately fundamentally changing the United States towards more central control within the Executive Branch.
Though Dean's book is a couple of years old, what he wrote makes sense of alot of what has happened since he first published it, and in this regard, Dean's analysis is helpful in predicting future administration actions and why they will engage in their behavior. The constant cries of "executive privilege" to hide administration misdeeds will not go away in an era dominated by "conservatives without conscience."
Authoritarians, driven by power, rather than principle, will do anything they can get away with to keep that power. Democrats and libertarian leaning Republicans should take heed and warning, that these authoritarians will not be going away any time soon. Even if they receive temporary setbacks, they see their role as permanent and fore-ordained.
If you could criticize Dean's book, it would be the harshness and anger that seethes under the surface in his analyses. However, Dean seems to have a real sense of just how dangerous, "conservatives without conscience" are to our Republic and seems to, through a bit of "shock and awe", trying to awaken us from our slumber, to let us know exactly what is at stake.Loves the View "Louise"
"Conservatives Without Conscience" was written after "Worse Than Watergate". I prefer the first book over this one. This book had some boring material about the different factions in conservatism.
John Dean educates the reader on the neo-conservative ideas. They moved from the Left in the 60s and 70s. They differ from other conservatives with these ideas:
an American empire is plausible,
promotion of American values around the globe by military force if necessary,
the U.S. should enforce peace around the world,and military-imposed nation building.
Another interesting topic was the mixing of religion and politics. This grew from the Carter election sparking the birth of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and eventually giving way to Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition.
Cal Thomas is quoted saying "the marriage of religion and politics almost always compromises the Gospel,for politics is all about compromise."page 98.
"While authoritarian conservatism was growing in force in Washington for a decade before Bush and Cheney arrived at the White House,their administration has taken it to it's highest and most dangerous level in American history."-page 117.
"Conservatives Without Conscience" is an indictment of the Republican party's corruption like the K-Street Project and Jack Abramoff. Dean's criticism of Cheney is followed by a particular quote that validates concern. "....given the world that we live in,that the president needs to have unimpaired executive authority"-Dick Cheney.
I believe that John Dean has accurately depicted both the president and vice-president's relationship and their personalities.
The author goes a little too far when he validates the Clintons' claim of a "vast Right Wing conspiracy" though. That's a well known Clinton cop-out that gets trotted out whenever they back themselves into a corner.
Overall "Conservatives Without Conscience" is a good source for understanding the many facets of conservatism in the Republican party,some of the Figures,and the history and changes of the movement.Required Reading for Poli Sci Majors,Dennis Littrell
January 14, 2007
This book not only does what it is billed to do (apply psychological studies to political disposition) but also provides a basis for understanding today's conservativism.
After discussing the ideas of what it means to be a conservative, Dean tackles situation of conservatives who do not have a deep tradition in America. The US was begun with a Declaration declaring all men equal (liberal), which was made to stick with a revolution in which conservatives were the loyalists and monarchists. Then there was a constitution with a Bill of Rights. Those with authoritarian psychological profiles are disposed to prefer order over rights and do not always see other races or religions their own. These authoritarian types gravitate to conservative politics and have come to dominate the Republican Party.
I found Dean's differentiation of the various conservative think tanks (Cato, AEI, Heritage Fdtn, etc.) helpful. The portraits of conservatives, particularly the ones whom Dean had met (especially Pat Robertson) were interesting. In the J. Edgar Hoover portrait, I was intrigued by the comment that he "rigged" the Warren Commission. Does this imply that Hoover knew who killed JFK? Not having read the Frist autobiography, I'm rather amazed at the things Dean quotes from it.
A lot about electoral politics is explained by Dean's discussion on the attributes of the authoritarian personality which correlates with a conservative outlook. A psychological need for concrete answers is ready made for conservative campaigns in the TV era.
Also, expedience correlating with authoritariansim (and hence, conservativism) predicts a much easier a path to power for conservatives than liberals. It's easy to see how opportunists who only seek power (and not contribute to the good of the country) will immediately see that they should play to a conservative base.
There is a lot of meat in this very short book.Brilliant analysis engagingly presented,Anitra Freeman "unrepentant bookaholic"
January 10, 2007
John W. Dean was legal counsel to President Nixon during the Watergate days. You may remember him and his wife Mo from the Watergate hearings on TV. Since then he has become the author of a number of books on politics, most notably Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush (2004). Here he wants to make a distinction between some kinds of conservatives and others.
First there is the conservative with a conscience as exemplified in the person of the late Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater to whom this book is dedicated. Goldwater defined conservatism "as the belief that the solutions to the problems of today can be found in the proven values of the past." He later added, "in its simplest terms, conservatism is economic, social, and political practices based on the successes of the past." (p. 17)
Then there are the "conservatives without a conscious," whom (relying on work by political psychologist Bob Altemeyer and others) Dean puts into two main camps, (1) the leaders who orientate toward "social dominance," and (2) their followers, "right-wing authoritarians." If a person scores high on both "social dominance orientation" and "right-wing authoritarianism," that person is said to be a "Double High authoritarian."
Examples of Double High authoritarians include the people whose photographed faces appear across the cover of the book. They are: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff; Tom Delay, disgraced former Senate Majority Leader from Texas; Jack Abramoff, indicted lobbyist; Dick Cheney (intrepid hunter of caged birds thrown in the air); Karl Rove, mastermind of the seduction of Christian evangelicals; Bill Frist, M.D., Tennessee senator who once pretended to save cats from animal shelters only to cut their hearts out--literally, see p. 154; and Pat Robertson, evangelical Christian leader to whom God often speaks before doing some mischief in the world.
All of these people are Republicans and that is the major point that Dean is making. These guys and others like them have taken over the Republican party, have sullied the name of conservatism, and are hell bent for leather to take over the country.
There are other sorts of conservatives that Dean mentions, most prominently the neoconservatives, whom former Georgetown University Professor (and former Marine) Philip Gold described as "a new aristocracy of aggression that combines 19th century Prussian pigheadedness with a most un-Prussian inability to read a man or a ledger book, and a near total lack of military--let alone combat--experience. Ask these people to show you their wounds and they'll probably wave a Washington Post editorial at you." (pp. 77-78)
There are a number of delicious quotes of this sort sprinkled throughout the book. Dean's sense of the quotable is one of the things that makes this book so readable and fascinating. Here's another from Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute: "the Bush administration is to checks and balances what Paris Hilton is to chastity." (p. 82)
What I think becomes clear from reading this book is that the impulse toward conservatism is innate (evolutionary psychologists would agree) and is part of the tribal mentality in which it was early learned that survival often meant following the leader, be he hero, shaman or idiot. In this regard the concept of authoritarian conservative as follower (often blind follower) explains how people like Pat Robertson and others gain so much power so easily. Dean says again and again that authoritarian followers do not often question authority figures (e.g., p. 123). People like Karl Rove and George W. Bush take advantage of this phenomenon. Note too that because they are so monolithic in following whomever they see as a leader, evangelicals are a prize capture for anyone interested in political power. If you get one, you get them all since they all think pretty much the same way.
Dean also makes note of the work of social psychologist Stanley Milgram who showed in a famous experiment that most people would inflict grievous pain upon others if they thought they were following the wishes of an authoritarian figure.
Dean is an excellent writer and here shows himself to be a clear and penetrating thinker who has written an outstanding book that explains the danger to our freedoms and our way of life posed by conservatives without conscience. The sad thing, as Altemeyer told Dean is that "Probably about 20 to 25 percent of the adult American population is so right-wing authoritarian, so scared, so self-righteous, so ill-informed, and so dogmatic that nothing you can say or do will change their minds." (p. 184)
Clearly the job for the rest of us is to somehow overcome or somehow redirect these people so that we do not lose our freedoms and our way of life.Excellent description; reservations about the analysis,Keith E. Diller
January 10, 2007
John Dean is spot-on in describing how glaringly the Bush League of "conservatives" violate the principled conservatism of the Goldwater era. Unlike Dean, I do not ascribe this to "authoritarianism." I think it is dangerous to do so, in the belief that voting this particular crowd of "radical, authoritarian conservatives" out of power is going to eliminate corruption and abuse of power from American politics.
I believe that the abuses Dean describes are not the result of "authoritarian personalities," they are the result of human beings in a position of power and subject to no accountability. Whenever liberal Democrats have achieved so much power that they could marginalize their opposition, THEY became corrupt and abused power.
For a more scientific analysis of how the conscience can be corrupted -- how the conscience of a whole society can be corrupted -- I recommend Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing. It is all too easy for human beings to be polarized against a group and dehumanize them. That is certainly what radical conservatives have tried to do in demonizing "liberals." Please let us not fall into the same trap and begin demonizing conservatives.
The healthiest society is one with a balance of liberals and conservatives, in which we all have to work out daily problems with people who don't agree with us. We've done it before; we can do it again.A good read but be careful,JoeV "Reader"
January 8, 2007
I read this book at the suggestion of a libertarian friend of mine who tends to have "conspiracy theories" of his own.
As one reviewer made clear, Dean uses social science to advance his own "litany of mostly ad hominem complaints"...I tend to agree. He ascribes Double High authoritarian behavior (the worst kind) to individuals he only knows thru the news media. That's neither scientific nor journalistic.
While the book is well-documented and up-to-date here's an example of where Dean gets it wrong. He accuses "Scooter" Libby of revealing the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to the news media. We know now that Libby wasn't the source of that leak and the special investigator has not charged Libby with that crime (which is a felony).
To the careful, informed reader Dean is off-base on a lot of things but he does make some valid points along the way (if you can pick them out in between Dean's bitter diatribes). My friend was right, this was a thought-provoking book but not for the reasons he imagined.
Here's another example of an apparent contradiction in Dean's writing. On page 169 of the hardback version I have Dean says: "While Bush does not appear to be a Double High, the vice president is a classic Double High..." Now go to page 183: "Bush and Cheney are Double High authoritarians, far beyond Nixon's league." Which is it?
Read this book but realize that Dean has an agenda - to rescue his own legacy.Thought Provoking,P. Bierre
November 24, 2006
In this short book, (less than 200 pages), the author tracks the inception, evolution, and finally the hijacking of the conservative movement, (and the Republican Party), in the United States. In a nutshell, (and very simplistically), the book's thesis contends that electoral politics, the personalities in power, influential non-elected groups, (i.e. the religious right), post 9/11 attitudes on national security and terrorism and other phenomena have all combined to yield an authoritarian, (yep, a scary word), leadership and following in the U.S. The proof or really foundation of this is presented in a somewhat difficult to read second chapter, where the author documents psychological and sociological data in a scientific manner and then extrapolates and draws conclusions in a somewhat legal manner.
This doesn't invalidate any of the research or conclusions in and of itself; it just calls for some extra concentration for 25 pages or so. (My guess is that most people evaluating this data and the conclusions reached, will in the end use their own observations and make their own judgments - data or no data).
Although this author deals almost entirely with the Republican Party, (which is logical), one can't help but notice similar tendencies and trends within the Democratic Party, although they may be a step or two behind.
Ironically, some minimize and trivialize this author's opinions/observations because of his involvement in Watergate when it seems, at least to this reader, the opposite should be true. What may present the biggest difficulty to readers of this book is not just the suggestion that we should re-examine our leaders but also that we must re-examine ourselves.
(As an aside, if you've ever wondered what it's like to be John Dean, the introduction to this book, chronicling the publication of a new Watergate "history" in 1991, naming Dean and his wife as the central characters of the scandal and then the Deans' legal battles in the ensuing aftermath is Kafkaesque.)True conservatism values reflective, curious leadership,
December 22, 2006
John Dean has put his finger on the corruption of conservative principles that reached its crescendo in the 109th Congress, K Street Project, and authoritarian one-party rule that has weakened our country. We should be greatly relieved that in conservatives like Dean, the ability to ask deep, penetrating questions, intent on understanding that which escapes easy categorization, still exists. Because, this is where the neocons have most let themselves and their country down. In a world as complex as the one we face, there is little survival value in promoting leaders who by disposition and habit refuse to lead by asking open-ended questions. There is a world of difference between dead-end rhetorical questions such as "Why do they hate us?", and those posed by the knowledge-seeker, more along the lines of, "What is it about American policy that is alienating and radicalizing Muslims, and what can we do to reduce their provocation?" The thing that most poisons the authoritative conservative's thought process is a reflexive tendency to use words and forms of argumentation that turn off debate, stifle creative thinking, and avoid self-criticism at all costs.
Labeling a perceived adversary as "evil" has just this effect, for once the label is stuck, no further exploration is needed, and the path to conflict resolution is cut off. Who would make a deal with the devil?
Yet, the problems we face, whether child sexual predation or radical jihad terrorism represent late stages of processes that have gone amok much earlier on. The true conservative isn't satisfied to merely demonize child predators and punish the ones that can be caught, because in the end, this leaves the process that creates new molesters (terrorists) completely unchallenged. Only with deep understanding of cause and effect is there any hope of interrupting the cycle. Thus, the conservative who is an effective problem-solver is learned in the art of Aristotlean question-posing, and depesonalization of conflict. Such an individual's reaction to Bush's 2002 "axis of evil" State of the Union address was, as most thinking Americans who have leadership experience and responsibility, "what the hell is he thinking?" This book will give you a much overdue foray into closed-mind leadership, and hopefully, re-energize the positive, reflective, conscientious breed of conservatism that Dean has kept alive all these years. This is exactly what America needs to sort out the choices in 2008.
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