Understanding 'Authoritarian' Conservatives
“Conservatives Without Conscience” by John W. Dean is a worthy read for all progressive thinkers. John W. Dean was White House legal counsel for President Richard Nixon for three years but become a key witness for the prosecution in the Watergate trials. He is a self admitted ‘conservative’.
However, he was NOT a Bush supporter, His book, published 4 years ago, provides urgent warnings concerning the political mind set and aggressive behavior of the Right-wing in North America.
His own words identify the basic premise of his book. Here is a sample:
“Conservatives without conscience do not have horns and tails; if they did they would be easier to identify. Many of them can be quite pleasant, but at heart they are tough, cold-blooded, ruthless authoritarians. They are limited in their ability to see the world from any point of view other than there own, and they are narrow in their outlook. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are prototypical conservative leaders without conscience.”
“I have not written this book with the slightest expectation of ending the vile attacks of these authoritarian conservatives or of changing their Machiavellian attitudes. They cannot be stopped because their behaviour is simply a function of the way they are and how they think, their dispositions and the way they deal with the world. However, they can be understood, exposed, and watched, and there is a compelling reason to do so.”
“Many conservatives, however, are simply entertained by reading conservative authors or hearing conservative talk show hosts rand about liberals. The exaggerated hostility also apparently satisfies a psychological need for antagonism toward the “out group,” reinforces the self-esteem of the conservative base and increases solidarity within the ranks.”
“Not surprisingly, the very conservatives who love to hurl invective against the ranks of their enemies prove to have the thinnest of skins when the same is done to them. Many of the examples are familiar: Ann Coulter, who can trash perceived liberals on national television but has been known to walk offstage when booed, or to start crying when she thinks she is being treated unfairly.”
“Right-wing authoritarians employ a number of psychological tricks and defences that enable them to act fairly beastly, all the while thinking they are ‘the good people’. To begin with they have relatively little self-understanding. For instance, they do not realize they are more prejudiced and hostile than most people. In fact, they do not realize any of the many undesirable things that research has discovered about them. Second, right-wing authoritarians have very compartmentalized minds, and they can just pull off a Scarlett O’Hara (“I’m not going to think about it!’) whenever they want.”
“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. They would march America into a dictatorship and probably feel that things had improved as a result. The problem is that these authoritarian followers are much more active than the rest of the country. They have the mentality of ‘old time religion’ on a crusade, and they generously give money, time and effort to the cause. They proselytize; they lick stamps; they put pressure on loved ones; and they revel in being loyal to a cohesive group of like thinkers. And they are so submissive to their leaders that they will believe and do virtually anything they are told. They are not going to let up and they are not going to go away”
Conservatives Without Conscience is thought provoking. Dean uses his lengthy involvement with American Republicans and conservatives as the basis for his observations. Canadian small 'c' conservatives, as well, fit nicely into the authoritarian description that Dean provides.