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Wednesday, May 26, 2010 

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.

Progressive Bloggers

define 'Machiavellian'. I always hear this come up to describe some one's politics but no one has ever really defined it for me. I have read the "The Prince" and I think it's 'The Discords' and I still don't know why the left is constantly bringing up the rantings of a pig farmer who has been dead for 500 years.
I guess want I want to know is what does a person mean when they refer to someone as 'Machiavellian'? Does it mean the person is a pompous ass who refers to Roman History as if it were common knowledge? Doe it mean that the person is a complete failure and now works as a pig farmer?
I know there are some pretty smart people who read this blog, so if anyone can enlighten me I would appreciate it.

Thanks for this LeftDog. Just ordered the book.

You will enjoy. Having been on the 'inside' of conservative circles of power, Dean has a unique perspective. The Right simply does not see (or chooses NOT to see) the road they are on to take us to the status of an Authoritarian state. Their self righteousness is blinding them politically. Look how Harper operates. He would compromise our democracy without blinking an eye because he is so convinced that he is correct on every issue. Hope you enjoy the book as much as I have.

I will let you know once I've read it. Expect it in at the local bookshop next week sometime. In the meantime I picked up a copy of Marci MacDonald's book "The Armageddon Factor". Have you read that one yet? I'll be starting to read it tonight. :) She's also on TVO's The Agenda tonight.

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