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The Appeal of Authoritarianism

"You WILL be assimilated. Resistance is futile."  

Given the evidence of the past few days, in particular the Iowa and New Hampshire Republican primaries, there are a lot of people who still seem to like former President Donald Trump, at least enough to vote for his nomination. So what is it about His Orangeness that so many people, not just rank-and-file Republicans, find appealing? This is a question that so many of us who live "in between the bright lights and the far, unlit unknown" have struggled with for the past eight years (and counting). Well, I think I may have accidentally stumbled on an answer to that question, and surprisingly, its appeal is not that complex or mystifying. It's actually quite simple, but more than that, it seems to check off a few of the "bucket list" boxes that his supporters crave. 

"Growing up, it all seems so one-sided; opinions all provided, the future pre-decided …" 

Democracy is messy, and it's frustrating. Attempting to make any change in the existing system of government, especially ours, is a long and arduous slog through that swamp His Orangeness had promised to drain eight years ago; painstakingly slow at best and infuriatingly elusive at worst. Legislation at all levels of the government is always the work of "compromise", and compromises don't always please everyone. I've often heard that the defeated party in a political election must sit and wait another four years for a shot at redemption, and that in the meantime they must "suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune"; being governed by their political adversaries.  

"Some will sell their dreams for small desires, or lose their race to rats..." 

Authoritarianism, on the other hand, lends itself to simplicity and decisiveness. It offers the allure of ultimate power and the ability not just to steamroll your opponents, but, when necessary, to punish or even kill them if they get out of line. Historically, authoritarian leaders, far from being universally loathed, have often had the support of significant segments of society. The primary appeal for authoritarian-like leaders seems to be that they safeguard the interests of one group of citizens against others, and by closing off any possibility of change through elections, these same leaders offer the illusion of permanence to their supporters. 

"In the basement bars, in the backs of cars, be cool or be cast out." 

This is why trying to appeal to the commitment to freedom and democracy of most rank-and-file Republicans has not engendered the kind of response that political left and center-left thinkers believed that it would. In fact, based on the (admittedly anecdotal) results, it has only caused those who support Mr. Trump and his ideology to entrench themselves for a war for what they believe is "the soul of America"; not "American democracy", but just "America".  This is also why so many Republicans are embracing the possibility of dictatorship. Not only is authoritarianism just as popular as traditional conservatism, it has also proven to be a potent way of unifying various coalitions.  

"In the high school halls, in the shopping malls, conform or be cast out." 

The blind rage and thirst for retribution that authoritarianism offers is the very same, very simple reason that millions of people seem to love and embrace the idea of it. It's not just that it's in their self-interest. They seem to believe that the authoritarianism that Trump promises to usher in if he wins the election in November will benefit them personally. Not only will they get their kulturkampf wishes fulfilled with endless "war on woke" policies and stunts, but they will be personally insulated from any accountability by the degradation of electoral integrity, and their place atop the social and economic hierarchy will be fully restored and protected by policy. 

Committee to Elect Darren Hamilton
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