Something Not To Be Thankful For

Brian Klaas, an associate professor of global politics at University College London, asks an important question:

Is there any way to reverse the Republican Party’s lurch toward violent, authoritarian lunacy?

For the past decade, I’ve studied the rise of authoritarianism and the breakdown of democracy around the world. Traveling from Madagascar to Thailand and Belarus to Zambia, I’ve tried to understand how despotic politicians and authoritarian political parties systematically destroy democracy. And based on that research, I have some bad news: The party of Reagan and Romney is long dead. The party of T____ is here to stay.

What has happened in the United States over the past five years is, in many ways, a classic of the autocratic genre. A populist leader rose to power, attacked the presspoliticized rule of lawthreatened to jail his opponentsdemonized minoritiespraised dictators abroadspread conspiracy theories and lies, and then sought to seize power despite losing an election.

When such despotic figures emerge in democracies, their political party has two options: push back against the would-be despot while reasserting democratic principles, or remake the party in his image. Republicans have quite clearly chosen the latter path.

The big question now is: Can this be reversed? Can Republicans go back to being a broadly pro-democracy party that operates within democratic constraints and accepts election defeats without inventing false claims?

There are a few ways political parties that drift toward authoritarianism can be brought back from the brink. Sadly, none of them can save the modern GOP.

Authoritarian parties can be reformed when they suffer a crushing electoral defeat. If Republicans were wiped out at the polls in 2022, there would be a decent chance the GOP would move back to a more normal center-right party. That outcome is unlikely, however, precisely because the party’s anti-democratic tactics are insulating Republican politicians from voter backlash. Already, Republican lawmakers have drawn gerrymandered maps that rig future elections in their favor. In Wisconsin, for example — a state Joe Biden narrowly won — the new maps will likely give Republicans 75 percent of the state’s seats in the House of Representatives. Even if Democrats get more votes, Republicans would win more seats.

Republicans could conceivably abandon such practices if their leaders were being pressed by their own supporters to be more democratic. Instead, we’re seeing the opposite: GOP voters want more authoritarianism. The Republican political base doesn’t just believe T____’s lies about the 2020 election. These voters are now using those lies as a litmus test — to separate the true believers from alleged “RINOs” who believe in democracy more than they believe in D____ T____. Candidates are responding by stating that they believe T____’s lies as a point of pride in their campaign messaging. This trend is creating a ratcheting effect, motivating Republican candidates to establish increasingly extreme authoritarian credentials to stand out.

The Republican Party could also be driven away from authoritarianism by a charismatic rival to T____ who believes in democracy. If a Mitt Romney-style figure were currently electrifying the Republican base, it would be a lot easier to imagine a more democratic future for the GOP.

Instead, Romney is a Republican pariah who is viewed more positively by Democrats than Republicans. He narrowly avoided being attacked by a violent mob of pro-T____ Republicans on Jan. 6, which is as good a metaphor as you can get for the fate that awaits Republican leaders who try to stem their party’s authoritarian tide. And when a Republican tries to investigate the Jan. 6 rioters to hold them accountable, he or she becomes a pariah, too. (Just ask Rep. Liz Cheney.) Meanwhile, the rising stars in the party are extremist zealots who are sympathetic to the insurrectionists such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Meaningful media backlash isn’t realistic, either. Although plenty of journalists and pundits have finally started to describe Republican authoritarianism without mincing words, T____’s efforts to discredit mainstream media outlets have paid partisan dividends. Many T____ supporters only tune into partisan media outlets that amplify what they already believe. Here, too, the trend is also heading in the wrong direction. Fox News, the center of that right-wing media universe, is facing pressure from the more extreme talking heads at outlets such as One America News and Newsmax.

What’s left, then, is some distant hope that a profound national crisis could jolt Republicans away from their embrace of authoritarian politics. Just as the tragedy of September 11 brought Democrats and Republicans together, perhaps a major national shock could cause Republicans to rally back toward democracy. But we’ve already had two major crises — January 6 and a once-in-a-century pandemic — and they’ve made the GOP more extreme, not less. If a violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol aimed at overturning an election and more than 770,000 dead Americans in the pandemic aren’t enough of a jolt, what would it take?

The conclusion is depressing, but we must face reality: The battle for the Republican Party is over. The T____ian authoritarians have won — and they’re not going to be defeated by pro-democracy Republicans anytime soon.

Unquote.

With no looming crisis or common enemy on the horizon, there are probably only two ways to cripple today’s Republican Party.

(1) Every Democrat in Congress recognizes the problem and decides to pass the Freedom To Vote Act, a bill that would protect voting rights and increase the number of voters.

(2) The “low information” voters who can’t decide between the two parties show up at the polls and help vote authoritarian Republicans out of office.

Convincing a couple politicians who call themselves Democrats to do their job sounds easier than getting millions of the ignorant or dim-witted to change their ways. You can send Senator Sinema a message even if you don’t live in Arizona. Likewise, you can send Senator Manchin a message even if you don’t live in West Virginia.

It’s Not Polarization. It’s Republican Radicalization.

Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post hits the political nail on the head:

Listen to political scientists, pollsters and well-meaning elected officials, and you’ll likely hear a lot of chatter about “polarization.” That characterization of our current political environment misses the point — and is dangerous.

You know the argument: America is divided into warring camps. The center has collapsed. Compromise is impossible. We have become uncivil and angry.

While it’s true that the country is more deeply divided along partisan lines than it has been in the past, it is wrong to suggest a symmetrical devolution into irrational hatred. The polarization argument too often treats both sides as equally worthy of blame, characterizing the problem as a sort of free-floating affliction (e.g., “lack of trust”). This blurs the distinction between a Democratic Party that is marginally more progressive in policy positions than it was a decade ago, and a Republican Party that routinely lies, courts violence and seeks to define America as a White Christian nation.

The Republican Party’s tolerance of violence is not matched by Democrats. Nor is the Republican Party’s refusal to recognize the sanctity of elections. Democrats did not call the elections they lost in 2020 and 2021 “rigged,” nor are they seeking to replace nonpartisan election officials with partisan law makers. Republicans’ determination to change voting laws based on their insistence that Donald Trump won the 2020 election is without historical precedent.

The Republican Party’s willingness to force a default on the debt is likewise indicative of a party that has fallen into nihilism. And Republicans’ refusal to give a sitting president’s Supreme Court nominee a hearing followed by the effort to push through a nominee of their own party during an election shows the party lacks any modicum of restraint and respect for institutions.

Only one party conducts fake election audits, habitually relies on conspiracy theories and wants to limit access to the ballot. A recent study from the libertarian think tank R Street found: “In Republican states, legislation tended to scale back the availability of mail-in voting and ballot drop boxes and to provide more uniform, if not shorter, early voting windows. Meanwhile, in Democratic states, legislators sought to increase the availability of early voting not only by expanded voting windows but also by instating universal vote-by-mail.”

Only one party overwhelmingly refused to participate in a bipartisan investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection. Only one party tolerates and defends House members who resort to violent imagery and harass fellow lawmakers. Talk of “secession” comes from only one party. Only one party is turning a vigilante who killed two people and seriously injured another into a folk hero. Only one party rises in defense of parents publicly threatening school boards. Only one party has taken to defending book-banning and book-burning. Governors of only one party are suing private companies and localities that follow coronavirus guidelines.

Only one party has a media machine that propagates misinformation (from conspiracy theories about the death of a young Democratic National Committee staffer to the blatant lies about Dominion Voting Systems) and foments racism with a steady diet of “replacement theory” rants and hyperventilation about immigrants. Only one party pounds away at the already debunked connection between crime and immigrants solely for the purpose of enraging and scaring voters.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) had it almost right when she wrote in May, “The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.” The GOP has already decided. The answer is no.

When it comes to compromise, only one party refused to cast a single vote in favor of the American Rescue Plan. Only one party in the Senate (minus a lone Alaska Republican) categorically refuses to debate voting reform or to consider reauthorizing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Take any issue, and one can see the difference between mutual polarization and radicalization. It is not merely that Republicans want to restrict abortions; they dangle bounties for those who aid women who seek abortions after six weeks of pregnancy (roughly 85 percent of all abortions) and attempt to shield the legislation from judicial review.

Republicans no longer seek merely to defend the Second Amendment; they fetishize guns. As Second Amendment advocate David French writes, “The ‘gun picture’ is a common pose for populist politicians. . . .  [She doesn’t mention that the Republican-controlled Supreme Court seems to be leaning toward making it easier to carry a gun in places like New York City.]

Likewise, Republicans do not merely object to significant tax increases on the super rich and corporations; they reject any tax changes that would force them to pay something in taxes and refuse to adequately fund the Internal Revenue Service to collect taxes already owed . . . .

The “polarization” decriers cop out when describing the country in terms that suggest both sides are to blame. Honesty compels us to recognize that while progressives might have more ambitious goals for government, they work within the democratic structure and acknowledge reality. The same cannot be said of Republicans. Let’s face it: We would not have a democracy crisis and an epistemological crisis if not for the Republican Party.

Unquote.

The Post’s Paul Waldman focuses on an aspect of the Republican Party’s radicalization that Rubin didn’t highlight (“the redistricting apocalypse is here”):

The word “redistricting” doesn’t carry the same inherent drama as a crowd of rabid thugs breaking doors and windows to storm the Capitol. But the way it’s proceeding right now, in its own way it’s just as much of an assault on our democracy. . . . 

Not only are Republicans frantically redrawing lines to increase their advantage; they’re doing it in a way that in place after place ensures that the results of every election will be clear long before any candidates debate issues or voters contemplate their choices. . . .

This is not ordinary partisan jockeying. It has been taken to an entirely new level, as a Republican campaign more than a decade in the making comes to fruition. Its goal is not merely to give Republicans an advantage in close elections. Its goal is to make elections irrelevant, so that no matter what the voters want, Republicans always stay in power.

Will Bunch of The Philadelphia Inquirer issues the same warning:

Republicans — who control the majority of state legislatures, partly because of their radical gerrymandering a decade ago — are for the most part [creating] a national map that would make next year’s midterm outlook bleak for Democrats even if the party bounced back to roughly even in [the] polls. Typical is the remapping process in competitive states that lean slightly Republican like North Carolina — where party registration is roughly equal yet the new districts tilt 10-4 for the GOP — or Ohio, where Republicans who got 55% of the 2020 presidential vote gerrymandered a stunning 12-3 congressional edge. . . . 

If anything, what Republicans are willing to do with T____ out of power could ultimately prove an even greater threat to democracy than actually having the authoritarian-yet-inept T____ in the White House. Democrats need to begin sounding this alarm today — that voters who turned out in near-record numbers in 2020 to defeat the culture of T____ism need to defy history and show up next November, to prevent something even worse. 

Unquote.

Aside from voting in record numbers next year, we also have to pressure a small number of Democratic senators (Manchin and Sinema especially) to pass a strong voting rights bill before it’s too late. Convincing a few senators to see reason should be easier than convincing millions more Democrats to vote in an off-year election.

An Urgent Message from Amy Siskind

You might remember the Weekly List, an effort by Amy Siskind to document the weekly, in fact daily, abnormal behavior of the previous administration. She published the list because “experts in authoritarianism advise keeping a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember”.

Week 129 of May 4, 2019, for example, included Robert Mueller telling former attorney general Bill Barr that Barr’s four-page summary of the “Mueller Report” didn’t capture “the context, nature, and substance” of Mueller’s work. She’s not putting out new lists anymore, but she’s still as worried about the creeping authoritarianism being delivered by the Republican Party. This week’s message:

January 20, 2021 we were finally able to exhale, believing our near brush with authoritarianism was behind us, and that with President Joe Biden taking office our country and political system would return to normalcy. The ensuing months proved otherwise. Elected Republicans continually questioned the 2020 election results, and attempted to rewrite history, including casting the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol as a mere “tourist visit.” Rep. Liz Cheney, a critic of former President D____ T____, was removed from House leadership and replaced by a loyalist, Rep. Elise Stefanik.

Instead of righting itself, the Republican Party has been subsumed by T____ism. Nearly 6 in 10 Republican voters say believing the Big Lie that T____ won in 2020 is an important part of their party identification. At the same time, Republicans have quietly and methodically taken steps to be in a position to overturn the 2024 election. The 2020 election aftermath may well be a harbinger, much like Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch or the 1905 Russian revolution, a dry run for a coup of our democracy.

Biden understands this too. He has spoken repeatedly about the need to prove a functioning government can deliver for the people. In his first joint address to Congress, he extolled, “We have to prove democracy still works.” We are still, one year later, very much in a battle for the soul of our country, a battle to determine whether we remain a democracy or descend into an authoritarian state. That is why the upcoming midterms are so critically important, and we all need to gear up and get engaged in saving our democracy!

The first part of the Republican playbook is widespread voter suppression. So far this year, 17 states led by Republican legislatures have used the Big Lie to enact restrictive voting laws. It’s a tried and true strategy of a party reliant on white, Christian voters—a declining proportion of our population—to deny the right to vote to people whose skin is not white.

Part of the reason it’s so easy to get away with voter suppression is the Republican Party’s long game of taking control of our nation’s highest court. After invalidating key parts of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, in July 2021 an even more conservatively-stacked Supreme Court signaled their disinterest in protecting the right to vote in a  6-3 ruling on Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, allowing two Arizona voter suppression provisions to stand.  The ruling makes it substantially harder to challenge restrictive measures, effectively leaving it in Congress’ hands to pass voting rights legislation. That window could close after the 2022 midterms.

Already these measures, accompanied by aggressive gerrymandering in some GOP-led states, will make the climb to keeping our majorities that much steeper. Take Georgia, for example, where Sen. Raphael Warnock is up for re-election, this time facing 16 new provisions enacted by Republicans to limit voting. Losing our majorities in the midterms would disable our last safety valve at the federal level to protect against GOP efforts to subvert our democracy with voter suppression. Without federal legislation, these efforts at the state level would go unchallenged—save for states led by a Democratic governor.

Not coincidentally, another target in the Republican playbook will be Democratic governors.  Just last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan vetoed restrictive voting bills put forth by the state’s Republican-led legislature. It was a test flare. Republicans are hyper-focused for 2022 on three key states: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Ring a bell? In 2016, a mere seventy-seven thousand votes in these three states delivered T____ the presidency. The same three states were also key to Biden’s 2020 victory. On the ballot next year in all three states are the roles of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state—the safeguards not only from voter suppression laws, but also for overturning state results.

T____ had a practice run with overturning the will of voters in 2020, coming closest in the state of Michigan. He invited two Michigan state legislators to the White House, while his allies and lawyers put forward fake claims of widespread voter fraud in Wayne County (part of Detroit with a large Black population). The Michigan State Board of Canvassers eventually held hearings before finally certifying results weeks after Election Day. It was a cliffhanger. As someone who closely monitored the transition of power, it was the one time I feared T____ could invalidate a state’s results and set off a domino effect, overturning the election and ending our democracy.

Ahead of the 2024 election, T____ has been priming his base with the Big Lie. A recent poll found just one-third of Republicans say they will trust the 2024 election results if their candidate loses. Republicans, inspired by T____’s false accusations of widespread fraud, have been systematically threatening election officials and their families, causing an exodus of experienced workers—many of whom will be replaced by T____ loyalists. Imagine a scenario with a close election, but this time Republicans control the House and Senate, and key state positions in the three states stacked with his loyalists. Who would fight back? This is the nightmare scenario the GOP is quietly cobbling together. This would spell the end of the great American experiment in democracy!

As dire as this sounds, it is not too late to fight back and protect our democracy. We know how to do this. We organized resistance groups in 2018 to take back the House, and then in 2020 the White House and Senate. I know many are feeling exhausted from the combination of the T____ era and a once in a century pandemic which has left us with generational trauma. I get it. But it’s time to push the panic button, and awaken into activism! The feeling of calm now is but quicksand.

Reach out to your members of the House and Senate—send them this article—and demand URGENCY and action on voting rights! As leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell carved out an exception to the filibuster to confirm T____’s judges. We can and must do so too in order to protect the core of our democracy: the right to vote. In the end, we are the cavalry. No one is coming to save us.

An Expert Says It’s Typical Fascism

Jason Stanley, a professor at Yale University and the author of How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, analyzes a new piece of fascist propaganda disseminated by Fox News:  

Patriot Purge, Tucker Carlson’s new three-part series, is propaganda built around D____ T____’s Big Lie of a stolen 2020 election and buttressed by a bizarro world, alt-right and alt-reality retelling of the January 6th insurrection. But Carlson’s message being profoundly dishonest doesn’t stop it from being profoundly dangerous: both because it contains kernels of tough truths the country has been scared to face, and because it follows a classic template of propaganda that has brought down democracies before.

The conceit of Patriot Purge is that the real “Americans” — the country’s greatest Patriots — were those who went to Washington on January 6 to join what was to be a peaceful rally protesting the supposed stealing of the 2020 US Presidential Election. They were a multi-racial group of patriotic Americans coming to the capital to voice their concerns. But then Antifa, apparently working in tandem with the FBI, disrupted the peaceful protests with agents provocateurs who urged participants into the capital building. The seditious “deep state” has in this way entrapped the country’s warriors, who are now the subject of government targeting that was honed during the War on Terror.

The message of the series is clear: a great wrong has been done. The government and media have engineered a false narrative directed in the first instance towards discrediting the patriots who seek to address it, and, ultimately, with the goal of hunting down and violently suppressing them. Our media’s complicity is demonstrated by their differential coverages of the BLM protests, which are here portrayed as senseless violent riots, and the events of January 6. The patriots are innocent Americans seeking only to preserve democracy in the face of a fraudulent election. The forces arrayed against them are almost impossibly powerful. It is a repeat of the war on terror, by the same forces who engineered it, but directed against the most representative of our citizens, the “real” Americans.

It is impossible to accept this message in total without taking it to justify violent mass action against the current government, or something like a police and military coup.

Carlson’s Patriot Purge finds a martyr for its movement in Ashli Babbitt, who was shot trying to get past a Capitol Police barrier near the House chamber. Her death, in great and gruesome detail, comprises the final shots of Part I.

Babbitt’s assigned role is familiar to anyone who has seen or studied Twentieth Century fascist propaganda. Martyrs are ideally pure and innocent, and killed in a noble attempt to defeat enemies of the nation. In fascist ideology, these enemies are communists and liberals, who are represented as subverting the will of the “true” people, whose only goal is to install their beloved leader, the true father of the nation. Honoring the memory of the martyr is to worship the leader, and give all in the quest to defeat his enemies and place him as the leader of the nation.

This series is a further contribution to the months long narrative construction of Babbitt as the T____ movement’s Horst Wessel, the Nazi stormtrooper killed in a brawl in 1930, most probably by communists (but for unclear reasons), and elevated to martyrdom status by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. In this case, the martyr is an innocent, patriotic white woman. . . .

The unquestioned premise of this series is the “Big lie”, that the election was stolen, and that T____ won. The Big Lie structures the entire narrative here. It is only on this assumption that we should grant a movement that promulgates this lie full political legitimacy, and equal weight in government decisions and media representation. It is only on this assumption that those who promulgate this lie can be represented as innocent victims.

Key to fascist propaganda is an overwhelming sense of danger, one that threatens to make the country’s dominant majority into a powerless and endangered minority. T____ loyalists in this series appear only as targeted victims, at existential peril, without representation in. any branch of government or media. Throughout, law is represented as merely an instrument in the service of power. The series does not discuss what these attitudes have justified – the wave of laws sweeping Republican dominated state governments enabling the mass disenfranchisement of minority voters on the basis of dubious claims of fraud, the stacking of election commissions by T___ loyalists, or the nationwide targeting of educators associated with Critical Race Theory or Black Lives Matter. The series does not mention the mass targeting of democratic institutions, from elections to schools, the curtailing of voting rights and speech, that are the calling card of the T____ist Republican Party in its current fascist phase. And the series does not, of course, discuss the fearsome power of Fox News.

In the inverted world of the series, those who support the authoritarian cult of the leader, his base, are the democratic patriots. Those who seek to preserve fair elections are the fascists. Fascist propaganda is relentless projection, justified by lies. Carlson has proven to be a master in its use. . . .

Throughout, Carlson is correct about several important matters. He is right about the dangers of mass surveillance. He is right about the moral obscenity of the war on terror, which has created an ugly toolkit that can be used to target relatively powerless American citizens. It is past time for these to be shared bipartisan assumptions. Embedding these truths within a larger framework in the service of destabilizing democracy makes it dangerous propaganda indeed. . . .

I share his view that ordinary fellow citizens who fall under the sway of propaganda should not be demonized. Our opprobrium should instead be directed at those leading the assault, billionaires . . . [like Rupert Murdoch], elite Ivy League-trained [politicians] like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, and, of course, wealthy and powerful mainstream media propagandists like Tucker Carlson.

Unquote.

Unlike Professor Stanley, however, I think the “ordinary” citizens who are so open to right-wing propaganda deserve plenty of opprobrium too. But our leaders aren’t comfortable saying that.

How Being a Right-Wing Creep Can Give Meaning to Your Life

Earlier today, I posted a Twitter thread by David Roberts regarding the so-called “War on Christmas”. He provided context with an excerpt from a New York Times article by Thomas Edsall that discusses some relevant research:

In their September 2021 paper “Exposure to Authoritarian Values Leads to Lower Positive Affect, Higher Negative Affect, and Higher Meaning in Life,” seven scholars . . . write:

Right-wing authoritarianism played a significant role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In subsequent years, there have been numerous “alt-right” demonstrations in the U.S., including the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville that culminated in a fatal car attack, and the 2021 Capitol Insurrection. In the U.S., between 2016 and 2017 the number of attacks by right-wing organizations quadrupled, . . . constituting 66 percent of all attacks and plots in the U.S. in 2019 and over 90 percent in 2020.

How does authoritarianism relate to immigration? [Jake Womick, one of the co-authors] provided some insight in an email:

Social dominance orientation is a variable that refers to the preference for society to be structured by group-based hierarchies. It’s comprised of two components: group-based dominance and anti-egalitarianism. Group-based dominance refers to the preference for these hierarchies and the use of force/aggression to maintain them. Anti-egalitarianism refers to maintaining these sorts of hierarchies through other means, such as through systems, legislation, etc.

Womick notes that his own study of the 2016 primaries showed that T____ voters were unique compared to supporters of other Republicans in the strength of their

group-based dominance. I think group-based dominance as the distinguishing factor of this group is highly consistent with what happened at the Capitol. These individuals likely felt that the T____ administration was serving to maintain group-based hierarchies in society from which they felt they benefited. They may have perceived the 2020 election outcome as a threat to that structure. As a result, they turned to aggression in an attempt to affect our political structures in service of the maintenance of those group-based hierarchies.

In their paper, Womick and his co-authors ask:

What explains the appeal of authoritarian values? What problem do these values solve for the people who embrace them? The presentation of authoritarian values must have a positive influence on something that is valuable to people.

Their answer is twofold:

Authoritarian messages influence people on two separable levels, the affective level, lowering positive and enhancing negative affect, and the existential level, enhancing meaning in life.

They describe negative affect as “feeling sad, worried or enraged.” Definitions of “meaning in life,” they write,

include at least three components: significance, the feeling that one’s life and contributions matter to society; purpose, having one’s life driven by the pursuit of valued goals; and coherence or comprehensibility, the perception that one’s life makes sense.

In a separate paper, “The Existential Function of Right-Wing Authoritarianism,” [political scientists] provide more detail:

It may seem ironic that authoritarianism, a belief system that entails sacrifice of personal freedom to a strong leader, would influence the experience of meaning in life through its promotion of feelings of personal significance. Yet right-wing authoritarianism does provide a person with a place in the world, as a loyal follower of a strong leader. In addition, compared to purpose and coherence, knowing with great certainty that one’s life has mattered in a lasting way may be challenging. Handing this challenge over to a strong leader and investment in societal conventions might allow a person to gain a sense of symbolic or vicarious significance.

From another vantage point, Womick and his co-authors continue,

perceptions of insignificance may lead individuals to endorse relatively extreme beliefs, such as authoritarianism, and to follow authoritarian leaders as a way to gain a sense that their lives and their contributions matter.

In the authors’ view, right-wing authoritarianism,

despite its negative social implications, serves an existential meaning function. This existential function is primarily about facilitating the sense that one’s life matters. This existential buffering function is primarily about allowing individuals to maintain a sense that they matter during difficult experiences.

In his email, Womick expanded on his work: “The idea is that perceptions of insignificance can drive a process of seeking out groups, endorsing their ideologies and engaging in behaviors consistent with these.”

These ideologies, Womick continued,

should eventually promote a sense of significance (as insignificance is what drove the person to endorse the ideology in the first place). Endorsing right-wing authoritarianism relates to higher meaning in life, and exposing people to authoritarian values causally enhances meaning.