This website places at your disposal a free ebook entitled The Authoritarians. I wrote this book in 2006 when a great deal seemed to be going wrong in America, and I thought the research on authoritarian personalities could explain a lot of it. (The book is set in that era, but you will have no trouble finding present-day examples of what the experiments found back then.)
Since then, I have written articles updating matters according to events of the time. The latest begins below, while others can be found in the right side-bar “Previous Observations”.
Lessons of the 2020 American Election, January 6th, and Beyond
Bob Altemeyer – October 20, 2021
‘Twer a Near Thing
You know how a pitch in the dirt in a baseball game can bounce up and hit the catcher in a certain place that makes all the men watching the game bend over and groan? Well, that summed up my state of mind on November 3, 2020 as I collapsed into bed for my worst night’s sleep in four years. Just as happened in 2016, I had been certain Donald Trump would lose the presidential election. Yet here he was again looking every inch like an unstoppable force of nature, showing everyone that HE lived in the real world and his opponents were the ones deluding themselves with alternate realities. Despite all the investigations, all the research findings, and all the awful things Trump had done, everything was again turning out wrong. If a sudden tragedy in your life—like losing a loved one, or your job, or your good name—has ever crushed you the way Trump’s apparent re-election left me in pain and bewildered that night, you know how I writhed into and out of the fetal position in my bed like a baseball player who had just caught one in the stones.
My hubris had led me astray but so did the polls, which again got it significantly wrong. Nate Silver’s average of the national polls on election day saw Joe Biden ahead by over 8%, which shouted LANDSLIDE and Blue Wave and control of both the Senate and the House, and flipping state legislatures from Maine to Texas. But the land did not slide very much. Biden won the popular vote by about 4%. Hillary had won it by about 2%.
Thankfully, when all the votes were counted the Democrats won a decisive victory in the Electoral College, as 2016’s razor-thin losses became 2020’s razor-thin victories. But did you hear the bullet flying at American democracy that “just missed” in November, 2020? Most people still don’t appreciate how close we came to losing it all, I suspect. But as Trump’s final acts in office become known, it is clear that he really did try to overthrow the government of the United States. He was, predictably, ineffective, but he did try. And even more to the point I make ad nauseum, I fear, most of his supporters wanted it, and still do.
Trump Got Over 11 Million More Votes in 2020 Than He Did in 2016!
I expected Donald Trump to get, at best, the same number of votes in 2020 that he had gotten in 2016: 63 odd million. But probably fewer. Some Democrats and many Independents, it was argued, held their noses and voted for him rather than Hilary Clinton in 2016. They would return to voting Democratic for a more popular candidate, it was thought. Furthermore, the polls showed Trump became an unpopular president almost immediately after he took office, and his net likeability scores remained in the red thereafter. Every week, sometimes every day, sometimes two or three times in a day, he gave fresh reasons to want him gone. I knew his base would not see it this way: He was constantly playing to his supporters, and they knew it. Various religious leaders began chiming in that he was God’s holy agent, and the base demonstrated a Drink-the-Kool-Aid level of loyalty as they defiantly marched unmasked into the COVID valley of death. But I did not think his following was getting any bigger.
But he got over 74 million votes! How? A county-by-county analysis of the returns by the New York Times found that Trump made notable gains in Hispanic communities in Dade County, Florida and elsewhere in the nation. But mostly he increased his totals in counties that had voted for him in 2016, especially in the rural Midwest and the rust belt in industrial states. The energetic four-year registration campaign Trump launched the day he moved into the White House paid off big time. The Republicans skillfully recruited more white evangelical Christians who had not voted for Trump, or at all, in 2016, who were living in out-loud, sign-waving pro-Trump communities. By one very reputable poll, Trump increased his support from 77% to 84% among the evangelicals, a large and energetic voting block. But the Democrats were signing up new supporters too and lighting fires within old ones in their constituencies, notably Black women and young voters. And they won the pivotal battle for the suburban voter. In the end Joe Biden was chosen on over 81 million ballots, a decisive victory in the popular vote matched by the outcome in the Electoral College.