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The Tea Party: Same Old Authoritarian Conservatives With a New Label

The debt-ceiling debate, better described as an extortion ploy by the Tea Party-controlled Republicans of the U.S House of Representatives, has raised a question:  Who, exactly, are these largely anonymous troublemakers?  When I did a little digging, I realized that I know these people all too well.  Indeed, I had actually written about them before they morphed into their current form.  They are, in fact, both old and new authoritarian conservatives.

These authoritarians are a notoriously nasty crew.  If you have not noticed, they are delighted with what is happening in Washington, the chaos they have created. Actually, they are thrilled that they have been able to turn the Nation’s Capital upside down, as they actively work to screw up federal government in the hope of literally destroying it.

If you look closely, it is obvious that most of these Tea Party people have no real idea about the potential consequences of their actions, and they do not care to inform themselves.  These are people who will pick a fight for the sake of picking a fight, refusing to compromise about anything that conflicts with their collective agenda, just because that feels to them like the right thing to do.

Who Are the Tea Party People?

They call themselves the Tea Party patriots, apparently seeing themselves in the tradition of the American colonists who resisted Parliament’s Tea Act tax in 1773 by dumping three boatloads of tea in the Boston Harbor, rather than returning it.  The Tea Party’s effort to find a historical connection, however, does not work.

There is no real Tea Party, by any definition of the term “party.”  This is merely a label, a colorful (albeit historically-distorted) rebranding of the GOP’s right wing.  The Tea Party is really a new amalgamation of radical conservative groups who have been around a long time: evangelical bible-thumpers of the religious right; extreme anti-abortion and anti-women’s-rights groups; those who want guns (if not well-stocked arsenals) in every home and office with annual tithes to the National Rife Association; the sons and daughters, as well as a few grandchildren, of the John Birch Society loonies (who knew all along that Dwight Eisenhower was a communist); people who oppose any inter-marriage of races, and, God forbid, same-sex marriages between those they see as perverts; groups who would end the separation of church and state; and people who get most of their political information from right-wing radio, the Fox News Channel, the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, their prayer groups, or a few select right-wing Internet sites.  Ironically, few in this movement understand that those who provide the money that is spreading the messages that are manipulating them probably believe them to be fools for following an agenda that is not in their best interests.

The Tea Party movement is an orchestrated undertaking that is underwritten by big corporate money, with hard-right corporate conservative views.  The puppeteers here are pushing a radical agenda to remove, if possible, or significantly weaken, all government influence and regulation in the marketplace. The movement seeks to disrupt the processes, by gaming the system, in order to de-legitimatize government.  They believe that, by making government fail, they will ensure that Democrats in general, and Barack Obama in particular, will lose future elections.  And the Tea Party backers and supporters utterly despise our first African-American president.

Notwithstanding glib slogans and faux patriotism, the Tea Party thinks that government has only a few responsibilities (most, if not all, of which can be subcontracted out to the private sector), namely: keeping public order, protecting private property; defending the country against foreign enemies; permitting the marketplace to self-regulate; allowing the intelligent and shrewd to prosper while the less gifted, unlucky, or meek fail because we are not all equal; keeping all taxes to the absolute minimum while eliminating all “death taxes” so that wealth can be accumulated by the “job creators,” to be passed on to their progeny—to highlight but a few core principles of their thinking.

Tea Party Followers:  Conservatives Without Conscience

The glue that binds these people together is their political conservatism and their authoritarian personalities.  I know a lot about these people, having once traveled with them, and then studied why they are what they have become.  Unfortunately, they embrace everything that is wrong with contemporary conservatism.  They are what I have called “conservatives without conscience.”

The Tea Party movement did not exist when I wrote my book, Conservatives Without Conscience (2006), a study of the influence of authoritarian conservatism on the contemporary Republican Party.  My findings were based on over six decades of the testing of authoritarian personalities by social scientists, and on my own personal knowledge of those with such personalities. When undertaking my study, I was fortunate to find a tutor to help me understand this field: Professor Robert Altemeyer, who was then based (he has since retired) at the University of Manitoba in Canada, where he devoted much of his career to studying the authoritarian personality.  Bob, whose work has been recognized by no less than the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, not only helped me understand the studies of others, but generously shared his own work with me, as well.

In a large degree, my book was an effort to translate—for those without advanced degrees in the social science or intimate understanding of statistical studies—the remarkable findings about authoritarians, given their predominance in conservative politics.  I wanted to explain how they think and operate.  In fact, I was surprised that no one had done so before. When my book became a New York Times bestseller, Bob realized that a lot of people were interested in his information and his work, so he published, online and for the general reader, The Authoritarians (making it freely available).  Tens upon tens of thousands of people, including professional peers, have now read his online work.  While this information is disquieting to conservatives, the revelations of the underlying science cannot be wished away, and will not simply go away.  These people are who and what they are because it is their very nature.

In April 2010, Bob turned his attention to the Tea Party, and he has posted a 15-page analysis of his findings online: Comment on the Tea Party Movement.  When that Comment is read in conjunction with his book (or mine), I believe that it will explain more about the Tea Party than the Tea Party knows about itself. Having watched the unfolding debt-ceiling debate, I now believe that I should have written on this topic earlier, and sent others to Bob’s site, for this information could give those dealing with the Tea Party on the debt ceiling a better understanding of the nature of the people with whom they are dealing.

Simply stated, Tea Party followers are the very personification of conservatives without conscience, very typical authoritarians.  This is not to say that they are sociopaths or psychopaths, for they are not. Their authoritarian dispositions are neither good nor bad, but, frankly, I do not think these people are well suited for the politics of a democracy.  Authoritarians make great soldiers and sailors, police officers and prison guards; they can be good CEOs and great NFL coaches.  But they are about as adept at democratic politics as bulls are in china shops.

Understanding Undemocratic Authoritarians

Bob Altemeyer explained in his Comment on the Tea Party Movement that he was “amazed” by what he discovered in the Tea Party movement: “It seemed as if [the Tea Party followers] had read the [social science] research findings on authoritarianism and then said, ‘Let’s go out and prove all those things are true.’ Whatever else the Tea Party movement has accomplished, it has certainly made the research [by social scientists] on authoritarianism look good.”

Authoritarians can be divided into leaders and followers.  Because there are more followers than leaders, much of the research has focused on them.  Although Bob Altemeyer has done a good bit of work on authoritarian leaders, his observations on the Tea Party address the followers.  (Tea Party leaders like Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and Congresswoman Michelle Bachman, like all authoritarian leaders, raise a host of additional issues.)

Allow me to summarize Bob Altemeyer’s core findings.  For purposes of illustration, he highlighted a dozen conspicuous authoritarian traits in the Tea Party: (1) they are more submissive than most to their leaders, and they take direction without question; (2) they are easily frightened and their leaders keep them that way; (3) they wear their self-righteousness on their sleeves, e.g., with their assertion that they are “the true Americans;” (4) they are highly aggressive, so they lash out at those with whom they do not agree; (5) critical thinking and logic escapes them, and they rely upon simplistic slogans to answer complex questions; (6) they inflate problems, and they find an endless supply of our “biggest problems”; (7) they hold conflicting and contradictory beliefs, which does not trouble them, because their thinking is compartmentalized; (8) double standards are totally acceptable to them, so they can be highly critical of others who do exactly what they do, or have done;  (9) they feel empowered when in groups, and gain strength by remaining together with like-minded others; (10) they are highly dogmatic, since they do not know why they believe what they do, and they do not question themselves; (11) they are ethnocentric and constantly judge others and events from an “us versus them” point of view; and (12) they are prejudiced, and often racist, although some do not realize it or believe it when confronted.

The Tea Party followers Bob portrayed in April 2010 have changed little since his report; rather, they have only further confirmed his findings. His comments are not his personal observations of these people, rather Bob is merely reporting what countless thousands of authoritarians have said about themselves when tested, and then noting how conspicuous the traits are with Tea Party followers.

As I mentioned above, authoritarians do not do well in a democracy. If you have any doubt, just look at how the Tea Party has handled the issue of the debt ceiling.  Rest assured that they are looking for additional opportunities to game our system, which is not designed for people who are unwilling to compromise for the greater good.  And watch their reactions when they realize that the overwhelming majority of Americans simply does not wish to proceed as they insist.  Hopefully, this rebranded radical contingent of the right-wing, the Tea Party, will not totally destroy the country before our voters realize these people do not belong in a deliberative government like America’s.

John DeanJohn W. Dean, a Justia columnist, is a former counsel to the president.
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  • Carol85719

    I don’t think these idiots even read newspapers, especially the Wall Street Journal. They take in their daily diet of propaganda by listening to right wing radio and television.  I don’t think many of them ever open a newspaper or news magazine.

    • Danmarshctr

      Actually, surveys have found that Tea Party Republicans are far more likely to listen to NPR than moderates are.

      • Todd Parker

        Uh…I double-dog-dare you to find two words that anger these people more deeply than ‘national’ and ‘public’.  OF COURSE they don’t listen to NPR!  They listen to whatever local station plays Rush Limbaugh!  D:<

  • http://twitter.com/PegsKatzencats Peggy Larson

    Excellent piece & certainly more charitable than I would be (the word “hypocrites” comes to mind).

    While the TPers don’t have their history correct, there is one similarity to the original Tea Party, which I’m sure was unintended & probably unnoticed: the participants of the Boston Tea Party dressed as Native Americans, to place the suspicion & blame elsewhere; current TPers blame everyone but themselves for all their woes (and those of the Country).

  • Anonymous

    Of course there’s:
    Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educatedhttp://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/us/politics/15poll.html

  • http://www.nouhailler.com Patrick Nouhailler

    Bob Altemeyer ask a question : “What happens when authoritarian followers find the authoritarian leaders they crave and start marching together?” , do we already know the answer ? 

    • Tim Bosley

      Do you mean like Nation Socialism? 

  • Grant

    What about the folks that got us into this black hole? Comment on them!

  • Nick

    As to how the author describes “Tea Partiers,” I would say that such a description fits any political follower.  Most sycophants would fit the 12-point description, including Obama’s sycophants.  I find it hard that you generalize all people who are sympathetic to what has become the “Tea Party” as “authoritarian.”

    I see nothing authoritarian about cutting out-of control spending and endless wars.  Quite the opposite.  Fighting a three-front war with other people’s money seems to me the height of authoritarianism. 

    • Chesky_division

      Was it not the Republicans that got us into these Wars and put this nation into debt…

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2B3EJRD5FNIYDYIE4QM3RL55SY only weak cons report

        Nick only validates number (8) double standards are totally acceptable to them, so they can be
        highly critical of others who do exactly what they do, or have done;

        Nick doesn’t seem to realize that the entire Tea Party has only voted for MORE military intervention, including voting against a Democratic measures in the House for a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Not to mention the recent round cuts to our government will only make the recession worse and increase the long term deficit.

  • Ted Harvatin

    Dean is a disgraced felon crying out for attention.  So look at me, I have seen the light. A Former Republican Turned Enlightened. Call on me! Call on me!

    How pathetic.

    • Todd Parker

      And how would you have bashed him if he hadn’t been involved in the Watergate scandal?  You certainly would have found something else; the mere fact that you turn to an ad-hominem attack indicates that you have no real response to the points he raises.

      Ahem.  “(5) critical thinking and logic escapes them, and they rely upon simplistic slogans to answer complex questions”

      So, here’s a complex question: disregarding for the moment his motives for doing so, and assuming his analysis is honestly reasoned, who would be BETTER equipped to understand the workings of authoritarians than a man who worked so closely with them in the past that he went down with their ship during the Nixon administration?  Would you rather hear something from a total outsider? I’m a total outsider.  I haven’t been involved in ANY right-wing scandals, in fact.  Here’s my analysis: pretty much everything he says in this article is spot-on.

      Happy now?

  • John Toner

    “Authoritarian”?  Really?  

    As best I understand them, Tea Party folks simply want LESS government intrusion into individual lives, LESS government interference with free enterprise, and LOWER taxes.

    Now – you can hate on Tea Party folks all you want to – it’s your God-given, constitutionally protected write to hate anyone you feel like hating.

    But, if there ARE good arguments against the Tea Party folks, name-calling them as “authoritarian” sure ain’t one of them.  It’s absurd – they are the OPPOSITE of “authoritarian”.  In fact, they are trying to BLOCK an out-of-control, ever increasingly authoritarian regime.

    • four legsgood

      you miss the point – he’s simply describing the actual research that describes them. And hey, if the shoe fits…. and believe me, it does. 

    • Netillaman

      Mr. Toner, let the record show that what you say the TP movement wants is less of everything they already got under Bush, albiet we got more surveillance on citizens something we could stand less of. But taxes sir are at there lowest level in 80 years. Less intervention in “free” enterprise is exactly what caused the problems we are face with. Mr. Dean supports his arguments with diligent research and you offer none to support yours.

  • Scionb4

    This is a great piece. Being engaged to a girl whose family belongs squarely in the Tea Party Follower category, I can comfortably say that your assertions are absolutely dead-on. Notably, I find your comments regarding their hypocrisy, double-standards, and ethnocentrism to be quite accurate. There are so many double-standards with her father that it’s quite humorous. Government handouts are evil for everyone else except for him (he’s a popcorn farmer who thinks that because he “feeds America,” he should be given assistance – but NOBODY else should); he believes in small government but simultaneously believes that the government should be able to put a stop to things he doesn’t like. Hopefully these radical 1st term Tea Party members of congress who are screwing things up for everyone will be voted out of office and the government will get back to actually accomplishing things rather than bitterly fighting over competing ideals.

  • http://twitter.com/chicooliver Joseph Madruga

    Well written and to the point. A radical agenda is now holding this country hostage.

  • Emily Fisher

    Personally I think the Tea Party is too wimpy and lacks the guts to be honest with themselves and/or the public about what they really hope to accomplish. So I am starting a new party, also named for a distorted historical reference – we are the Donner Party. Our mission: to lead Congress into the mountains, get it trapped in a blizzard, and then feed on the carcasses of the weak. It’s kind of like Social Darwinism + Bear Grylls + Zombieland: only the strongest of will and stomach will survive. Then Jesus will come back and give us cushy jobs in his benevolent dictatorship, though women ‘volunteers’ and enslaved heathens will do most of the actual work. Who’s with us?

    • Todd Parker

      Best.  Comment.  All.  Day.

      Will you be internet friends with me?  I would like to talk to you.

  • Jim Twu

    So, ex-Watergate felon thinks that folks who get involved in the political process, express their opinions, follow the rules, pay their taxes are “authoritarian”? Or, people who dare disagree with him and have the gall to get involved in the democratic process are “undemocratic authoritarians”? I guess voting against whatever Dean wants is “undemocratic”. Expressing disagreement with what Dean favors is “authoritarian”. What a hack.

  • Disqus

    Do you really think that the “non-Tea Party” people are NOT  “authoritarian”? Not the Tea Party but all politicians in the past that signed “loans” destroyed the country!! Do not spend what you do not have and don’t make your kids pay for your stolen wealth and comfort.

  • flow0440

    “Conservatives Without Conscience”?How can one willing to pass on staggering debt levels to their children be considered acting with a conscience. It’s a sad day for our country that people that support not spending more than you take in are labeled “extremists”.

    • jimbowski

      The debt was necessary to clean-up the financial disaster created by 30 years of deregulation. It’s a bit disingenuous of conservatives to whine about debt when you created the emergency in the first place. And, furthermore, the worries about deficit spending have become hysteria. The USA is not Greece but you wouldn’t know that listening to AM talk radio.

    • Viola_P

      You seem to be missing the point. The debt ceiling question is whether we’re going to pay the nantional debt we’ve already incurred, most of it under “conservative” administrations  – or are we going to stiff our legitimate creditors like some deadbeat debtor. 

    • Sebastian

      You don’t accrue debt by spending and paying for what you buy (via taxes); it’s the borrowing that produces debt.

    • Anonymous

      This may come as news but all countries operate in debt. The US has the luxury, too, of borrowing at the lowest rates of anyone else. All successful companies use OPM. The problem was mismanagement and unaccounted-for extreme spending (namely Afghanistan and Iraq) while REDUCING revenue.

  • Skyking

    This guy and almost everyone posting about this are blinded by your own partisan politics.  These candidates made certain campaign promises.  They were elected on those campaign promises.  Unlike traditional pols from both parties, they don’t want earmarks.  They don’t care about re-election funds.  They don’t care about staying in power.  So they can’t be arm-twisted to go back on their campaign promises.  And you don’t respect that?  Just because their position is different from yours?   These people are keeping their campaign promises and have the courage of their convictions.  If all politicians were that way, we wouldn’t be having these problems. 

    • Todd Parker

      Do you remember that one of those ‘promises’ was to pass a jobs bill?  Yeah, how are  they doing on that one?  Oh, right.  THEY’VE WORKED AS HARD AS THEY COULD TO DEFEAT EVERY JOBS BILL THAT HAS COME THROUGH CONGRESS.

  • Dave Compprosystems

    John Dean…you are either a moron or just plain stupid. The “debate” is whether we as a country are going to continue to mortgage, hock, spend, waste or however you would like to phrase it OUR CHILDRENS FUTURE. To spend money this government didn’t earn on special interest programs, 28% new union jobs in the FED government, pay dictators overseas and corporation and special interests is IMMORAL & a CRIME. The so called left (which is most everyone associated with the government) is to bankrupt this country through social welfare programs and dismantle the Constitution with the Progressive Socialists like you and Obama deciding how much everyone should make, what they should eat, what our children should learn and control every aspect of our lives. You were part of that government with Nixon that took us off the gold-standard, had the Hunt Bros. try to corner the silver market, brought INFLATION through devaluing the Dollar thereby costing the world more and more every year to live, eat, buy gasoline, heat our homes, send our kids to school…EVERYTHING COSTS MORE BECAUSE YOU & NIXON AND THE DEMS ARE SPENDING MONEY THAT BELONGS TO THE AMERICAN WORKER…LET THEM DECIDE HOW TO SPEND IT NOT A BUNCH OF ANCIENT-DECREPID BASTARDS LIKE SEN. HARRY REID.

    DAVE

    • Natalia Novikova

      wow. just wow, cannot even spell. Ive heard these same points, phrased exactly, to a t like the above….I lived in a communist nation, one of the worst….this isnt even close, comrade.

  • jimbowski

    Great article, Mr. Dean! I would love to read your thoughts on what you predict will happen to the tea party. Your twitter feed indicates you think it will implode. You  mentioned a similar situation happened in the sixties and the Civil Rights Act. You should expound on this in another article.

  • http://twitter.com/US_JUST JUST

    Excellent article! Who would have thought that I would say that to John Dean, of all people…

  • Shanen0

    It’s important to note that most businessmen are fine, upstanding people who do not try to game the system. Unfortunately, the minority of aggressive, greedy, and evil businessmen who DO want to game the system have so twisted the rules of the game as encoded in American laws that companies are basically required to become evil just to survive.

  • TeaPartyMember

    I am a member of the Tea Party. I do not know whom you speak of in your description. I read the newspapers, I watch CNN, ABC, Fox, CBS, and NBC. I listen to talk radio of the right and the left (progressive stations in Chicago as well as NPR). I find myself well informed of the current situation and believe there is blame to throw around to everyone in Congress and at the WH. But make no mistake: as long a budgets are based off of the baseline concept of 1973, there will never be any true cuts. A reduction on an increase is still an increase, albeit smaller, but it is no cut. Nor can we tax the rich into oblivion. If we took ALL of the income of the “wealthy” (those making over $250,000 annually), we could fund current spending levels for 90 days. Just ask the New York Times that printed that article. I am not saying that borrowing money is evil. On the contrary, I have a mortgage, student loan debt, and a credit card balance, so I understand holding debt is good for creditors and floats American influence worldwide. But each trillion wanes that influence a little more. I am a schoolteacher. I do not make a lot of money and my wife stays at home even though I have a crushing $125,000 student loan to pay on her behalf on top on my $100,000 student loan. I budget, I plan. I tighten my fiscal belt when necessary so that I am my own man. I will not saddle my child with my debt. Why is Uncle Sam doing that to her?

    • Foolacious

      I respect that you keep yourself informed of the issues. (I do take issue with some of your characterizations and straw men — “Nor can we tax the rich into oblivion,” as if anyone were proposing such a thing, or as if anyone expected to entirely fund current spending levels by doing so). But I am mystified by three things:

      (1) Where was this outrage when the Republican White House, Senate, and House were busily turning an modest budget surplus (inherited from Pres. Clinton) into a gaping deficit, and a long-term target of debt freedom into a prolongation of Pres. Reagan’s (as reported by V.P. Cheney) philosophy of “deficits don’t matter”?

      (2) Why was this outrage targeted so specifically at President Obama from day 1 of his term — indeed, even before he took office — before he’d actually implemented any policies? The screaming that he was a socialist in the face of all evidence that he was a centrist; that he was dictatorial despite his background as a community organizer and his established working style in the Senate as a consensus-builder; that he wasn’t really American despite having published documents that were considered sufficient proof for every other president; that he was simultaneously a Communist and a Fascist? Why was he IMMEDIATELY tagged by Tea Partiers as “other”, “alien”, “not my president” when even G.W. Bush was given some kind of a grace period to see what kind of leader he would be. (I remember disagreeing with Pres. Bush’s first big decision, on stem-cell research, but being pleased by his explanation of how he came to his decision and thinking, “He’s going to work out all right if that’s his approach”. I wanted him to be successful in leading the country. I was disappointed later.) How did President-Elect and then President Obama, right out of the gate, merit the hatred that came out of the Tea Party, especially at Democratic (but seldom Republican) town halls? Can you understand how the timing of this vitriol suggests to some that racism is an underlying current here (especially given some of the placards and slogans encountered at those gatherings)?

      (3) The vast majority of economists agree that cutting government spending during a recession is the wrong thing to do. It has the potential to throw the economy into a downward spiral that makes recovery much more difficult and painful. But Tea Partiers reject these conclusions, just as they reject the idea that a government default on debts already incurred could have grave consequences. Why to Tea Partiers believe they know better? Where are they getting their economic training and information?
       

      • TeaPartyMember

        In reply to your points (and I’m on y iPhone so this will be brief):
        1) I detested what the GOP did with the Clinton/GOP surplus. I do believe that this current mess is greatly attributed to the housing meltdown imposed by the banks being forced by the Clinton DoJ to give mortgage loans to people who have no business getting a loan because they have no income to pay it off. If you can afford a home, they get one. I do agree that down payments were and still are ridiculous and there could have been better assistance programs.

        2) I’m from Chicago – the birth place of the modern Tea Party when Rick Santelli called for a a tea party-esque protest over Obama’s tax policy on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade on CNBC – I watched…it was cool. Anyway, I digress, I supported and voted for Obama for U.S. Senate and then was appalled by his actions (and inactions) in Congress and in Springfield before that as a State Senator. But I still gave him a chance. The Tea Party was born here because we in Chicago have dealt with the President long before he was President of the United States and we saw his policies. As to the rest of your point #2, I do not speak for the entire Tea Party – only myself – but I have that beautiful right in this country.

        3) I can call up an equal number of “leading economists” that would refute your comment, but I will say this: when Uncle Sam buys things, such as planes from Boeing, the economy is supported. No problem there. But when government regulatory agencies expand (actually, double in this administration), the tax payers are buying nothing; they are now responsible for hundreds of billions of dollars in salaries and benefits. THAT is why I do not support Big Government. Give me roads and schools, planes and trains, and so forth, but do not expand the bureaucracy for its own sake.

        • Anonymous

          “But when government regulatory agencies expand…”
          EXPAND??  Are you kidding??  

          “Whether you agree or not that there is significant waste and inefficiency in the public sector, this is the type of rhetoric that has driven the downsizing of government and the increased outsourcing of government functions since the 1970′s.

          [Phillip Cooper, a professor at the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University] notes that the result of this continual downsizing has been a loss of capacity in the executive branch — and the regulatory agencies, in particular — to function effectively.   Government downsizing began in the 1970s;  and Cooper tracks this trend from the Carter administration through Bush 2.  During this same period of time, he points out, work demands on these agencies increased substantially.By 2003, the Government Accountability Office was reporting that contracting out of public functions had risen dramatically across federal agencies while the federal workforce available to manage those contracts had decreased just as dramatically.   Failures in government performance began to mount  — notably, the poor contract management of the U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq and managerial fiascos in the Department of Homeland Security and in the response to Hurricane Katrina.

          http://bluemassgroup.com/2011/03/the-value-of-our-public-employees/

    • Todd Parker

      I’m sorry…I read your whole comment, but I just can’t mesh the two things.  You read a wide variety of things and educate yourself, but you’re a conservative.  The two things are incompatible.  It is actually impossible to be both well-informed and rational, and a conservative.  100% of the facts are against that position.  Every single country that has ever adopted free-market rules in its economy has either collapsed economically under the weight of speculation bubbles and wealthy corruption or else suffered a violent revolution when its people became too oppressed to take it anymore.  There is not a single recorded case of supply-side policies EVER doing what they were supposed to do.  Not one.  How can you be aware of all this and still take those positions?

      Let me come at this a different way.  BOTH of the periods of the highest rate of GDP growth in US history had high (and progressive) rates of taxation compared to the surrounding periods – one was under Eisenhower, and the other was under Clinton.  And, furthermore, the more sustained and equitable growth was under Eisenhower – with a top tax bracket of 91%.  In the face of that simple, devastating fact, how can you possibly (rationally) maintain the position that taxes are harmful to the economy?

      Let me come at this another different way.  FDR got us out of the depression with deficit spending.  Shortly before WWII, the economy was recovering slowly.  Importantly – and this is the clincher – the ONLY backslide occurred when he listened to economic advisers who told him that the growth was now steady and he could afford to start letting the market take over again.  As soon as he implemented free-market policies, the economy crumbled again.  Most notably of all, the REAL recover occurred AFTER the start of WWII – when the war forced the government to go into deficit-spending overdrive.  In the face of all this, how can you possibly (rationally) believe that the debt is the main threat to the US economy right now?

      I’m going to all this trouble because, against my better judgment, your grammar, diction, and phrasing have given me the impression you actually do possess a modicum of intelligence.  But I cannot understand how that could possibly coexist with a system of beliefs that flies in the face of all known fact and reason.  Are you insane?  I mean, in all seriousness, are you actually schizophrenic?  Or do you subscribe to a philosophy that permits doublethink?  I just don’t get it!

    • Natalia Novikova

      I witnessed TP members calling Obama a spade, a coon, a commie, a marxist, a nazi…in NYC and DC…when I was in the tp movement…Isaw racist placards and was sick and left, never went back. Theyre insane, closeted racists and ayn rand vampires.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EHKCTIWGD2YHNS7YFQ27SVJVLQ Edward

    Very well said. In authoritarian settings, they thrive. In a democratic venue where give and take is required, they come off as if they belong in mental institutions, their authoritarian tendencies are that mal-adapted.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_H52AVODSZAPF5OJB4WR5KZTVGA yucon

    Mr Dean.
    I believe your analysis is a bit flawed and not self evaluating.
    Why is one side more extreme than the other when both sides disagree on substance? This is the chirality of politics. Since they are both sent to congress by their constituents on a platform they ran on, it is their duty to follow through on their promise. It doesn’t matter if they are Tea Party or Progressive Liberal Democrats. This is the system we have and the voters have that voice. Not the member in congress, they are doing those voters will. So your lumping those voters’ as authoritarian personalities who are just followers is somewhat of a shallow analysis of the phenomenon.
    You and I have been around since the Carter days. We can both remember the “Reagan Revolution”. This was a reaction to President Carter’s inability to turn the economy, energy, inflation and hostage issues around, thus the Reagan Revolution. Carter did more for the republicans than any member drive.   
    Like the law of physics on conservation of energy “For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction” The Reagan Revolution was to Carter as the Tea Party is to Obama. So I am sure you have seen this before but to minimize them is at your peril. If you recall, the Reagan Revolution lasted a few decades. If these unsophisticated Tea Party people stay engaged and keep exercising their voting rights they will make more of an impact on our electoral system.
    As for Mr Altemeyer’s list of 12 things, please review again with a self introspection for I find it amazing that these attributes can be applied to the progressive liberals. I find 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 to match well. But self analysis is hard; “us versus them” is so much easier to drum up the base. Both sides use that approach.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2B3EJRD5FNIYDYIE4QM3RL55SY only weak cons report

    Wow this is very accurate. The recent Giffords/Norway shootings are a scary reminder of what unhinged right wingers are capable of doing. If you have ever been to some of these right wing forums you will find a good example of all of these characteristics, if you ever try to post a comment on these conservative sites your comment will instantly be deleted and your account banned. 

    What is truly scary is how much attention the media gives this small group of radical ideologues becuase of the pro inequality/anti social justice/pro corporate message they carry.  Lets be honest, without the recession caused by conservative economics the necessary anger in the populace would not even exist to allow a group like this to form.

    The Tea Party has completely undermined the democratic process in our country, if not for their little hostage tacking scheme they would never have been able to ram rod their extreme agenda past the American people. Shock Doctrine anyone..? Do you really think if the tea partiers would have been honest during their campaigns and said , “Hey we want to place the entire burden of deficit reduction on the middle class/poor, and by the way if you don’t give us what we want we will tank the economy”, that anyone would have voted for them?? Not a chance.

  • L Eleanor Finney

    John Dean has got it right.    I’ve been through two depressions now, and numerous discredited politicians.    In a democracy even a limited democracy we are supposed to be able to look at what works in other governments and adopt and adapt it to our democracy.   All governments in the world are a mix of capitalism, socialism, and whatever.    A democracy needs to see what works in other countries and make use of it.   Name calling, and discrediting your own government, means you haven’t been doing your homework.    We need to get money out of the election process.   Public funding of elections would return the one person one vote concept to reality.    It costs so little, about $6 a year per person!!   Our government would work so much better for all of us if we would only do this.   Much more money is constantly being stolen by big corporations and others out of our back pockets than that measly $6.   The Ayn Rand philosophy and the idea that jobs will be created by trickle down have been
    proven wrong many times……….it is simply a myth.     Cutting taxes on the wealthy, farm subsidies for the mega farms, and subsidies and tax breaks for super-wealthy corporations does NOT create jobs.
    Deregulation and privatization does not work either.    You need to study history and use critical thinking because otherwise you are going to be lead down the path of no return.

  • L Eleanor Finney

    John Dean has got it right.    I’ve been through two depressions now, and numerous discredited politicians.    In a democracy even a limited democracy we are supposed to be able to look at what works in other governments and adopt and adapt it to our democracy.   All governments in the world are a mix of capitalism, socialism, and whatever.    A democracy needs to see what works in other countries and make use of it.   Name calling, and discrediting your own government, means you haven’t been doing your homework.    We need to get money out of the election process.   Public funding of elections would return the one person one vote concept to reality.    It costs so little, about $6 a year per person!!   Our government would work so much better for all of us if we would only do this.   Much more money is constantly being stolen by big corporations and others out of our back pockets than that measly $6.   The Ayn Rand philosophy and the idea that jobs will be created by trickle down have been
    proven wrong many times……….it is simply a myth.     Cutting taxes on the wealthy, farm subsidies for the mega farms, and subsidies and tax breaks for super-wealthy corporations does NOT create jobs.
    Deregulation and privatization does not work either.    You need to study history and use critical thinking because otherwise you are going to be lead down the path of no return.

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  • Anonymous

    John Dean meet John Doe:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meet_John_Doe

    watch movie at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033891/

    An updated 2.o version would be entilted Meet John and Jane Doe!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Huggins/1218870923 Joe Huggins

    Interesting article, with some interesting links; note the author-“the” John Dean-hardly a squishy liberal.

  • Anonymous

    (1) they are more submissive than most to their leaders, and they take
    direction without question;

    Never expected and not really welcome.

    (2) they are easily frightened and their
    leaders keep them that way;

    Do you see this President using fear?

    (3) they wear their self-righteousness on
    their sleeves, e.g., with their assertion that they are “the true
    Americans;”

    Obama supporters like I would never say what “a true American” is

     (4) they are highly aggressive, so they lash out at those
    with whom they do not agree;

    We are far more subtle

    (5) critical thinking and logic escapes
    them, and they rely upon simplistic slogans to answer complex questions;

    We do not let “talking points” become ‘conversation-killers’.

     (6) they inflate problems, and they find an endless supply of our
    “biggest problems”;

    There are radical causes (human nature beyond reclamation), so we generally prefer incremental solutions to revolutionary violence.

     (7) they hold conflicting and contradictory beliefs,
    which does not trouble them, because their thinking is
    compartmentalized;

    No, we accept the fuzziness of some reality. We are reasonably firm on scientific truth, but little approaches that.

     (8) double standards are totally acceptable to them,
    so they can be highly critical of others who do exactly what they do, or
    have done;

    We wanted Rod Blagojevich out — fast! Some of us made crass jokes about Representative William “Cold Cash” Jefferson.

      (9) they feel empowered when in groups, and gain strength
    by remaining together with like-minded others;

    We accept that people will support political causes for diverse reasons and don;t try to brainwash people. 

    (10) they are highly
    dogmatic, since they do not know why they believe what they do, and they
    do not question themselves;

    We have the majority of schoolteachers, people reasonably sophisticated about human nature as a consequence of their work

    (11) they are ethnocentric and constantly
    judge others and events from an “us versus them” point of view; and

    The Tea Party has forced an “us vs. them” point of view onto the conversation that they have opposed 

    (12)
    they are prejudiced, and often racist, although some do not realize it
    or believe it when confronted.

    Many of us had to encounter our own residual prejudices.

  • Danmarshctr

    I find a lot of name-calling and purely emotional phrasing:

    “… an extortion ploy …  largely anonymous troublemakers?  … I know these people all too well. … authoritarian … a notoriously nasty crew … delighted with what is happening in Washington, the chaos they have created … thrilled that they have been able to turn the Nation’s Capital upside down, as they actively work to screw up federal government in the hope of literally destroying it … no real idea about the potential consequences of their actions, and they do not care to inform themselves … pick a fight for the sake of picking a fight, refusing to compromise … collective agenda … bible-thumpers … extreme anti-abortion and anti-women’s-rights … annual tithes to the National Rife Association … loonies … people who oppose any inter-marriage of races.”

    Does Dean have any evidence that the tea party members oppose interracial marriages?  No, of course not.  Trust him; he’s an  authority.

    • Natalia Novikova

      well, actually the church in kentucky opposes it….please, the dixiecrats swarmed into the GOp, theyve now taken over….next youll seig heil.

  • Wbcv25

    Wow! What an accurate description… I spent my entire career in government trying to reason with the “compartmentalized” attitudes of conservative politicians who always wanted to get tough on criminals by increasing sentence lengths but never wanted to build a prison. By the way they vehemently held both positions….

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