Desperate for Control? Abusive Parenting, Abusive Politics

8 04 2011

As we talk more about morals and monsters in politics and schooling, check out this comment from discussion last year that might speak to Ben and others on how this all connects:

GOP = Authoritarian

Specifically, authoritarian parent!
That’s the finding of a researcher-author I heard interviewed driving kids around last night. The new car came with a free satellite radio trial and I was trying out some new channels.

“Authoritarian” equals order and control, tradition and therefore fear of and resistance to change such as women and minorities getting the vote, immigrants streaming across a border changing the economy and voting patterns, the competitive rise of other nations in world affairs, same-sex marriage rights, etc.

Hence any challenge to authorities that keep order and control is the ultimate offense.

GOP is increasingly authoritarian because it feels increasingly under threat, which causes emotion to take over cognition in the attempt to resolve those threats and restore “order.”

And apparently an increasingly accurate way to predict American political party by degree of authoritarianism, is to ask not about policy issues directly but about parenting priorities and attitudes. Right up Snook’s alley!

It makes sense then, that loving uniforms and clear hierarchy and rules and order whether military, police, gun-bearing militia (even zero tolerance in school discipline and dress codes) are predictably not Democratic.

And it makes sense that like parenting, politics too can turn coercive and even criminally abusive. When traditional Authority fears losing control, it does in fact lose control!

For parents who are desperate for control over their children, when spanking doesn’t work (and often, it will not), the relationship turns abusive, either physically or emotionally or both.

Their survey instrument was described as a series of forced choices between pairs of words such as curiosity or manners, kindness or obedience. The interviewees choose which they believe is more important of the two qualities or attributes or behaviors, to develop in children. Authoritarian responses were found increasingly to correlate with Republican politics, non-authoritarian responses with Democratic politics.

(They demonstrate that our growing polarization is recent since 2000 — maybe the 9-11 terrorist masterminds knew exactly how to destroy us from within, by hyperactivating authoritarian Americans for life-or-death, black-or-white civil war for control?)

And it makes sense then, that the political “parent rights” movement is FROM the Right.

“Where political science has a long tradition of seeing political conflict through the lens of ‘issues’ debates about public policy, Hetherington and Weiler see the fundamental sorting process as instead a matter of personality.

For them the new defining reality of American politics is a choice between authoritarian and non-authoritarian styles of reacting. The widely noted polarization of American politics is from their viewpoint a polarization between people, some of whom hold a worldview where issues are simple, choices black and white, and tradition a reliable guide to action, and others who prefer complexity, nuance, and change.

Because these differences of worldview involve cherished symbols, they produce a party politics of deadlock.”

-James A. Stimson, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill



10 responses

8 04 2011

What’s odd then, is how righteously rebellious and libertarian TEA partisanship styles itself to be, at the same time it demands (and apparently is accorded) the role of Ultimate Ruling Authority over what America can or cannot do in matters great and small.

Yet this is not odd at all, rather to be expected and increasingly obvious: what’s right in business is amoral, transactional, competitive if not uncivilized. Business ethics seems like an oxymoron these days.

So never mind TEA partisans themselves, because something’s not right between their words and deeds. Let’s cut to the chase and examine the morality of the Business King they serve.

Human morality is alien to business, doesn’t even translate anymore.

And where these realms between what’s good for business and what’s good for humans fail to overlap, is where principled, effective self-government is needed, for our mutual survival.

8 04 2011

But I can’t “self-govern” healthcare. If my daughter needs an abortion, I hope she isn’t forced to “self-govern.” Government exists for good and moral reasons. Those reasons just don’t apply to the rich and powerful, apparently.

8 04 2011


In this context I meant we the people collectively and collaboratively self-governing as our democratic system was um, constituted to work
. . . not every uterus for herself.

9 04 2011

“Washington Monthly: As if Wisconsin Dems Weren’t Already Angry Enough . . .”

The discovered votes came from Waukesha County, a suburban GOP stronghold, where county clerk Kathy Nickolaus cited a computer mishap for the error.

For context, it’s worth noting that Kathy Nickolaus is a Republican donor who’s been involved in a series of controversial elections, including a ballot mix-up in 2004, sample ballots in 2005 that accidentally told voters who to vote for, a 2007 incident involving touch-screen voting, and perhaps most importantly, a 2002 controversy in which Nickolaus was granted immunity as part of a criminal investigation into Republican misdeeds in the State Assembly.

This is the same Nickolaus who yesterday uncovered a net gain of 7,000 votes for the Republican candidate who was trailing in a closely-watched judicial race.

Remind anyone of this female control freak conservative election official?

Moral musical chairs, the child’s party game Authoritarian Excess loves to play and refuses ever to lose, no matter who or what must be broken in the melee until it sits alone triumphant, in a room full of victims only kidding themselves if they think it doesn’t matter.

But just for the sake of conversation, I’d love to know what the reaction would be — from Republicans, on Fox News, etc. — if the situation were reversed. Imagine there was a close, important race and the conservative candidate eked out a narrow win, and the very next day, a Democratic donor with a sketchy election record discovered 7,000 additional votes for the liberal.

What do you suppose we’d hear from the right under those circumstances?

9 04 2011
Crimson Wife

What’s up with the author’s deliberate avoiding of the “P” word?

I think it’s a perfect analogy. Republicans = authoritarian, Democrats = permissive, and nobody occupying the sensible centrist “authoritative” position.

9 04 2011

Deliberate? Avoiding?

Isn’t reading that judgment into the research design and report, an “authoritarian” reaction? 😉

Of course there’s no centrist middle in this particular report. The whole point was to gather and examine empirical data on one cognitive variable affecting politics, by presenting two polar opposite forced choices in parenting, authoritarian versus not-authoritarian. Neither of the poles is supposed to represent the sensible, centrist middle and be a perfect fit for anyone, precisely because most people aren’t on the very extremes — the idea as I understood it was to examine significant preference and tendency.

For example, CW no doubt counts herself as sensibly centrist, authoritative rather than authoritarian, and I see myself that way too, but on this instrument, when forced to choose between obedience and curiosity, no in-between, would our answers be the same or different? Our politics certainly are different!

The book establishes “a fascinating framework of the role of personality types in politics, explored in a recent book, “Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics,” by two political scientists, Marc J. Hetherington of Vanderbilt University and Jonathan D. Weiler of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They start by exploring data showing a remarkably strong correlation between state attitudes toward spanking children and voting patterns. Essentially, spanking states go Republican, while those with more timeouts go Democratic.

Professors Hetherington and Weiler contend that the differences stem from profound differences in cognitive styles.

9 04 2011

Hmmm – and if CW’s conception of the political style division between parties were correct, that Rs are authoritarian and Dems are permissive, how in the world can we square that with their supposed advocacy for and against government regulation?

9 04 2011

I personally think of it as better explained by business theories X, Y and Z.

X is authoritarian, patriarchal, black-white, rules and control, rewards and punishment, adversarial, while Y is authoritative, collaborative, inclusive, developmentally focused, collective wisdom, profit-sharing. Z is supposed to be a sort of Japanese mix between the two, that I’d guess works best in structured, homogeneous populations without longstanding feuds — not in the chaos of our current politics where the best-laid “winning” plans are for lies and sabotage rather than problem-solving and progress.

9 04 2011

JJ: “…an increasingly accurate way to predict American political party by degree of authoritarianism, is to ask about…”

…brain scans?

Scans show liberals and conservatives have different brain structures

The results showed that those who considered themselves conservatives had a larger amygdala, a part of the brain that processes fear. Liberals tended to have a bigger anterior cingulate cortex, which monitors conflict and uncertainty.

10 04 2011

Good find. It fits with Christiane Northrup MD’s science-based feminism and everything I’ve ever read from Howard Gardner’s cognitive science, too. Oh, and Jonathan Haidt anyone? Or artificial intelligence pioneer Roger Schank:

Adult belief systems rest on childhood beliefs instilled by parents mostly and by assorted other authorities.

Republicans do not try to change voter’s beliefs. They go with them.
Democrats appeal to reason. Big mistake.

Obviously it’s all chicken-and-eggy, both nature and nurture. I’ve got no problem with that.

And it fits with this polemic too, about why Authoritarian Excess successfully uses might-makes-right to dominate Authoritative Expertise (calling it that to use the same initials and also because that’s what I think and feel– that I usually know what works and what is right, but forcing it on anyone doesn’t work and isn’t right.)

Once again the unpopular views of a minority have been imposed on the majority. Others will rant and rave about the Democratic leadership, and in fact that process has already begun. But progressives in this country should be asking themselves a serious question: Why does the Tea Party seem to be so much more effective than the left as a movement?

It’s a complicated question that deserves in-depth discussion . . .

Dr. Gardner has applied his mind-education psychology to political leadership internationally but also to breakthrough business ideas — the kind that tickle uncertainty and imagination, not the kind that make us fearful enough to shoot first and ask questions, well, never:

Gardner’s latest thinking led him to contribute Harvard Business Review’s Number One Breakthrough Idea for 2006 which happens to connect creative synthesis of knowledge with world-class leadership, and evokes Charles Darwin (don’t you love it when a theme comes together?) himself as exemplar:

A breakthrough idea is a springboard, not a perfect landing; a conversation provoker, not a definitive answer; a starter’s gun, not a finish line. It’s something that makes you stand up and take notice, not sit down and work out the application of a specific formula. . .
designed to deliver sharp-pointed concepts that may pop open a whole new way of looking at a particular management challenge — or simply prod you into some long-overdue thinking about an issue.

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