Sunday, October 28, 2012

Authoritarianism on Display


That’s the headline from last week’s Drudge Report as captured by Sister Toldjah.  The remark was NOT made about president Obama.  It was made BY the President as a characterization of his election opponent.

Matt Drudge, employing his genius for juxtaposition, helps us draw the proper connection.

Republicans will note the coarse language as "unbecoming of the President."  Barack Obama supporters will give the President high marks for “telling it like it is.”

I think all of this forms the basis for a case study on Authoritarianism.

Those who support the remark are people who admire Authoritarianism, and they (unfortunately) make up the majority of human beings.  We are all inclined to approve of Authoritarianism, and when we see the arrogance and moral authority that typically accompany it, we tend to view it in a positive light.

That’s the human conundrum, and political forces raise the stakes.  The Democratic Party defends the taunt, and the President’s followers point to the cleverness of the “dash of snark” that is implicit in the characterization.

Now take a moment to look at the downside of the Authoritarianism embodied in this situation and in our President.

It is not unusual that various authoritarians endorse president Obama’s re-election.  These world leaders show the same reverence and respect that is exhibited by Sean Penn and Harry Belafonte. 

We also take note of the “authoritarian salute” (bowing) that president Obama tenders to authoritarian leaders.  In the 21st century, this mutual admiration is reserved for those who are at the pinnacle of Authoritarianism.

As individuals, we acknowledge authoritarians in our daily lives with a mixture of fear and admiration.  If we are caught up in an authoritarian group, we attempt to get on the “right side” of the power spectrum.  We learn to acknowledge the authoritarian gestures that define the group and know that we ignore the necessary “choosing of sides” at our own risk.

But all this is covered in an earlier post and a subsequent post.

Keep in mind that a hallmark of Authoritarianism is that authoritarians are never wrong.  President Obama has no need to walk-back his “bullshitter” remark because he knows he is right.  If the political ramifications attending the remark become untenable, the President will simply revise his position and note that he has “evolved.”

A recent example of this “evolving” effect was on display with Hillary Clinton’s acceptance of Bashar al-Assad as a reformer.  When it became painfully obvious that her assessment was in error, she simply evolved, contending that her remark was misinterpreted.

People see Authoritarianism as a fact of life.  America’s founders understood this, and put in place a governing system for America that was anti-authoritarian.  The last few years of the Obama administration have shown how easy it is to mount attacks against “checks and balances,” “separation of powers,” and “the rule of law.”  It’s just what authoritarians do, and most Americans accept it.  (Defenders of the Constitution, gird your loins!)

We still don’t know if the ‘bullshitter” characterization will cause difficulty for president Obama’s re-election.  The last week of an election cycle is volatile, and there are crosscurrents of influence at work.  But the remark does bring Authoritarianism into sharp relief, and that might be worthwhile.

Here’s why:  Follow me in a “flight of fancy” for a moment…

Mitt Romney was confronted at a rally by an individual who was concerned about the issue of free contraceptive services.  Mr. Romney made the point, “If you want free stuff, vote for the other guy.”

What if president Obama, in a moment of candor, made a similar point:

“If you don’t want Authoritarianism, vote for the other guy!”

UPDATE 11/2/2012:
Peggy Noonan has an article up today in The Wall Street Journal that speaks of Authoritarianism and the presidency of Barack Obama.  The best quote:
"It is one thing to think you're Lebron.  It's another thing to keep missing the basket and losing games and still think you're Lebron."

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