What the heck is going on with the Republican candidates? The Republican presidential nominee still has fanatically loyal followers in spite of many people predicting he would fail long ago. His VP pick is a “born again” evangelical Christian who thinks personal religious biases should override democratic laws. What psychology explains these people and their followers?
Donald Trump is a Social Dominator. Research by Dr. Bob Altemeyer shows that Social Dominators have a much stronger desire for power than most people, especially personal power. They do not have strong loyalty to any group or cause, only to themselves, but they expect their followers to be loyal. They are not empathic and are very good at exploiting and manipulating the vulnerabilities in others by any means necessary to gain advantage. Their only measure of what is right or wrong is whether something works to their benefit. They show greater prejudice toward minorities and women than most people. Dominance is their first priority in any relationship. Their first reaction to any perceived threat is to attack and attempt to humiliate and degrade their opposition. Most Social Dominators learned early in life that deceit and cheating worked well for them and that taking advantage of “suckers” felt great. They believe that “losers” deserve their misfortune because they are lazy, stupid, or bad decision makers in the jungle of life.
Social Dominators speak like carnival barkers. Their speech is rapid, repetitive, vague, deliberately misleading, emotional, and carefully orchestrated to persuade people to blindly agree and follow. Most highly reasonable people find Social Dominators very unappealing, especially as national leaders. So who are their gullible disciples? Most are conservative authoritarians. Altemeyer’s research shows authoritarians will submit to and follow a strong leader with unjustified certainty because they are convinced they live in a dangerous world. They will attack anyone their leader says is an enemy. They prefer harsh punishment over rehabilitation, reconciliation or restorative justice and are more willing than most people to bully, harass, punish, torture, and even kill their enemies.
Conservative authoritarians are irrationally fearful people who are ethnocentric and prejudiced and imagine that almost everyone different from themselves is a threat. They are often not good with reasoning and logic, are easily persuaded by what they want to believe, often endorse inconsistent ideas, place a very high priority on group loyalty, and are often self righteous religious fundamentalists.
Some conservative authoritarians want their religious dogma to override civil law. They have very conventional views and think everyone else should, also. They promote theocracy over democracy despite the fact that our nation was founded on constitutionally prohibiting mixing religion and government. America developed the revolutionary idea that government, laws and social values are established by the people, not a deity, yet many people will support a political candidate who professes to be a religious standard-bearer as much as a political leader. They believe in majority rule only when they are in the majority and would readily do away with the Bill of Rights.
Some citizens admire great wealth and private business success in political candidates, although leading a nation is very different from accumulating personal wealth and power. Private business seeks only profit, competition and market domination. Public leadership has general welfare, social equality, justice, and protection for all citizens and the environment as goals. Our forty-year ill-advised march toward privatization has destroyed much of what made America special. Unified citizen effort through government action is the last bastion against complete control of our nation by gigantic corporations and wealthy individuals. Putting a business mogul or a religious zealot in charge of government would be a disaster. We need wise, deliberate, visionary leaders, not belligerent bullies or religious advocates.