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Five Whys

There’s a new study from Texas A&M that says that white bigotry is correlated with authoritarianism:

Since the founding of the United States, politicians and pundits have warned that partisanship is a danger to democracy. George Washington, in his Farewell Address, worried that political parties, or factions, could “allow cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men” to rise to power and subvert democracy. More recently, many political observers are concerned that increasing political polarization on left and right makes compromise impossible, and leads to the destruction of democratic norms and institutions.

A new study, however, suggests that the main threat to our democracy may not be the hardening of political ideology, but rather the hardening of one particular political ideology. Political scientists Steven V. Miller of Clemson and Nicholas T. Davis of Texas A&M have released a working paper titled “White Outgroup Intolerance and Declining Support for American Democracy.” Their study finds a correlation between white American’s intolerance, and support for authoritarian rule. In other words, when intolerant white people fear democracy may benefit marginalized people, they abandon their commitment to democracy.

Their conclusions are pretty scary. It turns out that the white aggrieved voter is more likely to think that if “those people” are going to get stuff, then nobody is going to get stuff. They are more likely to install a strongman who will impose his will on the populace to deliberately make sure nobody gets stuff in order to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

Now, we weren’t like this 30 years ago. Sure, we were all newly aware of Cadillac driving welfare queens by Reagan. They never really existed or not in great numbers. And I don’t think anyone would disagree with the notion that generational poverty is a problem in need of a solution.

But why are white people so damned angry with the idea that some people might get things from the government? I’m here to tell you, oh best beloveds, that bad things can and do happen to hard working, well educated people who play by the rules. You can’t really appreciate that until you’ve been laid off during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and your kid gets sick and you have to pay medical expenses and everything else out of your dwindling savings. That can happen to anyone, regardless of color or ethnicity or education level.

So why is it so important for white people to push everyone, including themselves off the safety net and at the same time, embrace a guy who cracks down on anyone who steps out of line?

To get to a root cause, you need to use the five whys technique.

First why: why are white people so afraid and angry with people of color, immigrants and poor people?

It’s because the messages they are getting from their media outlets and some of their politicians reinforce that message and encourage it.

Why do they encourage fear and anger of people of color, immigrants and poor people?

Take it from there.

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