Type A or Type B

That 70s Show. Kitty is easy. Red is not.

What kind of parent are you? Here is a little quiz.

  1. Which one is more important for a child to have:
    a. independence or
    b. respect for elders?
  2. Which one is more important for a child to have:
    a. obedience or
    b. self-reliance?
  3. Which one is more important, for a child to be
    a. considerate or
    b. well-behaved?
  4. Which one you think is more important for a child to have:
    a. curiosity or
    b. good manners?

How many A’s did you have? How many B’s?

These simple questions were developed by this guy Feldman from Stonybrook and have been used by social scientists since the 1990’s to help quantify folks’ tendency to very high, high, medium and low levels of authoritarianism. The questions are effective because they aren’t loaded as good and bad options. Both options are fine. They simply identify a preference.

A couple of other guys, Hetherington and Weiler, wrote a book in 2009 that pretty much predicted this year’s inconceivable presidential campaign. No seriously. You don’t have to read the book, it’s in the article. But they talk about how people with high authoritarianism have been sorting themselves to the GOP.

These simple questions identify people’s leanings toward authority. Bottom line, the more A’s, the more you

…prioritize social order and hierarchies, which bring a sense of control to a chaotic world. Challenges to that order — diversity, influx of outsiders, breakdown of the old order — are experienced as personally threatening because they risk upending the status quo order they equate with basic security.– More from VOX.

It’s more than the preference for authoriy that’s driving people now. It’s authoritarianism combined with a concern for their (and their families’) safety.

People do not support extreme policies and strongman leaders just out of an affirmative desire for authoritarianism, but rather as a response to experiencing certain kinds of threats.

So you have the perfect storm. Uncertainty and social changes trigger the desire for the safety of clear and familiar rules and norms + a fear of physical threats especially from outsiders like 911 terrorists or ISIS.

When they face physical threats or threats to the status quo, [some people] support policies that seem to offer protection against those fears. They favor forceful, decisive action against things they perceive as threats. And they flock to political leaders who they believe will bring this action.

But the people being driven to the law and order and social conservatism in the GOP are not necessarily aligned with the party.

The responses to our policy questions showed that authoritarians have their own set of policy preferences, distinct from GOP orthodoxy. And those preferences mean that, in real and important ways, authoritarians are their own distinct constituency: effectively a new political party within the GOP.

This is what I said before. Not like I’m saying “I told you so,” or anything.

It’s just that we can’t understand what’s happening without trying to understand what’s happening. And this can mean uncomfortably confronting assumptions and learning about new models that fly in the face of these assumptions.

Don’t be afraid. They can smell your fear.


I totally recommend reading the full article on Vox. It’s long, but it’s worth it. And likely better than my tl;dr above. The Rise of American Authoritarianism, by Amanda Taub; published March 1, 2016.

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