The recent controversy over Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and Kid Rock goofing in front of a portrait of Hillary Clinton at the White House tells us nothing new really about who these people are. Their immature actions were about what we would expect from a tour group of seventh-graders left unsupervised for a time, and were mild compared to the antics of two gay activists at a White House event in 2012 who flipped the bird at Ronald Reagan’s portrait. Joy Behar on The View accurately characterized the Palin trio as “sore winners”.
Behar’s phrase reveals the authoritarian character of many Trump supporters, and it tells us something about why they would goof in front of the portrait of a defeated political rival rather than merely tell us that they are childishly vindictive. The term “authoritarian” as used here refers to a personality type instead of only a political inclination. More authoritarian personalities are typically drawn to right-wing politics than to the left, but nonetheless there are authoritarians of the left. The Canadian psychologist Bob Altemeyer has studied and written about the authoritarian personality type, and developed a short test for the type, though he humorously suggests in his notes on the test that you not take the result too much to heart. His book on the subject, The Authoritarians, is available as a free download, and is well worth reading.
We are accustomed to hearing about sore losers, and certainly the Clinton camp has come across as such with their eagerness to cast blame for their election loss on everything and everyone but their own miscalculations and hubris, but Behar’s clever turn of phrase shines an unusual light on the election winners. What do they have to be sore about? Because an examination of the authoritarian character shows they are perpetually aggrieved people who feel put upon by the larger society no matter how powerful and numerous they are within it. An authoritarian always needs a scapegoat, The Other, a straw man (or in the case of the Hillary Clinton portrait, a straw woman), to push against and to externalize their hostility and anger. Anger makes up a large part of the authoritarian character, and for their own well-being they need to turn it outward.
Hitler in Paris, 23 June 1940; photo from the Heinrich Hoffman Collection. Albert Speer, architect, on the left, and Arno Breker, sculptor, on the right.
So we have a trio of winners who take time from their White House tour to gloat over the portrait of a loser; we have a president who continually dredges up his victory over that loser in a childish attempt to validate himself; we have the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who had been licking his chops in anticipation of a Clinton presidency because of the joy and headlines it would have given him in continuously investigating her, and who now appears to have been so deflated by her loss and the no-win prospect for him of investigating the new president that it could have affected his decision to not run for re-election in 2018.
Why then with all this winning are they not happy? True winners, after all, can be happy and generous in their victory. Because as authoritarians they cannot be happy for themselves with winning, but they can be happy with beating someone they have made into The Other. They will prop up a straw man or woman again and again in order to beat that straw person down again and again; they will repeatedly, with hollow enjoyment, revive the memory of The Other’s loss; and they will be disappointed and without purpose when they are deprived of the opportunity to badger a scapegoat and to build up their own esteem at the scapegoat’s expense.
Cheering crowds greet British troops in Paris on Liberation Day, 26 August 1944; photo from the British Imperial War Museum.
Such are the actions of the authoritarians on the right in Washington, D.C., while over on the Left Coast, in Berkeley, California, the authoritarians on the left are not helping the cause of an open society, but are instead hurting it when they make martyrs of right-wing opportunists Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter. The old saying “sunshine is the best disinfectant” is beyond their ken. They don’t trust others to make their own adult decisions about what to hear and believe. What is within their ken is that they fervently believe they know what’s best for everybody. That they enlist the words and ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr., to validate their tactics is perverse. That the By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) and Antifa groups are authoritarian in nature is without doubt. They are certainly not sore winners, and don’t fit the profile of sore losers. They are nothing other than soreheads.
Once again Arizona has stepped forward with groundbreaking legislation after the State Senate passed on Wednesday, February 22, a bill that would allow the state to charge the organizers of peaceful protests with racketeering if rioting erupts. Among the niceties of the bill are civil asset forfeiture, allowing the state to seize the property of the protest organizers. How do you keep taxes low? By stealing! The bill awaits review in the State House of Representatives. The last time the Arizona legislature made such a big splash in the national news was 2010, when it led the way in the fight against illegal immigration with the “Show me your papers” bill that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which struck down three of its four provisions. The back and forth on that bill between Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and President Barack Obama ultimately led to the finger wagging incident (Yay, Jan!) on the tarmac of the Phoenix airport in 2012.
A scene from 1984, starring John Hurt, Richard Burton, and Suzanna Hamilton.Lest we forget Obama and his usefulness, he’s masquerading here as the hated Emmanuel Goldstein on the screen in the auditorium.
This seems as good a time as any to propose an Alternative Constitution. There’s no need to formalize things with a constitutional convention, though if one were really necessary there couldn’t be two better candidates to co-chair the convention than Joe Arpaio, former sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, and Yvette Felarca, a leader of the violent “By Any Means Necessary” group in California. Both are tough-talking, no-nonsense types who will make sure things get done at the convention or they’ll bust some heads to know the reasons why. Like Archie and the Meathead on All intheFamily, they are opposite sides of the same coin, though not nearly as many laughs.
All in the Family reminds us that politics colors nearly everything in life, like it or not.
Here are some highlights of the Alternative Constitution:
Amendment 1 – Congress shall make no some law[s] respecting an establishment of [a certain] religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof [of some of them]; or abridging the freedom of speech [for some people], or of the [not fake news] press; or the right of the [certain] people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances [of some people].
Amendment 2 – A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, [T]he right of the people to keep and bear Arms [lots of them; high powered semi-automatics, too], shall not be infringed.
Amendment 4 – The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not [sometimes] [often] be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable [almost any] cause, supported by [sometimes secret] Oath or affirmation, and particularly [vaguely] describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized [and locked away for good!].
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 – No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no [non orange and non bigly] Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument [except rental income and business favors], Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.
Cactus with flowers, a true gift of Arizona.
Pretty good, huh? Feel free to alter the text yourself, and to print it out in ALL CAPS, if that suits your political bent. Nothing gets a point across like YELLING, after all. The Dated Constitution, or DC, will be kept around in the National Archives, where tourists can gawk at it and scholars can squabble about the nuances of its language. The late Justice Antonin Scalia, who soon may have a federal courthouse named after him in Charlottesville, Virginia, cleared the way for interpreting our most important national document by underscoring that freewheeling activist judicial decisions are BAD, except when rendering a judgment in a case such as Bush v. Gore, which was GOOD, and not activist at all. (To which Justice Clarence Thomas might have added, were he to speak, “Ditto!”) No worries then with the Alternative Constitution, or AC, which will be the document of record for folks like University of California-Davis campus cop Lieutenant John Pike and the eloquent Zack Fisher of Phoenix, Arizona, both stout defenders of freedom against the despicable encroachments of sniveling protesters and pushy brown immigrants. Thanks to Arizona’s new law, all these paid protesters will soon get their comeuppance when they try their shenanigans in The Grand Canyon State, and Supreme Leader at the helm in Washington is sure to have Arizona’s back, regardless of what activist so-called judges may have to say about it.