Why have we seen a worldwide shift toward authoritarianism? A quick glance across the globe sees leaders becoming more dictatorial and populist: Putin in Russia, Xi Jinping as a lifetime dictator in China, Erdogan in Turkey and Trump in the United States.
Ronald Inglehart melds the rise of insecurity with the rise of authoritarianism in the May/June 2018 edition of “Foreign Affairs.” The article is entitled, “The Age of Insecurity, Can Democracy Save itself?”
The level of insecurity separates people into different political views.
Immigration and the rise of xenophobia (the fear and resentment of foreigners): immigrants change the skin color of cities and towns. In America, we have seen rising racial equality. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 is a prime example of that change. These racial and power shifts are intensified by the rapid decline in job security.
“Cultural and demographic shifts are making older voters feel as though they no longer live in the country where they were born” (Inglehart).
The rapid social changes that occurred in the U.S.: especially gay marriage and the increasing racial, religious, and cultural diversity go a long way in explaining why many white Americans voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
This is especially true for those with less education, whose job security is deeply affected by technological advances. Eighty-five percent of all manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2010 were eliminated by technological change, while only 13 percent of job losses were due to trade, according to Inglehart. These statistics fly in the face of the perceptions of politicians and voters who blame job loss on global trade.
While there has been job growth in the United States, 94 percent of this increase between 2005-15 “was among low-paid security guards, housekeepers, janitors, and assuming others who report to subcontractors” (Inglehart).
“To a large degree, the shifts between democracy and authoritarianism can be explained by the extent to which people feel that their existence is secure” (Inglehart).
Those who favor spurring of economic growth, keeping prices low, being tough on crime and maintaining order are contrasted with those who are concerned with protecting free speech, increasing the power to influence government decisions and greater autonomy in jobs.
In the 2016 presidential election, those who favored the first group of priorities tended to vote Republican. Those who held the second set of values voted for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats at an extremely high rate.
In other words, those who stressed the need for economic and physical security were more likely to vote Republican. Those who took their security for granted and emphasized less tangible values voted Democratic. There is a direct correlation between a sense of security and voting trends.
Government workers at all levels tend to have secure jobs and retirement plans. No wonder they consistently vote Democratic. No wonder those who work in businesses where risk and the chance of failure are constantly knocking at the door vote Republican. No wonder those whose lack of education makes them economically vulnerable left the Democratic Party and voted Republican in 2016.
The dangers of authoritarianism are a far greater threat to the nation than seeing rising racial equality and religious diversity brought about by immigration.
What puzzles me, though, are the billionaires like the Koch brothers, their allies on the right and, to a far lesser extent, billionaires like George Soros on the left, who should have no sense of insecurity at all, yet reflect deeply held fears in their actions.
They are using their money to increase their power and protect their wealth at the expense of democracy. Both these super wealthy groups are pushing for a deeper level of authoritarianism and control.
My suggestion to you is to examine how secure you feel. Does your level of security/insecurity affect how you vote and see reality? Think about it.