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The Long Authoritarian History of the Capitol Riot

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After 25 years studying the American right, I think I’ve drilled down to the irreducible core of the thing. Because in these United States everything eventually comes down to questions of commerce, I found it, appropriately enough, in a 1981 yearbook of Advertising Age, in a case study examining the work of a marketing expert the magazine had enshrined as its Adman of the Year: Richard Wirthlin, chief strategist for Ronald Reagan’s recent successful presidential campaign.

Wirthlin began his work in 1979 with an exhaustive “Survey of Voter Values and Attitudes,” in which he discovered that Reagan supporters “obtain high scores on … authoritarianism — and a low score on egalitarianism.” It continued, “Eastern European ethnic groups living in large cities … follow the same pattern, and hence were a prime target for conversion.” Thus Reagan launched his nomination campaign with “highly visible visits to such neighborhoods.”

A Wirthlin assistant was then quoted: “Reagan decided to stop the practice because he considered it exploitative.” In fact, Reagan made constant campaign stops in white ethnic neighborhoods, and God knows his appeal to authoritarians never sagged. The crucial point is that a Reagan associate even thought to claim Reagan put the kibosh on the enterprise. There’s an old saying: Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. Meaning, those who say one thing and do another are at least acknowledging that right and wrong exist. If you want to understand the evolution of Donald Trump’s Republican Party, that’s the whole rancid enchilada.

It’s always been about building a political base of........

© Daily Intelligencer

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