The Securitarian Personality: What Really Motivates Trump's Base and Why It Matters for the Post-Trump Era

October 31, 2020
The Securitarian Personality: What Really Motivates Trump's Base and Why It Matters for the Post-Trump Era

The Authoritarian Personality, which was published byTheordor Adorno and a set of colleagues in the 1950s, was the firstbroad-based empirical attempt to explain why certain individualsare attracted to the authoritarian, even fascist, leaders thatdominated the political scene in the 1930s and 1940s. Today, theconcept has been applied to leaders ranging from Trump to ViktorOrban to Rodrigo Duterte. But is it really accurate to label Trumpsupporters as authoritarians?In The Securitarian Personality, John R. Hibbing arguesthat an intense desire for authority is not central to thoseconstituting Trump's base. Drawing from participant observation,focus groups, and especially an original, nationwide survey of theAmerican public that included over 1,000 ardent Trump supporters,Hibbing demonstrates that what Trump's base really craves isactually a specific form of security. Trump supporters do notstrive for security in the face of all threats, such as climatechange, Covid-19, and economic inequality, but rather only fromthose threats they perceive to be emanating from human outsiders,defined broadly to include welfare cheats, unpatriotic athletes,norm violators, non-English speakers, religious and racialminorities, and certainly people from other countries. The centralobjective of these "securitarians" is to strive for protection forthemselves, their families, and their dominant cultural group fromthese embodied outsider threats.A radical reinterpretation of the support for Trumpism, TheSecuritarian Personality not only provides insight into apolitical movement that many find baffling and frustrating, butoffers a compelling thesis that all observers of American politicalbehavior will have to contend with, even if they disagree withit.