Frankly, the fact that the pre-election polls are close - after eight years of authoritarian leadership from Bush and Cheney, and given its disastrous results - shows that many Americans either do not realize where a McCain/Palin presidency might take us, or they are happy to go there. Frankly, it scares the hell out of me, for there is only one way to deal with these conservative zealots: Keep them out of power.
That from Richard Nixon's White House Counsel. He ought to know.
The leading authority on right-wing authoritarianism, a man who devoted his career to developing hard empirical data about these people and their beliefs, is Robert Altemeyer. Altemeyer, a social scientist based in Canada, flushed out these typical character traits in decades of testing.
Altemeyer believes about 25 percent of the adult population in the United States is solidly authoritarian (with that group mostly composed of followers, and a small percentage of potential leaders). It is in these ranks of some 70 million that we find the core of the McCain/Palin supporters. They are people who are, in Altemeyer's words, are "so self-righteous, so ill-informed, and so dogmatic that nothing you can say or do will change their minds."
Altemeyer made his book, The Authoritarians, (which came to my attention a couple of years ago thanks to Pete Guither) freely available via the Internet. He's added a postscript on the 2008 election, which concludes
Almost nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing the research on authoritarian personalities become totally irrelevant, now that we have seemingly put the nightmare behind us and begun anew. I’d much rather people get interested in my next book instead, which is about a far more pleasant subject: my studies of the sexual behavior of university students. But I’m afraid www.theauthoritarians.com will remain worth people’s visiting for the next little while at least.