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Conservatives Without Conscience Hardcover – July 11, 2006
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In Conservatives Without Conscience, John Dean, who served as White House counsel under Richard Nixon and then helped to break the Watergate scandal with his testimony before the Senate, takes a vivid and analytical look at a Republican Party that has changed drastically from the conservative movement that he joined in the mid-1960s as an admirer of Senator Barry Goldwater. Listen to our interview with Dean as part of our July 13 Amazon Wire podcast (along with interviews with Garrison Keillor and Henry Rollins) to hear how he originally conceived of the book with the late Senator Goldwater, and the social science research he drew on to put together his portrait of the "conservative authoritarian." (You can subscribe to regular Wire podcasts here.) And take a look at Dean's choices for the best books to read on the American presidency in our Grownup School feature.
From Publishers Weekly
In his seventh book, Dean, the former Nixon legal counsel whom the FBI has called the "master manipulator" of the Watergate coverup, weighs in with a rebuke to Christian fundamentalists and other right-wing hard-liners. A self-described Goldwater conservative (indeed, Goldwater had planned to collaborate on this book before his death), he rails against the influence of social conservatives and neoconservatives within his party. Suffused with bitterness stemming from the controversies in which he has been embroiled, Dean's book paints a thin social science veneer over a litany of mostly ad hominem complaints. Purporting to show that social conservatives and neoconservatives are, on the whole, demonstrably authoritarian, bigoted, irrational and amoral, Conservatives Without Conscience offers helpful hints such as "Conservatives without conscience do not have horns and tails," and evinces a telling fascination with politicians' shady book deals. Though there is clearly much to condemn in the policies and tactics Dean deplores, assailing everyone from French political theorist Joseph de Maistre to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to the chairman of Yale University's conservative association as "Double High" social- dominance-oriented authoritarians undermines his journalistic credibility. Dean's lurid accusations may be entertaining, but they add little to the reasoned debate that Washington so sorely lacks today. (July 11)
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Note that these labels do not necessarily refer to political leanings, but certain personality types, although the studies he cites point to an empirical relationship between these personality types and hard Right political leanings, at least in North America. "Left wing authoritarians," if they exist, are exceedingly rare. That's hard for some on the Right to except, but a profound lack of insight and deep denial of the facts (even when presented with them) are common characteristics of RWA followers. Dean summarizes the RWA follower personality type using the following headings:
1. Submissive to authority, thus intolerant of criticism of that authority
2. Aggressive support of authority, and pre-disposed to cause harm to others when that harm is sanctioned by authority
3. Highly conventional, and intolerant of those that are not
Please see the book for details. He also goes into the "Double Highs," that is, those that score high on both the RWA and SDO scales. These folks, comprising about ten percent of the broader category that can contains both RWA and SDO types, can probably also be called sociopaths, in that they see human beings as objects to be manipulated toward certain self-serving ends, and any means can be justified for achieving these ends. Double Highs do not possess a functioning conscience -- they will do or say anything to accomplish a goal, regardless of the consequences to others, thus the title of the book.
Yes, this sounds quite familiar.
The book is basically about Authoritarian Conservatives and their traits which allow them to act without demonstrating conscience. Dean outlines the traits backed up with scientific studies and examples. Some of the traits include, no support for equality, personal gain comes first, amassing personal power, disregard for rules/laws, obsessive secrecy, intimidation, bullying etc..
Dean then goes onto describe "Double High" authoritarians. "Double high" refers to over achievers on the scoring scales used to measure authoritarianism. Maybe you can name one or two Republicans whilst reading this review?
All the likely suspects are named in the book:Pat Robertson, Tom Delay, Dick Cheney, Bush II and a couple of others. These players antics are detailed and outlined using the authoritarian scale to illustrate the traits mentioned.
It's a pretty good book but it left me feeling helpless somehow. Helpless insomuch as "What do we do about it?". Dean leaves us with words of warning about more and more authoritarian type conservatives coming into politics with strong religious faith and demonstrating all the traits of authoritarianism.
I'm glad I read it as, like so many, I'm appalled at the last administration's (Bush/Cheney) behavior which is what started me looking for books of this nature to help me understand what went on for 8 years. I more understand the mindset now and I can also recognize it so, for me, a worthy read.
Mr. Dean should have reviewed Dr Augustus Cochran's book "Democracy Heading South: National Politics in the Shadow of Dixie" and Michael Lind's book "Made in Texas: The Southern Takeover of American Politics" and Andrew Manis "Southern Civil Religions in Conflict: Civil Rights and the Culture Wars".