Race and Authoritarianism in American Politics

Posted: 28 May 2019

See all articles by Christopher Sebastian Parker

Christopher Sebastian Parker

University of Washington - Department of Political Science

Christopher C. Towler

California State University, Sacramento

Date Written: May 2019

Abstract

Authoritarianism, it seems, is alive and well these days. The Trump administration's blatant dismissal of democratic norms has many wondering whether it fits the authoritarian model. This review offers a framework for understanding authoritarianism in the American past, as well as the American present. Starting in the early twentieth century, this analysis seeks to provide a better understanding of how authoritarianism once existed in enclaves in the Jim Crow South, where it was intended to dominate blacks in the wake of emancipation. Confining the definition of authoritarianism to regime rule, however, leaves little room for a discussion of more contemporary authoritarianism, at the micro level. This review shifts focus to an assessment of political psychology's concept of authoritarianism and how it ultimately drives racism. Ultimately, we believe a tangible connection exists between racism and authoritarianism. Even so, we question the mechanism. Along the way, we also discuss the ways in which communities of color, often the targets of authoritarianism, resist the intolerance to which they have been exposed. We conclude with a discussion of why we believe, despite temporal and spatial differences as well as incongruous levels of analysis, that micro- and macro-level authoritarianism have much in common.

Suggested Citation

Parker, Christopher Sebastian and Towler, Christopher C., Race and Authoritarianism in American Politics (May 2019). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 22, pp. 503-519, 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3394060 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-polisci-050317-064519

Christopher Sebastian Parker (Contact Author)

University of Washington - Department of Political Science ( email )

101 Gowen Hall
Box 353530
Seattle, WA 98195
United States

Christopher C. Towler

California State University, Sacramento ( email )

6000 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95819-6082
United States

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